Oct 242014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
2005-12-27 09:44
2011-08-30 01:44
Embassy Manila

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 005965



E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/27/2015

¶B. MANILA 4662
¶C. MANILA 4464

Classified By: Charge d’Affaires, a.i., Paul W. Jones for
reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) Summary: A Malacanang-created “Consultative
Commission” has submitted to President Arroyo its final
report on proposed changes to the 1987 Constitution, which
include a transformation from a presidential to a
parliamentary system of government. The report, which is
advisory in nature, recommends that President Arroyo remain
in office until the end of her term in 2010, but with an
interim Prime Minister to take office in 2007. Many
lawmakers and observers have denounced its recommendation to
cancel elections scheduled for 2007 by extending the term of
incumbent officials until 2010 when a parliament would be
elected. The Commission’s findings have served to heat up
the “Cha-Cha” debate, which will likely distract from a more
substantive agenda in Congress. A key Administration player
told CDA recently that elections would nonetheless proceed
with Malacanang’s blessing in 2007, and that quiet
negotiations to win Senate support would be primarily over
the powers of the interim Prime Minister. End Summary.

Proposed Changes

¶2. (SBU) The 55-member Consultative Commission appointed by
President Arroyo to make recommendations for changes to the
1987 Constitution submitted its final report to the President
as scheduled on December 15. (Note: See ref A for full text
of the 64-page report, which the Commission released to the
public over the December 24-25 weekend. End Note.) The
recommendations on “Charter Change,” or “Cha-Cha” as it is
also informally known here, are advisory in nature and have
been passed on to the House for review. The Commission’s
recommendations include:

— President Arroyo and Vice President De Castro would remain
in office until the end of their terms in 2010. Current
members of the Senate and the House automatically would
become members of an interim unicameral parliament from 2007
to 2010. This interim parliament would elect an interim
prime minister, who would serve until 2010. President Arroyo
would provide “direction and supervision” to the Prime
Minister in running the government during this interim period;

— Congressional (Senate and House) elections scheduled in
2007 would be scrapped. The terms of office of all current
House and Senate members, as well as local officials such as
governors and mayors, would be extended until June 30, 2010.
Parliamentary elections would be held on the second Monday of
May 2010 and every five years thereafter;

— Members of the new parliament would elect a prime minister
and a new “ceremonial” president, who would become head of
state in 2010. The prime minister would continue to exercise
power in overseeing government affairs;

— The GRP would shift to more of a federal structure in
terms of the center’s relationship with regions, provinces
and localities. This would be pursued gradually and only
after the parliamentary system of government had been

— The GRP would ease restrictions on the exploration,
development, and utilization of natural resources by
foreigners. Parliament would, at a later date, determine any
potential restrictions on foreign investment and ownership of
certain industries and businesses such as public utilities
and educational institutions.

Officials Attack Proposal to Scrap 2007 Elections
——————————————— —-

¶3. (SBU) Former president Fidel V. Ramos on December 22
publicly criticized the proposal to scrap the 2007 elections,
calling it a “monumental blunder.” Ramos, who has long
strongly supported a change to a parliamentary system, called
on President Arroyo to denounce the plan before New Year’s
Day. Ramos noted that he had supported Arroyo earlier in the
year when she was under fierce Opposition attack and that she
had promised at that time to support a plan whereby she would
leave office early in order to facilitate a new governmental
setup. A new civil society group, the “Citizens for
Con-Con,” also strongly criticized the plan to scrap
elections, calling it a ploy to “buy the votes of incumbent
mayors, governors, and senators” to support charter change.

¶4. (C) On December 26, Jose Abueva, who was chairman of the
Consultative Commission, publicly admitted that one of the
goals of the Commission in proposing that the 2007 elections
be scrapped was to gain the support of members of Congress
and local officials for proposed Constitutional changes. He
added that such a plan would also save taxpayer money and
help pave the way for a smooth transition to parliamentary
elections in 2010. In reaction to all of these charges,
Malacanang has asked critics not “to prejudge” the
recommendations of the Commission and to withhold judgment
until Congress has had a chance thoroughly to debate the
proposals. In a December 23 meeting with A/Pol/C, Cabinet
Secretary Ricardo Saludo noted that he doubted that the “no

election” proposal would fly, adding that Malacanang was
prepared “to drop it.” A key Administration player who is
quietly consulting with Senators on Constitutional change
told CDA on December 23 that President Arroyo expected the
“no election” provision to be shot down, but did not want to
alienate the governors and mayors who lobbied for it by
shooting it down herself. He added that the important
negotiation will be over the powers of the interim Prime
Minister versus the President. He expressed the belief that
a deal could be struck that could attract enough Senators to
overcome an expected Supreme Court challenge.

Senate and House at Odds

¶5. (SBU) The Senate remains at odds with the House on how to
proceed with Constitutional change. Senate President
Franklin Drilon, who dropped his support for President Arroyo
in July, stated on December 19 that he and other senators
remained committed to calling a “Constitutional Convention,”
where elected delegates would draft changes to the
Constitution, rather than a “Constituent Assembly” in which
current representatives and senators draft the changes as one
body, favored by House Speaker Jose De Venecia. Drilon also
assailed the Consultative Commission’s proposal to cancel the
2007 elections, saying the recommendation validated the fears
of the Senate that “political self-interests” will get in the
way of “legitimate amendments” to the Constitution. Other
senators, including some like Joker Arroyo who are usually
pro-President Arroyo, also attacked the no elections proposal.


¶6. (C) The Commission’s findings have heated up the debate,
but there is still little consensus on the way forward. As
reviewed in Ref B, the Constitutional change debate is bound
to be drawn out and politically bloody, and will likely
distract Congress from substantive priorities. Ramos’ harsh
comments should worry President Arroyo; his past support has
been a political life-saver to her over the past six months.
However, everyone here agrees that the President is not
likely to leave office early. The key issue is thus whether
a deal can be struck, “satisfying” all sides, on the relative
powers of the President and Prime Minister from 2007 until

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