Sep 152014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2006/04/06MANILA1674.html#

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MANILA1674 2006-04-18 09:44 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Manila
VZCZCXRO6186
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #1674/01 1080944
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 180944Z APR 06
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0560
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUCNFB/FBI WASHINGTON DC
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 001674

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP, EAP/MTS, S/CT, DRL/CRA
NSC FOR H.MORROW

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/18/2016
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PTER RP
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT ARROYO TO COMMUTE DEATH SENTENCES

REF: A. 05 MANILA 5097
¶B. 05 MANILA 2969

Classified By: POL/C Scott Bellard for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (C) Summary: President Arroyo announced plans to commute
all death sentences to life imprisonment. Her action
immediately should only affect about 80 inmates, whose
sentences the Supreme Court has already confirmed. Another
1,100 cases are still waiting Supreme Court review, as
mandated in the Constitution. This policy would in theory
apply also to Islamic extremists convicted of terrorist
actions. The Catholic Church welcomed the announcement, but
victims’ rights groups condemned the move. Critics have
warned that immediate commutations for all sentences would
end in legal challenges and possible impeachment charges. End
Summary.

————–
Easter Message
————–

¶2. (U) In her annual Easter message to the nation, President
Arroyo announced on April 16 that she would commute all death
sentences to life terms in prison. In her words, “as we
celebrate and rejoice in Jesus’ resurrection, I wish to
announce that we are changing our policy on those who have
been imposed the death penalty. We are reducing their
penalty to life imprisonment. Anyone who falls and makes
mistakes has a chance to stand up and correct the wrong he
has committed. Jesus suffered for the redemption of mankind
from sin and we should always forgive and stand up strong
when we fall.”

¶3. (U) In explaining the President’s announcement, Press
Secretary Ignacio Bunye commented that “the President’s

SIPDIS
decision came after deep contemplation and reflection on
Christian values. The power to forgive under both the Bible
and the Constitution can change a nation for good, especially
in these times that cry out for compassion and
reconciliation.”

———————
Confusion and Concern
———————

¶4. (C) There are reportedly over 1,200 death row inmates in
the Philippines, most at a maximum security prison in Metro
Manila. Malacanang has indicated that it will immediately
issue formal commutation orders for about 80 inmates whose
cases have received the Constitutionally-mandated automatic
Supreme Court review. However, according to Socorro Diokno,
head of the anti-death penalty Free Legal Assistance Group
(FLAG), Malacanang plans to issue new guidelines to treat all
of the other death sentences as “final” even in the absence
of Supreme Court review, thus enabling Malacanang also to
commute these to life imprisonment. If so, Diokno predicted
that death penalty advocates would likely institute a legal
case, claiming that the president had overstepped her
Constitutional prerogatives. Former President Estrada’s
Chief Legal Advisor, Justice Harriet Demetriou, separately
predicted to Pol/C that such action by the President would
also likely end up as a very solid impeachment charge against
her in Congress this summer.

———————
Impact on Terrorists?
———————

¶5. (C) Perhaps as many as 27 Islamic militants who received
death sentences for terrorist-related offenses would in
theory benefit from this policy sooner or later (depending on
status of Supreme Court review), including:

— three Muslim extremists (one Jemaah Islamiyah, one Abu
Sayyaf Group, and one Rajah Solaiman Movement) who received
death sentences in October 2005 for their roles in the
February 14, 2005, “Valentine’s Day” bombing of a bus in
Manila (ref a);

— seven members (one in absentia) of the ASG who received
death sentences in June 2005 for their roles in the 2001
kidnapping and subsequent murder of 12 hostages (ref b); and,

MANILA 00001674 002 OF 002

— seventeen ASG members who received death sentences in
August 2004 for their roles in the June 2001 siege of a
Basilan hospital in which civilians were slain, and for the
May 2001 kidnapping of three Amcits and several Filipinos in
Palawan (ref b).

————–
Mixed Reaction
————–

¶6. (SBU) The Catholic Church welcomed the announcement.
Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, who heads the Catholic Bishops’
Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said “the Church sees
it as a sign of hope.” Several NGOs working against the
death penalty, including FLAG, also welcomed the
announcement. FLAG’s Diokno told Dep Pol/C that she hoped
that Malacanang would now endorse and press for the passage
of proposed legislation filed in the House that would
permanently ban the use of the death penalty, which
Malacanang is reportedly giving serious consideration. She
added that the use of the death penalty was “particularly
abhorrent” in the Philippines because “over 75 percent of
those sentenced were convicted of crimes that did not involve
homicide,” instead stemming from rape or drug-related
offenses.

¶7. (SBU) Victims’ rights groups assailed the President’s
move. Dante Jimenez, the head of Volunteers Against Crime
and Corruption, called it “shocking” and urged Arroyo not to
proceed. Jimenez added that many crime victims and their
families were “seriously upset” with the announcement. Some
in the Chinese Filipino community, particularly vulnerable to
kidnapping for ransom, also complained about the move.
Teresita Ang-See, the head of the Movement for Restoration of
Peace and Order, said the President’s announcement would
“lead to a jump in crime, with criminals no longer worried
that sentences would be carried out.” According to
Chinese-Filipino businessman Daniel Laogan, “Chinese
Filipinos are shocked by Arroyo’s action, which will only
help fuel crime against our community.” He said major
Chinese Filipino associations planned to issue statements
condemning the move shortly.

——-
Comment
——-

¶8. (C) There has not been an execution in the Philippines
since 2000; Arroyo placed a moratorium on its use since she
came to power in 2001. This feel-good announcement over the
long “Holy Weekend” holiday likely was primarily to shore up
support with the still influential Catholic Church, which has
strongly urged that the GRP get rid of the death penalty for
many years. The efforts of the European Union, which has
also lobbied hard against the use of the death penalty, may
also have been a factor. However, Malacanang will need to
take extra-special care vis-a-vis the legal status of these
cases and the required role of the Supreme Court to sidestep
if at all possible the almost inevitable new legal and
impeachment charges.

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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