Sep 152014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2006/03/06MANILA1275.html#

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MANILA1275 2006-03-22 05:35 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Manila
VZCZCXRO7400
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #1275/01 0810535
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 220535Z MAR 06
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0102
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN 0031
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 001275

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP, EAP/MTS, EAP/MLS, INR/EAP, INR/B

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/22/2016
TAGS: PGOV PINR SOCI PINS EMIN RP
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT ARROYO WORKS TO SHORE UP SUPPORT IN CATHOLIC CHURCH

REF: A. MANILA 1036

¶B. 05 MANILA 3946

MANILA 00001275 001.2 OF 002

Classified By: Acting Pol/C Joseph L. Novak for reasons
1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) Summary: In light of recent political turbulence,
President Arroyo has been reaching out to high-level members
of the Catholic clergy in an effort to shore up support.
Arroyo has also taken care not to cross the Church on two key
issues: mining and population policy. Arroyo’s efforts
appear to be bearing fruit: while a handful of bishops
oppose her, the vast majority seem reluctant to be drawn into
politics, a stance which effectively helps the president.
Given its widespread influence (over 80 percent of Filipinos
are Catholic), Arroyo will no doubt continue to work hard to
maintain good links to the Church. End Summary.

————————–
Reaching out to the Clergy
————————–

¶2. (C) In light of recent political turbulence, which
included the imposition of a State of National Emergency from
February 24 – March 3, President Arroyo has been reaching out
to high-level members of the Catholic clergy in an effort to
shore up support. On March 14, Arroyo met with Ricardo
Cardinal Vidal in Cebu and joined in a celebration of Vidal’s
50th year as a priest. On March 16, Arroyo traveled to Nueva
Vizcaya in northern Luzon to celebrate the birthday of local
Bishop Ramon Villena. On March 17, she traveled to Sorsogon
in southern Luzon to attend a celebration to mark the 50th
anniversary of a priest who had formerly served as the
chaplain at Malacanang.

¶3. (C) The president has also had additional meetings with
key figures in the Church. Monsignor Hernando Coronel, an
assistant to Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales of Manila, told
Acting Pol/C on March 20 that she had held a private meeting
with Rosales in early March. During the meeting, Arroyo had
offered to fly to Rome with Rosales and his party in order to
attend Rosales’ formal induction as a cardinal. Rosales had
demurred, while expressing his appreciation to the president
for the offer. Coronel commented that Rosales — who meant
no disrespect to the president — did not want his “red hat”
ceremonies in Rome to be linked in any way to politics back
home.

¶4. (C) When asked about all of these contacts, Malacanang
Political Adviser Gabby Claudio told Acting Pol/C that the
president was aware that the State of National Emergency had
been controversial. She had decided “to intensify” efforts
to reach out to key sectors, including the Church, in order
to explain her views and communicate her willingness to
listen. Arroyo, Claudio asserted, was not doing this “out of
weakness” — in fact, she felt her positioning with the
Church as a whole was quite solid (see below). She also
planned to meet with other sectors, such as the business
community and groups from outside of Manila, down the line in
order to solidify her position further.

————————-
Mining, Population Policy
————————-

¶5. (C) Claudio added that President Arroyo had also taken
care not to cross the Church on two key issues: mining and
population policy. Regarding the first matter, President
Arroyo, House Speaker Jose de Venecia and some other GRP
officials had met with a handful of bishops representing the
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on
March 10 to discuss the Mining Act of 1995. (Note: After
years of complex litigation by environmental activists, the
Mining Act was ruled to be legal by the Supreme Court in
¶2004. End Note.) The bishops, Claudio continued, had
expressed their long-standing view that the government needed
to monitor implementation of the Mining Act more closely and
not hesitate to withdraw mining permits where abuses related
to the environment were occurring. Arroyo and de Venecia had
carefully listened to the bishops and promised to continue to
consult with them. Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye announced
on March 11 that the president was “sensitive to concerns
about mining” and had ordered her administration to enforce
environmental standards strictly. Claudio noted to Acting

MANILA 00001275 002.2 OF 002

Pol/C that President Arroyo had no intention of placing a
moratorium on the issuance of mining permits or revoking
permits already issued, despite pressure to do just that by
social activists and the CBCP. (Note: In January, the CBCP
reiterated its concerns about mining in a public statement,
which called for the repeal of the Mining Act, among other
items. End Note.)

¶6. (C) With respect to population policy, Claudio said there
was “little chance” that Malacanang would ever endorse HB
3773, a proposed bill in the House that its proponents say
would set a comprehensive national policy on responsible
parenthood and population management (ref A). Claudio
noted that the president had not taken any position on the
bill’s merits per se. That said, she knew that the bill was
“controversial” and had “upset many in the Catholic Church
whom the President did not want to offend.” She had no plans
to block the bill, however, which already had a sizable
number of co-signors in the House. In a March 21 discussion
with Acting Pol/C, Dr. Bernie Villegas, a vice president and
population expert at the Opus Dei-run University of Asia and
the Pacific, commented that he had heard there was “an
informal understanding” between Malacanang and the Church
that the GRP would not push for HB 3773 “under any
circumstances.”

—————————–
Church Reluctant to Intervene
—————————–

¶7. (C) Arroyo’s efforts appear to be bearing fruit. Most
contacts agree that the vast majority of bishops are
reluctant to be drawn into politics, a stance which
effectively helps Arroyo. Coronel commented that this does
not mean that bishops “necessarily support her,” though many
see her as a very pious women who attends mass every day.
Most bishops, however, feel that the Church needs to avoid
getting involved directly in politics, a view in line with
the pressures it is under from the Vatican which wants the
Church worldwide to stick to spiritual issues (see ref B).
Coronel acknowledged that there is a small cluster of bishops
(probably five or so out of roughly 90 bishops nationally)
who strongly oppose Arroyo, claiming that her administration
is corrupt and “anti-poor.” One of her main detractors is
Archbishop Oscar Cruz, an outspoken cleric with ties to the
mainstream Opposition. Many in the Church — to no avail so
far — want Cruz to stop making pronouncements on politics.
Coronel added that Arroyo’s relatively solid positioning with
the Church could change quickly if new scandals emerged.

——-
Comment
——-

¶8. (C) Arroyo will no doubt continue to work hard to
maintain good links with the Church, given its widespread
influence (along with the military, the Church is probably
the most important institution in the country). Both Marcos
and Estrada got crosswise with the Church which backed
successful “People Power” protests against them; Arroyo,
however, has been careful to mind the store so that does not
happen to her. At this time, her positioning with the Church
seems relatively solid, though — as noted by Coronel — any
further scandals impacting on her or her administration (such
as the “Hello Garci” tapes matter which rocked her
administration last year) could change the status quo.

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

Kenney

   

 

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