Oct 242014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/12/09MANILA2502.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA2502
2009-12-07 09:27
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO9155
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #2502/01 3410927
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 070927Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5968
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 MANILA 002502

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/06/2019
TAGS: PGOV PINS PHUM KDEM KJUS MOPS ASEC CVIS CASC
RP
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT IMPOSES MARTIAL LAW IN MAGUINDANAO TO COUNTER TOP CLAN

REF: A. MANILA 2491 (MORE CHARGES LIKELY)
¶B. MANILA 2469 (INFLUENTIAL MAYOR AND POLICEMEN)
¶C. MANILA 2465 (AMBASSADOR PRESSES GOVERNMENT)
¶D. MANILA 2448 (PHILIPPINE CLAN VIOLENCE)

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney, Reasons: 1.4 (b) and (d)

SUMMARY
——-

¶1. (C) For only the third time since Philippine independence,
President Arroyo imposed martial law December 5 in parts of
Maguindanao province, site of a bloody election-related
massacre that left 57 dead (ref D). The move followed
discoveries of major arms caches held by the Ampatuan clan,
widely presumed to be culpable for the November 23 massacre
that targeted many women and journalists. A senior military
officer took charge of military operations in the province,
and the writ of habeas corpus was suspended. No expansion of
martial law to other areas is anticipated at this time, but,
in comments to the press, the Ambassador stressed that
imposing martial law was a very serious step and that the
U.S. would be watching to see how the measure is implemented.
The government cited the fear of rebellion by armed Ampatuan
followers, estimated to number over 2,000, and the need to
quickly round up senior clan members; officials said they
would not impose a curfew or restrict press freedom. While
the massacre had brought widespread calls for an immediate
crackdown on the Ampatuans and against private armies
nationwide, numerous critics voiced concern about the
possibility for human rights violations under the decree,
recalling abuses following President Marcos’ 1972 declaration
of martial law. Embassy press guidance is attached at para
¶8. The Emergency Action Committee met and reaffirmed that
the current travel warning and Mission policy against travel
to Maguindanao are appropriate. The Embassy plans to review
the visa status of leading suspects in the massacre for
appropriate action. End Summary.

DECLARATION OF MARTIAL LAW
————————–

¶2. (U) On the morning of December 5, presidential Executive
Secretary Eduardo Ermita announced that President Arroyo had
imposed martial law in parts of Maguindanao province,
excluding areas under the control of the insurgent Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The declaration explicitly
suspends the writ of habeas corpus in areas under martial law
(for the full text, see para 16). Control of Maguindanao
province, the second-poorest in the Philippines, was turned
over to Armed Forces of the Philippines LtGen Raymundo
Ferrer, a respected Army officer who has worked well with
U.S. officials and military forces in the region. The
government said it would not impose a curfew or restrict
media activities, and stressed that while the constitution
permits martial law for up to 60 days, the current
declaration may be revoked before the full period has
expired. This marks only the third time martial law has been
declared in the Philippines since independence in 1946.

¶3. (C) The declaration followed the December 4 discovery and
seizure of substantial arms caches stored by leading members
of the Ampatuan clan, who are widely presumed to be culpable
for the November 23 massacre of 57 unarmed persons en route
to file election registration papers for a leading member of
the rival Mangudadatu clan. According to press reports,
discovered arms included recoilless rifles, assault rifles,
mortar tubes, and anti-tank weapons — reportedly enough to
arm a military battalion.

¶4. (C) The President’s move came after the authorities
surrounded the residence of Ampatuan clan patriarch and
Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr. (One of his sons, a
leading suspect, has been held in Manila in connection with
the murders.) The Ampatuans challenged the government’s
actions, and on December 4 received a favorable result, in
the form of a writ of amparo, from a Philippine appeals
court. As of December 7, however, the government held
Ampatuan, Sr., as well as another son Zaldy Ampatuan,
Governor of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, in
custody. The Philippine National Police (PNP) reported that
a total of 62 individuals had been arrested since the
imposition of martial law.

