Oct 262014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/09/08MANILA2072.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANILA2072
2008-09-05 08:51
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1743
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH IMMEDIATE 0763
RUEHJI/AMCONSUL JEDDAH IMMEDIATE 0372
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 002072

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/05/2018
TAGS: PGOV EAID PINR PREL PHUM KISL RP
SUBJECT: PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR DISCUSSES PEACE PROCESS WITH AMBASSADOR

Classified By: Charge d’Affaires Jon Lindborg
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: In a wide-ranging discussion with the
Ambassador September 3,Presidential Peace Advisor Hermogenes
Esperon made it clear that the Philippine government is still
searching for an appropriate way forward in peace process
negotiations with Muslim insurgents in Mindanao. A key
milestone will be the Supreme Court decision on the stalled
memorandum of agreement on territory, which is expected by
the end of September. The Ambassador’s talk with Esperon was
useful in helping to sift through the plethora of voices and
policy prescriptions being issued by government officials
from a variety of government agencies. Esperon took pains
to emphasize that the peace process remains alive, but the
exact nature of the future talks had yet to be determined.
He explained that President Arroyo had dissolved the peace
panel for talks with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF),
and would set up two new panels for the talks, one that would
focus on disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of
insurgent forces, while the other would address political and
economic issues. In spite of harsh criticism from all
sectors of society for the MILF attacks in central Mindanao
and assertions that the MILF was no longer a viable
negotiating party, Esperon suggested that the government is
continuing discussions with some MILF members and while
disarming the MILF was essential, it was not a precondition
and would move simultaneously as peace talks move forward.
END SUMMARY.

SHIFT IS COMING, BUT EXACT DIRECTION UNCLEAR
——————————————–

¶2. (C) During a private meeting at the Ambassador’s residence
September 3, Presidential Advisor on the Peace Process
Hermogenes Esperon explained that while the Philippine
government had dissolved the peace panel for talks with the
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), it would pursue a new
peace process policy with the MILF whereby “negotiation with
armed groups will be in the context of disarmament,
demobilization, and reintegration” (DDR). Esperon, who will
remain as presidential advisor for the peace process,
stressed that defanging the MILF as a military organization
was not a precondition for further negotiations but would
proceed simultaneously with a resumption of peace talks. At
such time, the government would likely create two peace
panels for MILF talks: one would focus on disarmament; the
other would address political and economic issues.

NEW STRATEGY BORN OUT OF MILF “ATROCITIES”
——————————————

¶3. (C) Esperon explained that the new strategy had been born
out of MILF “atrocities” in central Mindanao, specifically
the killing of 28 innocent civilians in Cotabato and the
taking of hostages in Lanao del Norte. Esperon emphasized
that negotiations with the MILF would resume only when the
situation in Mindanao became conducive to talks; that is,
when the MILF handed over the rogue commanders responsible
for the recent violence, or when the Armed Forces of the
Philippines (AFP) captured them. He reiterated President
Arroyo’s statement to Ambassador that the rogue commanders
were an obstacle to peace and would need to be removed for
the peace process to move forward. Esperon concluded that
the government’s new policy represented a shift in strategy
from centering on dialogues with rebels to “authentic
dialogue” with communities and stakeholders.

PEACE PROCESS IN HOLDING PATTERN
——————————–

¶4. (C) Esperon said the peace talks were essentially in a
holding pattern for the month of September, as the Supreme
Court ruling on the constitutionality of the stalled
Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on territory was expected by
September 30. Admitting that the government was concerned
about the “political” inclinations in the Supreme Court and
the implications of the ruling for the Arroyo administration,
he observed that the Supreme Court ruling nonetheless would
guide the Philippine government on what was feasible in terms
of negotiations. Esperon noted that the AFP was making
progress in its operations against MILF rogue elements in
Central Mindanao and expected to wrap up operations in
September. He observed that given that Ramadan was taking

MANILA 00002072 002 OF 003

place in September, the AFP expected less fighting, with a
possible spike in insurgent activity in early October, once
Ramadan concluded.

TALKS BY LATE SEPTEMBER?
————————

¶5. (C) Esperon expressed hope that the success of AFP
operations against MILF rogue elements, coupled with a
not-too-damaging Supreme Court ruling on the MOA, would
permit peace talks to resume by late September. At that
time, the government would reconstitute a peace panel and
resume negotiations, without either approving or disapproving
of the memorandum of agreement. Esperon expressed his belief
that the MILF Central Committee was not directing the rogue
commanders and that, in a loyalty-based clan society, turning
them in to the government would cost the Central Committee
its leadership positions. Thus, according to Esperon, the
AFP would have to capture the rebel commanders, something he
admitted could prove hard to do. However, he added that if
the AFP made enough headway, these rogue MILF commanders
would at least lose their ability to attack again. Esperon
conceded that the success of current AFP actions was proving
popular, pleasing both President Arroyo and some of the hawks
in the Cabinet. Still, Esperon thought the MILF would seek
peace negotiations as they had no other options to pursue.

¶6. (C) The Ambassador stressed to Esperon the importance of
limiting the conflict, and keeping it from spreading to other
areas of Mindanao, while also respecting the human rights of
civilians and combatants alike. She impressed upon Esperon
the need for a manageable ceasefire to allow development to
continue and encourage the government and the MILF to behave
responsibly and return to peace talks. The absence of
dialogue served no good purpose.

MNLF HELPFUL BUT NO NEGOTIATIONS
——————————–

¶7. (C) Turning to widely publicized reports that the
Philippine government was considering negotiations with the
other major Muslim group in Mindanao, the Moro National
Liberation Front (MNLF), with which the government reached an
agreement in 1996, Esperon discounted the implication that
the government would now shift its focus to the MNLF.
Nonetheless, he admitted that MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari was
seemingly inclined to be helpful and, while acknowledging
that Cotabato City Mayor and MNLF leader Muslimin Sema had
played a sensible and helpful role during this difficult
time, he noted that it would be difficult to find room for
both Misuari and Sema in the MNLF. He concluded that the
ongoing review with the MNLF on how to implement fully the
1996 peace deal would not be complicated.

IMPORTANCE OF CONTINUED INTERNATIONAL ASSISTANCE
——————————————— —

¶8. (C) Esperon said President Arroyo was especially concerned
about the situation of internally displaced persons (IDPs)
from the fighting in central Mindanao and the government was
working to make sure relief got through. The Ambassador
expressed concern that aid projects important to stability
and prosperity in Mindanao could not go forward for the time
being due to the security situation. Esperon responded that
he thought things would improve by the end of September but
agreed that now was definitely not the time to have
assistance workers operating there. He requested that the
international community make clear that foreign assistance
would continue, even if peace process was not in best shape.
He also expressed concern that AFP operations could spark
human rights complaints and agreed with Ambassador that MILF
fighters who surrendered needed to be treated well and
accorded all rights under the law.

BROADENING THE INTERNATIONAL MONITORING TEAM
——————————————–

¶9. (C) Esperon said the government was considering broadening
the International Monitoring Team (IMT) to include countries
beyond Malaysia, as they had done during negotiations with
the Moro National Liberation Front. Esperon indicated he was
headed for Kuala Lumpur later in the week to meet with
Malaysian facilitator Datuk Othman. As an aside, Esperon
complained that Othman had not been particularly helpful in

MANILA 00002072 003 OF 003

moving the process forward.
LINDBORG

   

 

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