Sep 132014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/03/09MANILA703.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA703
2009-03-31 09:26
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3719
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME IMMEDIATE 0296
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA IMMEDIATE 2253
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000703

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/31/2019
TAGS: PGOV MOPS PTER PINR KISL RP
SUBJECT: PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT REJECTS TERRORISTS’ DEMANDS

REF: A. MANILA 686-RED CROSS KIDNAPPERS INCREASE DEMANDS
¶B. MANILA 630-RED CROSS HEAD VOICES CONCERN

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Philippine Secretary of National Defense
Gilberto Teodoro called the Ambassador in the early morning
hours of March 31 to update her on the situation involving
the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) hostages
being held by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) on Jolo Island.
Teodoro told the Ambassador that President Arroyo had
instructed him to contact the Ambassador, citing the close
U.S.-Philippine partnership on counterterrorism. Teodoro
informed the Ambassador that the Philippine government
decided it could not accede to the ASG’s demand that all
security forces throughout the island of Jolo must be
withdrawn to a single garrison in Jolo City by 2:00 p.m.
March 31, or a hostage would be beheaded. Teodoro said this
was a difficult decision but the Government could not turn
Jolo island over to terrorists. He said that if harm were to
come to the hostages as a result of that decision, the
Philippine government would launch a rescue operation. At
close of business in the Philippines, the ASG’s 2:00 p.m.
deadline had passed with no new information regarding the
hostages’ fate. The Ambassador urged that Teodoro think
carefully through the risks of any rescue effort, noting the
importance of hostage safety, but agreed that abandoning Jolo
to terrorists would be a major setback to our mutual
counterterrorism efforts. Teodoro said that Philippine
authorities recognized that the rescue effort may result in
hostage casualties, but that the government had worked “too
long and too hard” to improve security on Jolo Island to hand
over the gains to the ASG terrorists. END SUMMARY.

¶2. (C) At approximately 4:30 a.m. Manila time March 31,
Philippine Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro
telephoned the Ambassador to inform her that the Philippine
government had just concluded an emergency meeting on the
status of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
hostages being held by Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists on
Jolo Island (ref A). Teodoro said he was calling on behalf
of President Arroyo, who had instructed him to keep the
Ambassador apprised of developments, “since we are partners
in the counterterrorism effort.”

—————————-
DEADLINE PASSES WITH NO NEWS
—————————-

¶3. (C) The government, Teodoro said, had “bent over backwards
to accommodate the kidnappers,” but determined that it could
not agree to the ASG’s demand to withdraw all security
personnel on Jolo — an island with a population of over
300,000 — to Jolo City. Teodoro acknowledged the government
understood the decision might result in the kidnappers
harming the hostages, at which point the government would be
compelled to launch a rescue attempt that might result in
loss of life to military personnel and possibly the ICRC
workers. Although the ASG had given the government a
deadline of 2:00 p.m. on March 31 to accept their demands,
Teodoro said the military was already making preparations for
a rescue operation if needed. As of close of business, the
deadline had passed with no new information regarding the
hostages’ fate.

————–
HARD-WON GAINS
————–

¶4. (C) In her conversation with Secretary Teodoro, the
Ambassador reiterated the United States and the Philippines
remain strong partners, and the USG is committed to a robust
counterterrorism posture. She underscored that every effort
should be made to protect the safety of the hostages.
Despite the tense circumstances, Teodoro was calm and
determined, saying he understood the gravity of the situation
and was ready to take the criticism if things did not go
well, but that the Philippine government had worked “too long
and too hard” to reduce the capabilities of the ASG
terrorists on Jolo Island and could not give up those
hard-won gains. He said that the terrorist kidnappers had
not released a hostage when the Armed Forces complied with
the previous demand (ref A) and feared this demand would
produce similar results.

MANILA 00000703 002 OF 002

¶5. (C) The Ambassador later spoke with the Philippine Red
Cross chairman, Senator Richard Gordon, to discuss the
situation. She assured him that the USG was very concerned
about the hostages’ safety and had a great deal of sympathy
for their families and the ICRC as an organization.
Ambassador noted the difficult situation the Philippine
Government currently faced as they could not jeopardize the
safety of Jolo Island’s entire population by giving in to
terrorist demands, but were aware of the risks to the
hostages’ lives. Clearly exhausted by the situation, Gordon
said he was obligated to represent the ICRC in his role as
the Chairman of Philippine Red Cross, and that he continued
to hope the kidnappers would release one hostage if the
Philippine Government removed their security forces (armed
forces and police) from around Jolo. Senator Gordon thanked
the Ambassador for the support the Embassy had given the ICRC
and said he hoped he could count on our help if any hostages
were released. The Ambassador responded that the USG stood
ready to provide humanitarian assistance as needed.

¶6. (C) A/DCM also spoke with the ICRC representative,
Jean-Daniel Tauxe, who acknowledged the peril in giving in to
demands to withdraw security forces from Jolo, but stressed
the overriding concern for the safety of the three hostages.

KENNEY

   

 

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