DIFFICULT DECISION
——————

¶5. (C) Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera justified the

MANILA 00002502 002 OF 004

imposition of martial law on the grounds that the Ampatuans
had usurped power from the central government. She claimed
that the Ampatuans’ brutal deeds were an active act of
rebellion, not merely plotting. Devanadera said that she
planned to file rebellion charges on December 7 against
members of the Ampatuan clan, saying, “Our evidence is
strong. This was not an ordinary disorder taking place in
one area — it had an armed component.” She added that by
closing government offices, the Ampatuans had committed an
overt act showing that they are following some forces other
than the central government. Other officials noted that the
imposition of martial law ensured that courts in the region,
which might be susceptible to threats or influence from the
Ampatuan clan, would be unable to compel the Ampatuans’
release. Separately, the Palace said that it would report to
Congress on the martial law decision, and the legislative
branch scheduled a joint House-Senate hearing for December 8.

¶6. (SBU) The Ambassador spoke with presidential Executive
Secretary Ermita on December 6 and Foreign Secretary Alberto
Romulo on December 7, both of whom provided further
information on the government’s decision to impose martial
law (to be reported Septel).

U.S. WATCHING CAREFULLY
———————–

¶7. (U) In widely reported comments to the press, the
Ambassador noted that it was essential that the government
carry out a thorough, complete investigation of the brutal
massacre, that those responsible for the crime must be
brought to justice, and that changes must be put in place so
that acts of violence like this could never happen again, and
that security could be restored and vital development
projects resumed. However, she also stressed that imposition
of martial law was a most serious step and that like many
others in the international community the United States would
be watching to see how the decree was implemented, and
talking with Philippine officials to ensure that human rights
were respected.

¶8. (U) In the wake of the Ambassador’s comments, the Embassy
used the following press guidance for numerous press queries:
“We believe the barbaric massacre in Maguindanao must be
fully investigated and those responsible brought to justice.
We hope the right conditions can be put in place so that such
a heinous crime never happens again. The declaration of
martial law is a serious step, with human rights
implications, so we will watch its implementation carefully.
Our thoughts are with the families of the victims.”

VOICES OF CAUTION AND CONCERN
—————————–

¶9. (SBU) Prior to the imposition of martial law, most
Philippine politicians expressed support for a crackdown on
the Ampatuans and urged strong efforts against private armies
nationwide. After the declaration, however, many political
figures expressed concern. Former President Fidel Ramos
publicly termed the martial law decision “an overreaction.”
The Liberal Party spokesman characterized the move similarly,
and leading Liberal Party presidential candidate Senator
Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino said he favored lifting martial law.
Senator Loren Legarda, running mate of Nacionalista Party
candidate Senator Manuel Villar, questioned whether the
government had done everything possible short of declaring
martial law. In contrast, House Speaker Prospero Nograles,
an ally of President Arroyo, assessed publicly that a
majority of House members would join him in supporting the
decree.

¶10. (SBU) Well known critics of the Arroyo administration
expressed more conspiratorial views of the martial law
decision. Opposition Senator Panfilo Lacson worried that the
decree might presage an effort by the President to crack down
on civil liberties outside of Maguindanao province and to
cling to power, despite a direct statement by Justice
Secretary Devanadera that the declaration of martial law in
Maguindanao was not a test for doing the same in other parts
of the country.

¶11. (SBU) Opposition Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. attempted
to tie the government’s crackdown on the Ampatuans to the
allegation of widespread election fraud in Maguindanao in
past elections in favor of Arroyo administration candidates,
suggesting the decree was a ploy to hide evidence of massive
cheating in earlier polls. Opposition Senator Rodolfo Biazon
similarly argued martial law could be an attempt to cover up

MANILA 00002502 003 OF 004

alleged crimes of the Ampatuans, who were political allies of
Arroyo prior to the massacre. Media commentators expressed a
wide range of views, with many citing still-strong memories
of the harsh martial law rule of former President Ferdinand
Marcos from 1972-1981.

