Sep 162014
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
2008-12-09 06:02
2011-08-30 01:44
Embassy Manila

O 090602Z DEC 08
C O N F I D E N T I A L MANILA 002674


E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/08/2018

REF: STATE 127045

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney for reasons 1.4 (B/D)

¶1. (SBU) Summary. Embassy Manila officers and staff interact
regularly with influential members of the Philippine
government and civil society to communicate USG messages and
to encourage the further dissemination of those messages to
the broader Philippine public. Our top Mission strategic
goal is to promote peace and counter violent extremism
throughout the country, and we focus a good deal of our
attention on areas in which USG-listed terrorist groups have
operated. We promote positive alternatives to extremism
through a range of USAID and military assistance programs
designed to highlight our shared national interests and
common values. Our public diplomacy efforts, which in many
cases focus on the country’s youth, capitalize on the strong
pro-American sentiments of the Filipino people. As a result
of our subtle, often unspoken encouragement, many of our
contacts serve as credible voices highlighting the importance
of countering extremism and supporting peaceful solutions to
long-term problems. Nurturing these voices helps us achieve
our counter-terrorism and other policy goals. On the other
hand, we believe that pressing our supportive contacts
outside government to publicly support specific USG policies
would be counter-productive as it would diminish their
credibility. End summary.

Cultivating Mission Contacts: A Dynamic Process
============================= =================

¶2. (SBU) The Embassy Manila Country Team has produced a
unified contact list and contact management system. This
master database is managed by the Protocol Unit, which falls
administratively under the supervision of the Public Affairs
Officer. All USG agencies and State Department sections
provide input for the contact list, and all contribute to
invitation lists for specific events. We encourage all
agencies and sections to reach out to new audiences, and to
renew contact with people we may not have seen in a while.
We especially develop new relationships with Muslim
communities, young leaders in all walks of life, women,
entrepreneurs in emerging technologies, etc. Because many
Mission contacts are known to more than one section or
agency, our contact database reflects all relationships to
avoid duplication and miscommunication. Participation in
Embassy programs, such as the International Visitor
Leadership Program, is recorded in the database. We interact
regularly with alumni of such programs to maintain the
vibrancy in our relationships with influential Philippine
policy shapers.

Public Support from Credible Voices

¶3. (C) Many credible and influential Filipinos publicly
support our messages countering violent extremism.
Editorials in the many daily broadsheets, as well as op-ed
columns nearly every day, decry the use of terrorism for any
purpose and encourage inter-faith dialogue and mutual
respect. The Ambassador and senior Embassy officers interact
with these opinion makers on a regular basis, communicating
our message on our shared interest in countering violent
extremism. A new Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer (ACAO)
position focusing on Mindanao is already paying dividends; a
recent Iftaar dinner for working-level contacts was well
attended and well received. Such events promise to
strengthen our personal relationships with leaders in the
local Muslim community. Returned participants in our
International Visitor and other exchange programs often speak
out in open fora about their positive experiences in the U S.
Having seen it with their own eyes, they say, gives them the
“ammunition” they need to spread the message of opposition to
violent extremism and the importance of strengthening
alternative avenues for the country’s youth.

¶4. (C) We operate in an environment in which only a tiny
minority, decidedly non-credible in Philippine society,
publicly advocates violent extremism. Many young people who
join groups that use terrorist tactics do so due to family
relationships or for monetary rewards, not out of ideology.
Kidnapping for ransom is a serious problem, but it does not
necessarily target Americans or even foreigners. Our
contacts speak for themselves in countering violent
extremism. While we cultivate our relationships with them
and with their institutions, it is important to their
continued credibility that they not be perceived to be
speaking on our behalf or at our behest. That would have the
effect of reducing or eliminating their status as “credible

Soft power: A Highly Effective Tool

¶5. (C) One example of our success in encouraging “credible
voices” here to speak out is the Joint Special Operations
Task Force Philippines (JSOTF-P), which supports and provides
information to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to
enhance the AFP’s counterterrorism capacity. JSOTF-P
personnel regularly participate in AFP civic action projects
such as free medical and dental clinics, civil-military
operations, and humanitarian assistance outreach in poor
communities in conflict-ridden areas throughout the southern
Philippines, including Mindanao. In this way, the USG is
able to demonstrate that there are benefits to working with
the AFP and the elected government of the Philippines and
turning away from terrorist groups. JSOTF’s mantra of “by,
through, and with the AFP” ensures that Philippine
institutions get credit for their own programs; this in turn
serves U.S. interests in the most effective way. Senior AFP
officials and spokespersons constantly echo messages of peace
and security as well as public safety for all, Christian and
Muslim alike — indeed for all the people of Mindanao and of
the Philippines.

¶6. (C) JSOTF-P and the Embassy Public Affairs Section (PAS)
have developed a mutually supportive working relationship
with the AFP. We coordinate public messages and press
guidance and keep each other informed of projects. Often we
suggest talking points to, and share press guidance with the
AFP that they then use in their public proactive or reactive
messages, so that much of the time, there is no need for
comment from the Embassy.

