Oct 242014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/12/09MANILA2548.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA2548
2009-12-14 07:18
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6043
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 002548

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/14/2019
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINS MOPS KDEM KJUS KCRM ASEC RP
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT ENDS MARTIAL LAW IN MAGUINDANAO, CLAIMS GOALS ACHIEVED

REF: A. MANILA 2502 (MARTIAL LAW IMPOSED)
¶B. MANILA 2448 (CLAN VIOLENCE)

Classified By: DCM Leslie A. Bassett, reason: 1.4 (b) and (d).

SUMMARY
——-

¶1. (C) President Arroyo on December 12 lifted martial law in
Maguindanao province. The government announced the eight-day
period of martial law had achieved its objectives after the
government arrested suspects in the November 23 massacre and
disarmed the Ampatuan clan’s well-armed private army. A
state of emergency remains in effect in Maguindanao. It is
unclear whether the Supreme Court will dismiss petitions
protesting the imposition of martial law; the congress
continued its joint session on the issue but canceled plans
to register members’ views through a vote. The imposition of
martial law appears to have helped promote accountability for
a heinous crime, but civil society protests made it clear
that Filipinos remain extremely sensitive about the use of
martial law. Elsewhere in the southern Philippines, an armed
group freed detainees from a prison on Basilan island, and a
group of kidnappers in Agusan del Sur province released
dozens of hostages they had taken in the context of a feud
between rival, heavily-armed clans. End Summary.

MARTIAL LAW ENDS
—————-

¶2. (SBU) The president’s Press Secretary announced on
December 12 that President Arroyo had lifted martial law and
restored the writ of habeas corpus in Maguindanao province.
Martial law had been in effect for eight days. A state of
emergency remains in effect in Maguindanao, and the Armed
Forces of the Philippines (AFP) maintains a significantly
larger presence there than it did prior to the November 23
massacre (ref B).

¶3. (C) The recision of martial law, well in advance of the
constitution’s 60-day deadline, followed congressional debate
over the President’s act and critics’ requests that the
Supreme Court declare this imposition of martial law
unconstitutional. House Speaker Prospero Nograles said
publicly that the congress’ joint session would continue on
the afternoon of December 14 so that legislators could
express their views on the President’s proclamation (ref A),
but the congress would not hold its previously-planned vote,
as the matter was now moot. Supreme Court staff told us the
Supreme Court will decide on December 14 whether to dismiss
petitions against the martial law proclamation.

DECLARING VICTORY
—————–

¶4. (SBU) The Press Secretary claimed that the government’s
declaration of martial law had achieved its objectives,
namely:

– Arresting and charging suspects in the November 23
Maguindanao massacre and in rebellion;

– Breaking up armed groups that threatened security (read:
the Ampatuans’ militia); and

– Restoring local government functions and the criminal
justice system in Maguindanao.

¶5. (SBU) Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera said publicly on
December 13 that the government was prepared to prosecute
former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr. and 23 others
for carrying out an armed uprising. As of December 12, the
authorities had also charged three persons with murder in
connection with the massacre. One of the three is Andal
Ampatuan, Jr.; the media has printed witness accounts
claiming he personally shot many of the massacre victims.
Hundreds of others remain under investigation for both murder
and rebellion. As of December 12, the government claimed a
total of 529 arrests for rebellion or involvement in the
massacre.

¶6. (SBU) Devanadera has sought to dispel suspicions that
charges of rebellion would subsume murder charges relating to
the massacre. Critics of the government have expressed
concern that flaws in the government’s claim of state of
rebellion would allow those charged to avoid all

MANILA 00002548 002 OF 002

accountability. Devanadera has stated publicly that the
government will pursue separate rebellion and murder charges,
as appropriate.

PRISON BREAK ON BASILAN
———————–

¶7. (C) In a separate development in the South, an armed group
stormed a prison on the island of Basilan on December 12,
freeing 31 prisoners, one of whom is associated with a rogue
element of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
According to media reports, Abu Sayyaf Group member Furiji
Indama and rogue MILF figure Long Sulaiman led the raid. Two
attackers and a prison guard died. Military contacts told us
the AFP is pursuing the group of raiders and escapees,
focusing on a mountainous area of southwest Basilan.

HOSTAGE DRAMA ENDS
——————

¶8. (SBU) A group of armed men in the province of Agusan del
Sur (northeastern Mindanao) took 75 people hostage on
December 10; the gunmen were part of an organized group led
by a man named Ondo Perez, whom the government sought to
arrest following an incident of violence against the family
of a member of a clan feuding with Perez’s. Perez seized the
hostages in an effort to forestall his arrest and the
disarmament of his group, according to press accounts. Some
were freed soon after their abduction. Local authorities
successfully negotiated the release of all the hostages held
by Perez’s group on December 13 after agreeing to shift
Perez’s case to a tribal court, and agreeing to disarm both
clans (rather than only Perez’s).

COMMENT
——-

¶9. (C) The President’s supporters can claim that she moved
boldly toward ensuring accountability for an egregious crime,
and she disbanded a powerful warlord’s exceptionally
well-armed militia; she did this without significant
casualties or disruption to the government’s peace process
with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). This progress
was highly controversial, however, as the President’s critics
complained that the declaration of martial law was not
justified, as the constitution requires, by an act of
rebellion, and that Arroyo’s actions reveal an authoritarian
streak that imperils democracy. Clearly, though — as the
recent incidents in Basilan and Agusan del Sur demonstrate —
there are many areas in the Philippines like pre-massacre
Maguindanao, where armed groups have proliferated and the
national authorities have a very limited capability to impose
order.
KENNEY

   

 

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