Oct 242014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
2005-02-07 09:06
2011-08-30 01:44
Embassy Manila

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000587




E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/07/2015

¶B. MANILA 129

Classified By: Deputy Political Counselor Joseph L. Novak for
Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (C) Summary: Cebu city remains abuzz about a recent
string of extrajudicial killings that has taken upwards of 25
lives. Philippine National Police (PNP) officials confirmed
that PNP is actively investigating the slayings, which have
divided the city, with the Cardinal and some key local
politicians condemning Cebu Mayor Tommy Osmena, seen as the
political force behind the violence. Other observers believe
that Osmena has gained popularity through his “Dirty
Harry”-like remarks indicating support for the killings. Dep
Polcouns reiterated strong U.S. concerns. But PNP’s active
investigation of the situation is positive, and sends a
strong signal that the national government is watching Cebu
— the second largest city in the Philippines and a key
economic entrepot — very closely. End Summary.

PNP Investigating Killings

¶2. (C/NF) Dep Polcouns and senior pol FSN visited Cebu (in
the central Philippines) February 3-4. The city was abuzz
with discussion of a string of extrajudicial killings that
has taken upwards of 25 lives of alleged criminals in the
last two months (reftels). Dep Polcouns met with General
Florencio Gador, the PNP’s Regional Chief based in Cebu, to
express concern over the situation and ask about the GRP’s
steps to end the killings. Gador confirmed that the PNP is
actively investigating the cases. He confirmed that he
arrived in Cebu in early January with explicit instructions
from PNP Chief Edgardo Aglipay to get to the bottom of the
¶3. (C/NF) Gador admitted that he was facing a “wall of
silence” in discussing the situation with the local Cebu
police and with Mayor Tommy Osmena, who has made public
comments seeming to favor vigilante-style activities.
Although PNP has so far made no arrests, Gador expressed
confidence that his team would be able “to break the case
open” through further efforts. He cited evidence collected
by his team that potentially incriminated local government
officials, police (specifically a group of policemen recently
formed into what is called the “Hunter’s team”), and others
in planning the killings during “secret” meetings dating back
to late last year. Gador would not confirm what he meant by
“local government officials,” but he indicated that Mayor
Osmena, among others, quite possibly could be involved.
Gador said he would continue to report regularly on his
investigation to PNP headquarters in Manila.

A Divided City

¶4. (C) The killings appear to have divided Cebu. Cardinal
Ricardo Vidal has publicly condemned the attacks on several
recent occasions, including in the homily of a high-profile
mass held during Cebu’s annual fiesta in mid-January.
Cardinal Vidal told Dep Polcouns that “the taking of lives —
even of those accused of crimes — was wrong and reinforced a
culture of death.” Vidal said that he did not know whether
or not Osmena was involved, but it was important that the
mayor “disassociate the city and its government from this
black mark.” Dep Polcouns noted USG human rights concerns
over the situation and expressed appreciation for the
Cardinal’s strong stance.

¶5. (C) Other politicians have also expressed concern over
the killings. Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, a longtime
political opponent of Mayor Osmena, told Dep Polcouns
emphasized that “what was going on was wrong and must be
stopped.” She noted that she had no legal authority to act
within Cebu city limits (she governs areas outside of the
city), but added that she had advised Osmena “to clean up the
situation.” Vice Mayor Michael Rama said separately that
“Cebu has never had such violence” and that he was
“embarrassed for the city, which was losing its good name
domestically and internationally.” Rama claimed that he had
urged Osmena during a personal conversation to take action to
halt the killings. According to Rama, Osmena would not agree
to do so and would not condemn what had happened, but he did
not admit responsibility.

Public Support for Killings

¶6. (C/NF) Many observers believe that Osmena has actually
gained popularity through his “Dirty Harry”-like remarks
indicating support for the killings. Many in the business
community apparently support the killings, believing that the
city faces rising crime and citing the need for firm action
against it. (Note: PNP General Gador confirmed that Cebu’s
crime rate had risen in recent years, but only slightly. end
note) According to Democrito Mendoza, a local labor leader,
“Osmena has certainly gained widespread public support.
That’s what this is all about.”

¶7. (C) When queried about Mayor Tommy Osmena and the reasons
for his apparent involvement in the killings, observers
speculated that Osmena apparently feared that his family’s
popularity might be ebbing and felt the need to take decisive
steps to regain its political position. (Note: Osmena is a
member of a well-known clan founded by Sergio Osmena Sr.,
Philippine president in the 1940’s. While Tommy won
re-election as mayor last year, his uncle John lost his bid
for re-election as senator, and his cousin John Gregory lost
his bid to be elected governor to Garcia. end note)
Observers commented that Osmena is taking a cue from Davao,
where Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has for years publicly
underscored his support for extrajudicial killings and racked
up big electoral victories, despite repeated condemnations
from local and international human rights groups.


¶8. (C) Dep Polcouns reiterated strong U.S. concerns about
the killings during his meetings. Mayor Osmena was not in
Cebu during the visit, but other officials no doubt will
brief him on USG interest in the situation. PNP’s active
investigation of the situation is positive, and sends a
strong signal that the national government is watching and
not averting its eyes on Cebu, the second largest city in the
Philippines and a key economic entrepot. General Gador was
impressive in his commitment to ending the killings and
arresting those responsible. However, the PNP has in the
past often lost focus and momentum in its investigations
after making big initial public relations splashes. Mission
will continue to press the GRP on this important rule-of-law
and human rights issue in Cebu, Davao, and nationwide.

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