Sep 132014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/08/08MANILA1875.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANILA1875
2008-08-06 08:49
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1511
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 001875

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/06/2018
TAGS: MARR MCAP PREL PTER RP MASS
SUBJECT: PHILIPPINE MILITARY PREPARED BUT RESTRAINED IN FACE OF SEPARATIST VIOLENCE

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

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Responding to increased attacks on
civilians by radical hardliners allegedly linked to the Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the North Cotabato
province of Mindanao, the Armed Forces of the Philippines
have placed their forces on heightened alert and prepared a
contingency plan to maintain peace and security in Mindanao
in the event the attacks spill over into direct confrontation
with the military. At the same time, some observers have
accused local Philippine Armed Forces militia of fomenting
violence, allegedly directed by local elected leaders who
oppose the peace negotiations. With local tensions
surrounding the peace process running high, the Philippine
military has adopted a cautious posture in Mindanao, vowing
to uphold the primacy of the peace talks between the
government and the MILF. While the motive for the
uncoordinated attacks that have displaced thousands of
Mindanao residents remains unclear, the leadership of the
Armed Forces has reiterated that it remains on “active
defensive stance” against the insurgents, whose actions may
be aimed at trying to disrupt upcoming elections in the
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Despite the discipline
the Philippine forces have displayed, Army Chief Lieutenant
General Victor Ibrado was firm in his resolve that his troops
in Mindanao will not be “sitting ducks” and are prepared to
take preventive action to ensure their safety. END SUMMARY.

——————–
CONTINGENCY PLANNING
——————–

¶2. (C) Radical militants allegedly of the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF) have attacked several villages in an
area of North Cotabato province of central Mindanao over the
last two weeks, displacing thousands of residents. The
conflicted area could become part of the new Muslim political
entity, an expanded Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao
(ARMM), after local plebiscites a year from now as part of
the current peace negotiations between the Philippine
government and the MILF. Anticipating a possible outbreak of
violence in the run-up to ARMM elections on August 11, in
July the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) prepared a
contingency plan in the event the violence spilled over into
direct confrontation with the military. The plan would be
implemented only if open hostilities begin between the AFP
and the MILF forces, and all action would have to be approved
by the AFP Chief of Staff. According to the AFP, the
operation would include transferring some Philippine troops
currently on Jolo Island to Mindanao. The goal of the plan
would be to disrupt quickly the command and control structure
of MILF military units and isolate them from logistic support
in order to stop the violence and preserve the security,
peace, and stability of the region.

——————
A DELICATE BALANCE
——————

¶3. (C) Although the contingency plan concept of operations
is approved and in place, the AFP has taken an “active
defensive posture” and shown no signs that it intends to
break the ceasefire with direct action against MILF forces.
While the motive for the MILF attacks remains unclear, their
purpose could be consolidating their hold over areas that
would be included in the expanded Muslim autonomous region.
At the same time, local Philippine Armed Forces militia have
been accused of harassing Muslim villages, allegedly at the
direction of local elected leaders who oppose the peace
negotiations. Local officials have expressed their
frustration with the military’s defensive stance, urging
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to replace the two
Philippine generals in charge of the government’s ceasefire
committee and 6th Infantry Division, the latter of which has
security responsibility for North Cotabato province. In the
face of such criticism, military and government leaders
continue trying to strike a delicate balance between
maintaining peace and order and disrupting the ongoing peace
talks.

¶4. (C) Privately, Chief of the Armed Forces General
Alexander Yano has told Embassy officials that the military
would do everything in its power to keep the peace in

MANILA 00001875 002 OF 002

Mindanao and on August 5 he publicly called for sobriety on
all sides saying. “We should be calm and reasonable,
allowing the peace mechanisms to resolve contentious issues,”
Yano said. The recent attacks on villages by MILF hardliners
have strained the ceasefire between the government and the
MILF, which has been in place since July 2003. Both MILF and
Philippine officials have publicly expressed their concern
over the hostilities, but cautioned against rash action.
Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro said
government troops have avoided clashing with MILF forces
because they know their overall objective is to attain peace
in strife-torn Mindanao. Remarking on the military’s
defensive posture, Teodoro lauded the troops: “Our soldiers
have shown admirable restraint and professionalism in the
face of these hostilities,” he said, while the MILF
leadership repeatedly has said the attacks were not
authorized by the MILF central committee.

———————-
MAINTAINING DISCIPLINE
———————-

¶5. (C) The clashes have been limited to a small area and
only a few have directly involved Philippine troops. On
August 4, suspected MILF units traded mortar fire with AFP
units, but the exchange ended quickly and there were no
casualties. An AFP spokesperson said the MILF rebels
apparently had ignored orders from the MILF leadership to
leave the area and that Philippine troops were moving to
secure the afflicted villages.

¶6. (C) At the same time, Philippine military commanders are
adamant that they will not allow soldiers to be “sitting
ducks” should the attacks escalate into direct confrontation
between their troops and the MILF forces. Philippine Army
Chief Lieutenant General Victor Ibrado said August 4 that the
military would not hesitate to retaliate against MILF
fighters if they stage an offensive against government
troops, but he added the Armed Forces would “not necessarily
attack,” as there were “preventive actions” the military
could take. Ibrado said the guidance to all troops in the
field was to “exercise more patience and uphold the primacy
of the peace process.”

——-
COMMENT
——-

¶7. (C) The Philippine military’s efforts to instill reform
and discipline in the Armed Forces is paying dividends in the
current difficult environment, as commanders in Mindanao are
showing their troops to be above the political fray swirling
around the peace process between the Philippine government
and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Wary of being blamed
for a break in the ceasefire with the MILF, Philippine
commanders have refrained from answering calls by some
Mindanao leaders to engage alleged MILF radicals plundering
local villagers. Despite public criticism from some elected
officials for failure to subdue the hardliners, which in the
past might have spurred the Philippine military to action,
its troops remain in a firm defensive posture. However, the
same reform that has led to greater discipline among
Philippine forces has also given them the tools to conduct
methodical contingency planning in the event that open
hostilities break out between government forces and MILF
militants. Whether or not those plans are needed depend on
both sides ability to keep the peace. END COMMENT.

Visit Embassy Manila’s Classified SIPRNET website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/manila/index. cfm

You can also access this site through the State Department’s
Classified SIPRNET website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/

KENNEY

   

 

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