Sep 162014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/08/08MANILA2022.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANILA2022
2008-08-28 10:37
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO0510
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #2022/01 2411037
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 281037Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1697
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH IMMEDIATE 0757
RUEHJI/AMCONSUL JEDDAH IMMEDIATE 0366
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 002022

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/27/2018
TAGS: PGOV EAID PINR PREL PHUM KISL RP
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT DETERMINED TO STOP ATTACKS, BUT COMMITTED TO PEACE

REF: A. MANILA 1997 (GOVERNMENT PURSUES NEW PEACE
PROCESS STRATEGY)
¶B. MANILA 1962 (NEW CLASHES IN MINDANAO ARMY REACTS
QUICKLY BUT WITH RESTRAINT)
¶C. MANILA 1940 (ARMED FORCES CHIEF DISCUSSES
MINDANAO CLASHES)

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) SUMMARY. At a meeting at Malacanang Palace August 27,
President Gloria Arroyo underscored to Ambassador the
Philippine government’s commitment to the peace process, but
made it clear that a stable security situation was a
prerequisite to returning to peace talks with Muslim
insurgents. Citing the rapid success of the Armed Forces of
the Philippines (AFP) in taking over camps belonging to Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commanders who carried out
unprovoked attacks on Christian communities in central
Mindanao, she expressed hope that continued progress in
pacifying these elements would soon allow the government to
resume efforts to hammer out a comprehensive agreement with
the MILF. Reflecting on rising tensions in Mindanao between
Christian and Muslim communities, the President stated the
need for assistance to be provided to all communities,
irrespective of religion. She underscored her belief that
the international community had a role to play in laying the
groundwork for a peace agreement, both in maintaining contact
with Muslim communities in Mindanao as well as providing
assistance that would help make a peace deal more viable.

¶2. (C) SUMMARY CONTINUED. In a separate meeting August 27
with the Ambassador, Secretary of National Defense Gilberto
Teodoro stressed that President Arroyo remained committed to
the peace process, but said that it was vital first to
contain the brutal attacks by Muslim insurgents in Mindanao
in recent weeks (ref b). Teodoro opined that the Supreme
Court’s recent temporary restraining order that stopped the
signing of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on territory had
been highly politicized, and characterized the situation as
an attempt by opportunistic opposition politicians to further
diminish the President’s authority, and strengthen their own
political standing. He dismissed out of hand any suggestion
that the U.S. bore responsibility for the stalled peace
process, complaining that opposition politicians were simply
“playing politics.” While lamenting the loss of an AFP C-130
airplane that crashed into the ocean August 25, he praised
the performance of the AFP in clashes in Mindanao. Teodoro
thanked the Ambassador for crucial U.S. development
assistance in Mindanao, as well as for humanitarian aid
during a recent typhoon, noting that the Philippine
government’s efforts were currently focused on the fighting
in Mindanao and, should another natural disaster strike, the
government would be hard-pressed to find additional resources
to respond. END SUMMARY.

REMOVING OBSTACLES TO PEACE
—————————

¶3. (C) During a meeting at Malacanang Palace August 27 on the
occasion of Peace Corps Director Ronald Tschetter’s visit to
the Philippines (septel), President Gloria Arroyo commented
forcefully about the situation in Mindanao. She voiced the
hope that the Philippine government would be able to remove
all obstacles to peace in Mindanao, including those rogue
Moro Islamic Liberation Front commanders she believed had
sabotaged the peace process through unprovoked attacks on
Christian communities. She stated that, although resistance
had been fierce, Armed Forces of the Philippines soldiers had
taken over rogue MILF camps, and she hoped the most serious
fighting was over. Reflecting on the increasingly tense
situation between Christians and Muslims in parts of central
Mindanao, President Arroyo reiterated the importance of
international support — particularly U.S. assistance — to
the success of the peace process, as well as livelihood
assistance for all the people of Mindanao. The President
noted the importance of aid to Muslim communities but also
stressed that the international community should help
Christians as well. This was especially important so all
communities in Mindanao felt included and had a stake in the
future of the peace process.

“PLAYING POLITICS” WITH THE PEACE PROCESS
—————————————–

MANILA 00002022 002 OF 003

¶4. (C) In a private breakfast with Ambassador August 27,
Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro stressed that
the President was “absolutely” committed to the peace
process, even as the government continued to work on a way
forward. Sounding a familiar theme, he observed that the
President had tasked him with creating stable security
conditions that could allow resumption of negotiations with
the MILF. He assessed that it could be months before the
security situation stabilized, and hoped that by the end of
the year the parties would be able to re-engage in a peace
process. Teodoro expressed his view that, in the end, all
problems were Manila-centered and the peace process was no
exception. In his view, opposition to the peace process was
anti-Arroyo sentiment masquerading as concern about the
stalled agreement on territory. He railed against
politicians who had publicly come out against the MOA, not
because of a genuine interest in the peace process, but to
further their personal political agendas. Teodoro vented his
frustration against those he thought had undermined the peace
process and fomented violence in Mindanao for political gain.
“They have blood on their hands,” he commented bitterly.

¶5. (C) Teodoro cited Senator Manuel Roxas as one of several
politicians with presidential aspirations who severely
criticized the MOA both to hurt President Arroyo and to
further their presidential aspirations. According to
Teodoro, Roxas had recently fallen in the polls and saw the
MOA as a vehicle to regain public stature. Similarly, he
cited rumors that Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Puno was
contemplating a run at the presidency, perhaps influencing
the Supreme Court’s decision to issue the temporary
restraining order against the signing of the MOA. Teodoro, a
U.S.-trained lawyer and himself mooted as a possible
candidate in 2010, noted that other players also had personal
motives for opposing the MOA, including North Cotabato Vice
Governor Manny Pinol, whose interest in fighting the MOA was
simply to return to the public eye and regain his province’s
governorship. Teodoro admitted that he personally thought
the MOA was insufficient as written, but thought that it
presented a good basis for further negotiation.

