Sep 222014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MANILA3278 2005-07-15 09:01 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL 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 003278



E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/15/2015


¶B. MANILA 3200
¶C. MANILA 3167
¶D. MANILA 3093

Classified By: Political Officer Andrew McClearn for
reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) Summary: Some politicians have begun to look at a
possible “transitional council” for the Philippines, notably
Senator Ramon Magsaysay and Renato De Villa, then-President
Ramos’ Defense Secretary. Under this scheme, President
Arroyo and Vice President De Castro would resign and let a
caretaker regime take over. The proposal does not command
widespread support in opposition ranks nor in the country as
a whole. Mission continues to reiterate firm U.S. support
for the rule of law, warning that we strongly oppose any
extra-constitutional or extra-legal steps, including this
idea. End Summary.

Magsaysay Their Guy?

¶2. (C) Senator Ramon Magsaysay, who until recently had been
a strong supporter of President Arroyo, met with Charge and
poloff on July 13 to discuss the possible formation of a
“transitional council.” Magsaysay offered few details, but
indicated that such a council, made up of “elder statesmen,”
would govern for a limited time following resignations of the
President and Vice President to provide stability while
pursuing major governmental reforms, including constitutional
change. Magsaysay did not indicate whether he would be
willing to serve on such a council or merely provide
political support and legitimacy. Charge underlined U.S.
support for the rule of law, while warning that the USG
firmly opposed any extra-constitutional or extra-legal

Temporary collegial presidency?

¶3. (C) De Villa separately reviewed this proposal with
poloff on July 14. The 70 year old De Villa, a retired
general who also briefly served as Executive Secretary to
Arroyo in 2001 but now heads the small anti-Arroyo Reporma
party, claimed the transitional council proposal would
provide the Philippines the best form of government until the
situation was “regularized.” He related that he and his
supporters “want a fair and honest government, but in order
to get there, we need a temporary caretaker government which
can help reinsert dignity and honor in public service.”
According to De Villa, the council would take power after the
resignations of Arroyo and De Castro and usher in “a
rejuvenated democracy in no more than 1000 days,” after which
Filipinos would elect new leaders to move beyond the
transition. When queried, he claimed that the proposal was
legal to implement because it would be put in place per the
will of the “sovereign Filipino people” as set forth in the
Constitution. De Villa admitted that the proposal was still
in its embryonic stage, but pictured a council of 5-7
“credible” representatives serving in a “collegial
presidency,” while the existing executive branch remained
largely intact. Both houses of Congress would be temporarily
suspended under the proposal, along with a reconstitution in
some form of the Supreme Court in order to cleanse the body
of what he called “partisan justices.” The council would
then implement wholesale changes in the electoral system, the
Civil Service Code, etc.

¶4. (C) When asked what former President Ramos thought of his
idea, De Villa replied, “he thinks I’m too radical, but he’s
never doubted my service to the nation.” De Villa remarked
that “selling the council” to the public would be difficult,
but added that popular discontent with the political system
was sufficient eventually to overcome opposition to the idea.
De Villa said Reporma supporters of this proposal included
the former Executive Secretary to then-president Corazon
Aquino, Oscar Orbos. In a recent conversation with poloff,
Orbos expressed extreme frustration with the prevailing
“culture of political corruption” and insisted that the only
way to resolve the RP’s dilemma was “by stepping outside of
the box.”

Support from Estrada crowd?

¶5. (C) In a July 15 discussion with poloff, Estrada
supporter and former senator Francisco Tatad also said that
such the council is needed to “clean up the decay in our
institutions and create a small, lean government that will
hasten our economic recovery.” The council would give
Filipinos a mechanism to change institutions, not just
personalities, he said. Tatad claimed that over the past
month many Estrada supporters had begun to look at De Villa
as “an acceptable leader” who is qualified and serious: “De
Villa could be marketed domestically.” Tatad went on to
claim that even former president Estrada (currently under
house arrest as he is tried for plunder) is “now ready to
cede the role of a provisional council leader to De Villa.”


¶6. (C) The council proposal does not now command widespread
support in opposition ranks nor in the country as a whole.
It reflects another typically Filipino search for the “quick
fix” led by “wise men.” Its grounding in the Philippine
Constitution seems extremely dubious. Mission will continue
to reiterate firm U.S. support for the rule of law and to
warn that we strongly oppose any extra-constitutional or
extra-legal steps, including this idea.

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