Sep 152014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2005/12/05MANILA5950.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MANILA5950
2005-12-23 07:25
2011-08-30 01:44
UNCLASSIFIED
Embassy Manila

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 MANILA 005950

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR S/CT, EAP, AND EAP/MTS
S/CT FOR RHONDA SHORE AND ED SALAZAR

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PTER PREL PGOV ASEC MOPS RP
SUBJECT: PHILIPPINES: 2005 COUNTRY REPORTS ON TERRORISM

¶1. (U) Post’s 2005 narrative update of the Philippine
portion of the 2004 Patterns of Global Terrorism report is
provided below. The information is keyed to specific reftel
requests.

¶2. (U) Summary. The Philippines, one of the earliest
supporters in the global coalition against terrorism,
continues to cooperate with the United States on bilateral
and multilateral counterterrorism efforts. In 2005, the
Philippines was repeatedly the victim of terrorist assaults,
but had a number of significant arrests and convictions of
terrorists; several important terrorist figures were also
killed in fighting with the Armed Forces of the Philippines
(AFP). The Philippines also made some progress in tracking,
blocking, and seizing terrorist assets. Nevertheless, major
evidentiary and procedural obstacles in the Philippines
continue to hinder the building of effective terrorism cases,
and a large and growing case backlog and the absence of
continuous, contiguous trials for terrorism cases are major
impediments to the Philippines’ prosecution of suspected
terrorists. A counterterrorism bill moved forward in the
House of Representatives in December, but the bill remains
stalled in the Senate. End Summary.

——————
GENERAL ASSESSMENT
——————

¶3. (U) The Philippines was one of the earliest supporters in
the global coalition against terrorism, and the United States
continues to cooperate closely with the Philippines on
bilateral and multilateral counterterrorism efforts. The
Philippines unanimously won election as chairman of the Asia
Pacific Economic Cooperation’s (APEC) Counterterrorism Task
Force in November 2004, and continued to hold this post
throughout 2005.

¶4. (U) The Philippines faces threats from internal terrorism
on several fronts. The United States has listed three groups
operating in the Philippines as Foreign Terrorist
Organizations: the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), the Communist
Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA), and
Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). The United States has also listed two
indigenous groups on its Terrorist Exclusion List: the Alex
Boncayo Brigade (ABB) and the Pentagon Gang (both of which
are now virtually extinct).

¶5. (U) In 2005, the Philippines was repeatedly the victim of
terrorist atacks. In February, it suffered the worst
terrorist attack of the year when three bombs went off almost
simultaneously in three different cities — Manila, Davao,
and General Santos City — killing 8 people and injuring 153.
In August, a bomb exploded aboard the Dona Rosa passenger
ferry in Basilan, injuring 30 people (four of whom
subsequently died of their injuries).

¶6. (U) Philippine authorities had a number of successes
against terrorists in 2005. The GRP’s most recent successes
were the arrest in October of several members of the
ASG-affiliated Rajah Sulaiman Movement (RSM), including RSM
leader Ahmad Santos, and the arrest in December of RSM’s
alleged second-in-command and operations chief, Pio de Vera.
The Anti-Terrorism Task Force (ATTF) arrested, captured, or
killed 83 suspected terrorists in 2005. ATTF also
coordinated operations that led, in March, to the seizure of
600 kilograms of ammonium nitrate and other bomb-making
materials being stored in an apartment in Quezon City, Metro
Manila.

¶7. (U) 2005 also saw several significant convictions of
terrorists in Philippine courts. In June, a Philippine court
convicted seven members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)
responsible for the Dos Palmas kidnapping, the Lamitan siege,
the Golden Harvest massacre, and the Balobo massacre, which
all took place in 2001. In October, a court convicted RSM
operative Angelo Trinidad, JI operative Rohmat (a.k.a Zaki),
and and ASG operative Gamal Baharan for their roles in the
February 14 bombings in the Philippines.

¶8. (U) Several key ASG figures were also killed during armed
encounters with the AFP. Wedjimeh Sayad and Ahmad Sabudin,
operatives serving under ASG sub-leader Jundam Jamalul, were
killed in an encounter in Sulu on September 5. Jainal Usman,
a senior ASG lieutenant, who was behind the abduction of six
Malaysian resort workers in 2003, was killed in fighting in
Tawi-Tawi on November 17 along with two subordinates, Faizal
Mohammad and Pula Ali.

¶9. (U) The Philippines has made some progress in tracking,
blocking, and seizing terrorist assets. The main body tasked
with investigating terrorist finance cases — the Anti-Money
Laundering Council (AMLC) — completed the first phase of its
information technology upgrades in 2004. From January to
October 2005, AMLC received 1760 Suspicious Transaction
Reports involving 8144 suspicious transactions, and had
received Covered Transaction Reports involving 44 million
covered transactions. As a result of the significant
improvements in the GRP’s anti-money laundering authorities
and efforts, and AMLC’s accomplishments and efforts in
addressing remaining vulnerabilities, the OECD’s Financial
Action Task Force removed the Philippines from the
Non-Cooperative Countries and Territories list in February
¶2005. Subsequently, AMLC was accepted as a member of the
Egmont Group, a prominent body of financial intelligence
units that foster international cooperation.