MILF LEADERSHIP MISHANDLED SITUATION
————————————

¶6. (C) Teodoro noted that the MILF leadership had exacerbated
an already difficult situation by not immediately condemning
the actions of rogue elements. Teodoro questioned MILF
Chairman Murad Ebrahim’s claim that the MILF could not
control rogue MILF forces and voiced concerns whether the
government could continue to negotiate with him. Teodoro
said it was clear that the MILF had leadership problems, as
Murad was struggling to balance his own forces. However,
given MILF actions, Teodoro said the government had no other
option but to respond with military force. Teodoro put blame
on the Malaysian facilitators, whom he said neither
understood the Philippine people, nor how they work.
Commenting on press articles stating that the MILF should be
designated a terrorist organization, Teodoro said the
commentary represented a thinly veiled attack on the
President, as terrorist designation would allow the
opposition to claim the President had been negotiating with
terrorists, providing them the basis for their perennial
impeachment complaints. Teodoro hoped the U.S. would refrain
from designating the MILF as a terrorist organization, noting
it would be rather inappropriate for the U.S. to designate as
terrorist a group that threatens the Philippines more than it
does the U.S. He said he was in favor of the rule of law and
filing charges against MILF elements that violate the law,
but saw no value in simply labeling them as terrorist.
Teodoro underscored that the government abhorred violence,
but had been left no alternative but to mount military
operations by MILF actions. He praised AFP Chief Alexander
Yano for the fine job he was doing in stabilizing the
situation but noted that Yano, while an able soldier, needed
to sharpen his political skills.

AMBASSADOR WARNS AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES
——————————————–

¶7. (C) The Ambassador stressed the potential for human rights
abuses of captured MILF insurgents as the AFP continues to
take over MILF camps. She emphasized the need to treat
detainees humanely, noting the possible impact on assistance

MANILA 00002022 003 OF 003

programs. The Ambassador noted the importance of ensuring
progress in the arrest, prosecution, and conviction in
outstanding cases of extrajudicial killings, pointing out
that U.S. Congressional concerns reflected the views of the
large Philippine community in the U.S. that closely followed
the issue. While noting his view that the Philippines was
singled out unfairly for criticism in the region, Teodoro
pledged to keep a careful watch on both human rights
concerns. The Ambassador also underscored the importance of
investigating all violent episodes during the last several
weeks of confrontations, whether committed by Christians or
Muslims. Teodoro acknowledged the Ambassador’s concerns, and
voiced his own concern that Christians had become more
militant, significantly raising the potential for more
violence. Teodoro concluded by thanking the Ambassador for
crucial U.S. development assistance in Mindanao, as well as
for humanitarian assistance during Typhoon Frank. Teodoro
noted that the Philippine government’s efforts were currently
focused on Mindanao and, should a natural disaster strike,
the government might be hard-pressed to respond.

KEEPING THE DIPLOMATIC CORPS INFORMED
————————————-

¶8. (SBU) Key members of Arroyo’s cabinet convened August 27
at the Department of Foreign Affairs to offer a joint
briefing on recent violence in Mindanao and the status of the
peace process to the diplomatic corps. Foreign Secretary
Alberto Romulo opened with a brief review of recent legal
battles surrounding the draft Memorandum of Agreement on
Ancestral Domain (MOA), after which Solicitor General Agnes
Devanadera explained that, in light of recent MILF violence,
the administration would voluntarily withdraw the MOA from
further consideration, and ask that the Supreme Court dismiss
all pending petitions seeking judgments of its
unconstitutionality. Peace Process Presidential Advisor
Hermogenes Esperon emphasized that the administration’s
immediate priority was to renew the mandate of the
Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) that
oversees the MILF ceasefire; the terms of reference for the
team are set to expire August 31. Esperon said an entirely
new process of peace consultations would soon begin involving
all stakeholders, including Christian leaders in Mindanao,
and that would take into account public sentiment.

COMMENT
——-

¶9. (C) Both President Arroyo and Secretary Teodoro appeared
sincere in saying they are working hard to avoid broader
conflict in Mindanao as the AFP moves to stop rogue MILF
elements. Their key goal is to firmly reestablish stability,
creating the conditions to return to serious negotiations on
a comprehensive peace deal. While top government leaders
reasserted their intention to reach out to grassroots
communities, NGOs, and local political leaders in an effort
to build consensus for an acceptable peace deal, it is also
evident that they have not yet mapped out a clear strategy
for achieving that goal and it will take a few more weeks
until the AFP military efforts are wrapped up before they can
undertake outreach efforts. One thing that rings true is
that concerns about the MOA have as much to do with Manila
politics — particularly as the 2010 presidential election
approaches and opposition members search for a basis to
launch another impeachment attempt against President Arroyo
— as they do with any legitimate concerns about the legality
or advisability of the territorial agreement. While overt
accusations of U.S. opportunism in supporting the MOA have
largely subsided, Post will continue to use every opportunity
with the press, during public events, and in private meetings
with government officials to assure the Philippine public
that U.S. goals remain the same: helping the Philippine
people create a peaceful and secure Mindanao that contributes
to the overall prosperity of the Philippines.
KENNEY

   

 

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