MILF PLEDGES COOPERATION
————————

¶12. (C) The insurgent Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which
maintains several bases and thousands of fighters in
Maguindanao and has had an antagonistic relationship with the
Ampatuan clan, pledged cooperation with the martial law
decree. An MILF spokesman said the insurgent group would
allow government forces pursuing Ampatuan loyalists to enter
MILF-controlled areas “so long as it is done using the
appropriate process.” Similarly, LtGen Ferrer said December
5 that the government would avoid any actions that might
disrupt its peace talks with the MILF, due to resume in Kuala
Lumpur on December 8.

VISA REVIEW
———–

¶13. (SBU) The Embassy Consular Section is reviewing the visa
status of leading suspects in the massacre and their family
members, and will take appropriate steps.

EAC MEETING
———–

¶14. (SBU) The Ambassador chaired a meeting of the Embassy’s
Emergency Action Committee December 7 to ensure that travel
warnings to Mission personnel and American citizens were
appropriate given the gravity of the Maguindanao massacre and
the imposition of martial law. Participants agreed that the
current ban on travel by Mission personnel to the province
and the recently revised travel warning for American citizens
were appropriate.

COMMENT
——-

¶15. (C) President Arroyo faced a very difficult decision.
The November 23 massacre generated enormous pressure for her
to act decisively against the Ampatuans, her long-time
political allies in Mindanao, and critics were prepared to
assail the President for failing to enforce the rule of law.
Having moved strongly against the likely perpetrators,
however, Arroyo has found that the use of martial law hits a
raw nerve in the Philippines. Recalling President Marcos’s
harsh rule, there is a substantial segment of the Philippine
public that is ready to believe the worst about Arroyo’s
motives. At the moment, the President’s critics are louder
than her supporters, although there may be a silent majority
willing to accept martial law as necessary. Our initial view
is that the threat posed by the Ampatuans is a very serious
one and that strong steps were needed because of the
weaknesses in the legal system; however, measures short of
martial law might have sufficed, and we will be watching
carefully how the government implements the decree. We will
report further via Septel on the government’s reasoning for
martial law in Maguindanao.

TEXT OF DECREE
————–

¶16. (U) Begin text.

MALACANANG

Manila

PROCLAMATION NO. 1959

PROCLAIMING A STATE OF MARTIAL LAW AND SUSPENDING THE
PRIVILEGE OF THE WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS IN THE PROVINCE OF
MAGUINDANAO, EXCEPT FOR CERTAIN AREAS

WHEREAS, Proclamation No. 1946 was issued on 24 November 2009
declaring a state of emergency in the provinces of
Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and the City of Cotabato for the
purpose of preventing and suppressing lawless violence in the
aforesaid areas;

WHEREAS, Section 18, Art.VII of the Constitution provides
that “In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public
safety requires it, (the President) may, for a period not

MANILA 00002502 004 OF 004

exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of
habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof
under martial law.”

WHEREAS, R.A. No. 6986 provides that the crime of rebellion
or insurrection is committed by rising publicly and taking
arms against the Government for the purpose of depriving the
Chief Executive or the Legislature, wholly or partially, of
any of their powers or prerogatives.”

WHEREAS, heavily armed groups in the province of Maguindanao
have established positions to resist government troops,
thereby depriving the Executive of its powers and
prerogatives to enforce the laws of the land and to maintain
public order and safety;

WHEREAS, the condition of peace and order in the province of
Maguindanao has deteriorated to the extent that the local
judicial system and other government mechanisms in the
province are not functioning, thus endangering public safety;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO, President of the
Republic of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested
in me by the Constitution and by law, do hereby proclaim, as
follows:

SECTION 1. There is hereby declared a state of martial law in
the province of Maguindanao, except for the identified areas
of the Motor Islamic Liberation Front as referred to in the
Implementing Operational Guidelines of the GRP-MILF Agreement
on the General Cessation of Hostilities.

SECTION 2. The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall
likewise be suspended in the aforesaid area for the duration
of the state of martial law.

DONE in the City of Manila, this 4th day of December in the
year of our Lord, Two Thousand and Nine.

(Sgd.) PRESIDENT GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO

By the President:

(Sgd.) EDUARDO R. ERMITA

Executive Secretary
KENNEY

   

 

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