¶10. (U) U.S. and Philippine authorities worked closely
during 2005 on rewards programs targeting terrorist groups.
Using its Rewards Program, the U.S. Department of Defense
made a major payment of $50,000 in November to a Filipino
informant for his role in the capture of Rohmat, a.k.a. Zaki,
a JI operative linked to the February 14 bombings. Other
payments were made to informants whose information led to the
capture of ASG operatives Rasman Mohammad ($2500, July 2005);
Asbar Ismael ($5000, September 2005); Yadzi Manatad ($5000,
September 2005); and Gumbahali Jumdail ($15,000, September
2005; payment made to the family of the deceased informant).
The U.S. Department of Defense also made two in-kind payouts
under the rewards program in July, valued at $1000 and $2500,
respectively. The U.S. Department of State did not make any
payouts in the Philippines in 2005 through its Rewards for
Justice program; a payout to the informant who led to the
capture of Toting Craft Hanno, an ASG terrorist under U.S.
indictment for his role in the Burnham kidnappings was
approved in November 2005. A reward payment will most likely
be made in January 2006.

¶11. (U) The GRP continues to imprison Juanito Itaas,
convicted by Philippine courts in connection with the 1989
murder of Embassy Manila Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group
Deputy Commander Colonel James “Nick” Rowe. Donato
Continente, also convicted as an accessory to the murder, was
released in June 2005, after serving his full term. Both
Itaas and Continente were associated with the CPP/NPA at the
time of the murder.

¶12. (U) Major evidentiary and procedural obstacles in the
Philippines continue to hinder the building of effective
terrorism cases, such as the absence of a law defining and
codifying terrorist acts, and restrictions on gathering of
evidence. Generic problems in the law enforcement and
criminal justice systems also hamper bringing terrorists to
justice in the Philippines. These problems include: rampant
corruption, low morale, inadequate salaries, recruitment and
retention difficulties, lack of information technology
upgrades, and lack of cooperation between police and
prosecutors.

¶13. (U) A large and growing case backlog and the absence of
continuous, contiguous trials for terrorism cases are the
major impediments in the Philippines’ prosecution of
suspected terrorists.

¶14. (U) In 2005, after four successive years of trying, the
Philippines came closer to enacting new antiterrorism
legislation. A counterterrorism bill passed its second
reading in the House of Representatives in December. The
House bill is expected to receive its third and final reading
early in 2006. The bill remains stalled in the Senate, which
is seeking assurances that the provisions of the legislation
would not allow the government to use it against political
opponents, as well as terrorists.

¶15. (U) The Philippines did not extradite or request the
extradition of terrorists for prosecution during 2005.

¶16. (U) The Philippines has issued arrest warrants for all
Filipino nationals sought by the U.S. for terrorism charges.
(Typically, the number of charges entered against each
suspect by Philippine authorities far exceeds the number of
U.S. indictments per individual.) The U.S. and the GRP
signed a bilateral Extradition Treaty in 1996. The treaty
gives precedence to the GRP for the prosecution, conviction,
and imprisonment of Filipino criminals apprehended in the
Philippines.

¶17. (U) The GRP does not supply any support for terrorists
either within or without its borders.

¶18. (U) The Philippines has ratified all 12 international
conventions and protocols relating to terrorism. In 2005,
the GRP supported the USG in UNGA and UNSC matters related to
terrorism.

———————————
SANCTUARY (SAFE HAVEN) ASSESSMENT
———————————

¶19. (U) The GRP is aware that some JI members have obtained
safe haven in Mindanao in areas under the control of elements
of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and is actively
engaged in efforts to stop this activity. The GRP is
addressing the JI presence through military operations and
through ongoing peace talks with the MILF. Two specific
mechanisms have been established to further GRP-MILF
cooperation. The Coordinating Committee for the Cessation of
Hostilities (CCCH) allows GRP and MILF representatives to
broker cease-fire violations. The Ad Hoc Joint Action Group
provides a framework for GRP and MILF representatives to
cooperate against terrorists and criminals present in MILF
areas, and has begun operating with some success over the
last year.

¶20. (U) Philippine military and law enforcement at the
regional and provincial level work closely with U.S. Embassy
counterparts and visiting military personnel to ensure
anti-terrorism force protection to more than 25 annual
USG-GRP bilateral military events conducted throughout the
Philippines. In 2005, U.S. and Philippine military and law
enforcement officials cooperated against JI and ASG targets,
with U.S. officials actively assisting in investigating and
pre-empting several terrorist attacks. Members of Joint
Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) in the
southern Philippines are involved in civil-military
operations and operations/intelligence fusion in order to
help the AFP develop a sustained counterterrorism capability.
The Embassy’s law enforcement team maintains regular and
intimate contact with police and security counterparts.
Mission has experienced good levels of cooperation from
Philippine law enforcement in the areas of access to
terrorist detainees and witnesses for FBI interviews, and
access to criminal, immigration, financial, and biographic
records via the mechanisms established in the
U.S.-Philippines Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty. DS is in
the process of establishing an in-country Anti-Terrorism
Assistance program that will seek to improve the capability
of GRP agencies to respond to terrorist threats.