¶7. (C) On the other hand, some economic, political and social
elites in Manila, and some activist groups and members of the
press corps in certain parts of Mindanao, vehemently oppose
the small U.S. military presence in Mindanao and occasionally
spread misinformation or distorted information. This is
usually heightened when military exercises temporarily
increase our troop presence, or when inevitable hiccups in
JSOTF’s cooperation with local authorities lead to negative
news reports. However, this has become so commonplace that
it is usually possible to just let the news cycle pass
without comment. The population’s overwhelming opposition to
violent extremism is unaffected by the occasional flurry of
outbursts critical of our military presence.

Encouraging Credible Voices – and Finding New Ones
============================ =====================

¶8. (SBU) Officers and staff in our press section maintain
constant contact with reporters and editors not only in the
capital but all over the country. The Ambassador and DCM
travel very frequently throughout the Philippines, but
especially to Mindanao. Their trips give us additional
opportunities to engage with local media and local affiliates
of national media. Thanks in part to the collaboration PAS
gets from USAID contractors who are also in regular touch
with media in their localities, we see consistently strong
turnouts from local media at our events on these trips.
Moreover, we routinely receive much positive coverage,
broadcasting our message that the U.S. is a longtime
supporter of peace and development for the people of Mindanao
and the rest of the Philippines. During all these trips, we
are also able to identify new members of the regional media
for International Visitor and other exchange programs, and
for Foreign Press Center reporting tours.

¶9. (SBU) We use all public diplomacy programs that time and
funding permit: International Visitors, speakers (both those
from the U.S. and those from within our own Mission), the
Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation, Citizens
Exchanges (including especially youth programs), academic
programs such as Fulbright and others, and programs focusing
on art, culture, or sports. Our participation in these
programs leads us to other potential participants for further
programming. In fact, we consider all of our contacts to be
credible voices, and we have hundreds from media, academia,
government, and the expansive non-governmental organization
community here.

¶10. (SBU) The Ambassador and DCM also do dozens of press
events each quarter, on their trips around the country but
also for significant USG public events or those sponsored by
our partner organizations. For example, USAID worked with
PAS to design a series of public events for the Ambassador
that included ribbon-cuttings on completed projects; visits
to ongoing education and development projects; and speeches
at national conferences of mayors, rural bankers, and other
large groups. Those activities gave us excellent
opportunities to emphasize that peace and development in
Mindanao will benefit not only Mindanao but all of the
Philippines, and to encourage influential elites in Manila to
play a greater role in investing in Mindanao, looking for
business opportunities, and in other ways contributing to
prospects for a more peaceful future there.

¶11. (C) Among the most influential credible voices in
Philippine society are the writers, editors and publishers of
the major national and regional newspapers. Television
network news anchors, producers and executives have a
particularly substantial impact on the masses. In this
overwhelmingly Catholic country, the Catholic Church remains
a highly respected institution, but it does not always speak
with a single voice. Protestant and charismatic Catholic
groups also have large numbers of followers. Muslim
religious leaders have tremendous influence in their
communities, and we have had great success encouraging the
voice of moderation through speaker programs such as those of
Imam Arafat of Baltimore.

A “Credible Voice” in the Filipino Muslim Community
========================= =========================

¶12. (C) Taha Basman, Director of the Center of Moderate
Muslims, is an example of our “credible voices.” Basman
spoke at a recent Citizens Exchange seminar on Faith and
Dialogue at the University of the Philippines’ Institute of
Islamic Studies. A former International Visitor participant,
Basman spoke publicly about his experiences in the U.S.,
citing specific examples of how he came to see America as a
fair and just nation. He made these statements to an
audience that did not openly agree with him. Our ACAO for
Mindanao was among the guests who heard his remarks.

¶13. (C) Basman described having been able to attend the
Friday Prayer in the U.S. Capitol, and said he was in awe
that Muslims prayed in the seat of power. This convinced him
that freedom of religion is very real in America. He told
his listeners that he attended a sermon in which the Imam
voiced dissent to U.S. policies; he said he thought that he,
the Imam, and others would be arrested upon leaving the
venue. That they were not convinced him that America enjoys
and defends true freedom of speech. He related that he had
given a talk to a community of Jewish people who accepted his
divergent views, and said he had felt welcome by them,
showing that America is a place of tolerance. He said he saw
more mosques throughout the U.S. than he had ever imagined.
He told of watching people practice their faith openly,
without repercussion. Finally, he said he had established
friendships with members of all religions and felt a true and
ongoing relationship with each of them. Basman’s is a highly
credible voice here, but his example is just one of many
illustrating the value of our long-term investment in public
diplomacy to counter violent extremism.

Comment: A Note of Caution on the “Hard Sell”

¶14. (C) “Credible voices” among Philippine civil society
resonate here because they describe deeply rooted values that
our two countries share. If we were to encourage our
contacts outside of government to speak out more in support
of specific USG policies, their credibility would be
diminished in the eyes of their colleagues. We are grateful
for the Department’s continuing support of our exchange and
speaker programs, which we believe have had a substantial
impact toward achieving our goal of highlighting the
alternatives to extremism to Philippine youth and promise to
continue that trend in the years to come.




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