¶21. (U) U.S. and Philippine authorities worked closely
during 2005 to continue rewards programs targeting terrorist
groups. Using its Rewards Program, the U.S. Department of
Defense made a number of payments ranging from $2,500 to
$50,000 to informants who played critical roles in the
capture of JI and ASG terrorists.

¶22. (U) Under USAID’s multi-year “LEAP” program, which ended
in 2005, 28,000 Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)
combatants were successfully integrated into the economic
mainstream. USAID stands ready to provide immediate
assistance to MILF combatants and their communities if an
anticipated peace deal is reached in 2006.

¶23. (U) In June and July, an INL-led assessment team (a Post
initiative) identified critical problems in Philippine law
enforcement and proposed potential solutions. Many of these
proposals, if funded, will directly improve anti-terrorism
efforts. One such initiative, which Post hopes to achieve in
2006, aims at improving cooperation between police and
prosecutors in building legal cases, including those against
terrorists.

¶24. (U) Neither the proliferation nor the trafficking of
weapons of mass destruction play a role in terrorism in the
Philippines, though the National Intelligence Coordinating
Agency (NICA) remains concerned about possible future
developments.

—————-
TERRORIST GROUPS
—————-

¶25. (U) Foreign governments do not provide financial
support, military or paramilitary training, weapons,
diplomatic recognition, or sanctuary from prosecution to
terrorist groups operating in the Philippines.

¶26. (U) The major — and worrying — trend in the
Philippines has been the growing cooperation among the
county’s Islamist terrorist organizations: the JI, ASG, and
RSM. The near simultaneous “Valentine’s Day” bombings in
Manila, Davao, and General Santos involved operatives from
all three entities. These bombings also utilized more
technically sophisticated explosive devices, another cause
for concern. The RSM, composed of Christian converts to
Islam, has the ability to “blend in” and move freely about
Luzon and other areas of the Philippines, increasing the
likelihood of more Islamist terror in areas outside Mindanao.

——————————
FOREIGN GOVERNMENT COOPERATION
——————————

¶27. (U) The Philippines was one of the earliest supporters
in the global coalition against terrorism, and the United
States continues to cooperate with the Philippines on
bilateral and multilateral counterterrorism efforts.
Philippine authorities arrested a number of terrorists in
2005 (para 6). 2005 also saw several significant convictions
of terrorists in Philippine courts (para 7).

¶28. (U) The Philippines has issued arrest warrants for all
Filipino nationals sought by the U.S. for terrorism charges.
(Typically, the number of charges entered against each
suspect by Philippine authorities far exceeds the number of
U.S. indictments per individual.) In 2005, the GRP supported
the United States in UNGA and UNSC matters related to
terrorism.

¶29. (U) Philippine-Australian cooperation on
counterterrorism issues is growing. The Australia-funded
Bomb Data Center for the Philippine National Police provides
a new and important resource for investigating terrorist
attacks, and Australia is working with the Department of
National Defense to establish a “coast watch” system to
monitor better the Philippines’ porous frontiers in Mindanao.
The GRP also cooperated on regional counterterrorism efforts
through its membership in APEC and in the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The Philippines unanimously
won election as chairman of APEC’s Counterterrorism Task
Force in November 2004, and continued to hold this post
throughout 2005. At the Fifth ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on
Transnational Crime in November 2005, ASEAN nations,
including the Philippines, called for the establishment of an
ASEAN Convention on Counter-Terrorism.

¶30. (U) Border management in the Philippines is struggling
under the pressures of poor physical and information
technology infrastructure and insufficient capital and human
resources. Increased traffic and antiquated facilities
overburden air and seaports. Understaffed customs and
immigration offices, manned by under-trained and underpaid
officials are extremely vulnerable to corruption. The USG
has made some headway in assisting the Philippines in its
improvement of its border management systems.

¶31. (U) Despite plans dating back to 2001, the Philippine
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has yet to introduce a
digitized, machine-readable passport. However, the
Philippine government has completed a process of review and
claims that it will roll out a machine-readable passport in
¶2006. While the Philippines has cooperated with USG requests
for prosecutions for persons who have tampered or altered
travel documents, the prosecutions carry low-level penalties
for criminals who commit this type of fraud. In addition,
there is a reluctance to investigate or charge vendors or
users of false documents when the Philippine government was
not the issuing authority. Under current Philippine law, the
suspect must present the fraudulent document as genuine
before a Philippine Government authority in order for a crime
to have been committed.

¶32. (U) Embassy Manila’s POC for the 2005 Terrorism Report
is Political Officer John Groch (grochjr@state.gov).

Jones

   

 

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