Sep 222014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/09/09MANILA1988.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA1988
2009-09-17 09:20
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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DE RUEHML #1988/01 2600920
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
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FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5212
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 001988

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/17/2019
TAGS: PGOV KDEM RP
SUBJECT: RULING COALITION SELECTS SECDEF TEODORO AS 2010 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

REF: A. MANILA 1967 (SENATOR BLASTS ESTRADA)
¶B. MANILA 1901 (AQUINO DECLARES)
¶C. MANILA 1845 (TEODORO ON ELECTION PROSPECTS)

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

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: The outlines of the Philippine presidential
race came more clearly into focus September 16 as President
Arroyo’s ruling coalition settled on Secretary of National
Defense Gilberto Teodoro as its standard bearer for the May
2010 election. After weeks of uncertainty that caused
Teodoro angst (ref C), the defense chief prevailed by a
substantial margin over his only rival. Absent from the
contest was Vice President Noli DeCastro, who maintained
Hamlet-like evasiveness despite expectations he would seek —
and could win — the ruling coalition’s nod. In Teodoro, the
coalition has an eloquent candidate with a strong record of
defense reform and outspoken support for the Philippine-U.S.
security alliance. But Teodoro has yet to demonstrate he can
command significant public support, and the coalition’s
preferred vice presidential candidate — Interior Secretary
Ronaldo Puno — is a powerful political insider with a long
history of political maneuvering. The ruling coalition’s
support is double-edged: President Arroyo controls
significant campaign funds and patronage, but is a
politically divisive figure. Teodoro will need to walk a fine
line in making use of Arroyo’s political pull while not being
too closely associated with an unpopular leader. Teodoro
said he would step down as defense secretary in due time;
speculation over his successor is so far inconclusive. End
Summary.

ELOQUENT PRESENTATION, DETAILED PLATFORM
—————————————-

¶2. (C) The executive board of the ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD
coalition convened September 16 to hear the views of two
rival candidates for the party’s nomination for the 2010
presidential race: Secretary of National Defense (SND)
Gilberto Teodoro, and Chairman of the Metropolitan Manila
Development Authority Bayani Fernando. Vice President Noli
DeCastro, whom many had seen as a leading contender for the
party’s nomination, did not compete for the nomination.
DeCastro, who has scored well in opinion polls, may have
decided that he had better prospects running on another
ticket, amid speculation that he might run again for vice
president with another leading candidate, Senator Manuel
“Manny” Villar.

¶3. (SBU) Addressing the executive committee in a televised
session, Teodoro eloquently presented his vision of the
Philippines developing apace with other countries in the
region. He promised to strengthen his party and to continue
worthy programs of the current administration, whose track
record, he claimed, was stronger than that of previous
administrations.

¶4. (SBU) Addressing a wide range of national issues, Teodoro
said it was necessary to sustain military operations against
Muslim secessionists and leftist insurgents, while investing
in development and expanding the defense and police forces,
especially in unstable areas. He advocated continuing
effective anti-poverty programs and creating more jobs and a
stable environment for business. He promised to stand
against graft and corruption, in part through providing
reasonable regulations and better pay for public servants.
He also spoke out for better education and agricultural
infrastructure; credit for housing developers; and
environmental protection.

OVERWHELMING WIN
—————-

¶5. (SBU) The executive committee — 65 members at full
strength — voted in a closed-door session. The committee
did not release publicly the final tally, but all reports
indicated Teodoro won an overwhelming victory over Bayani,
with one leading daily claiming 42 votes for the Defense
Secretary, versus only five for Bayani. The committee also
stated its preference for Interior and Local Government
Secretary Ronaldo Puno as the party’s nominee for Vice
President. Puno is serving his second term as Secretary of
Interior and Local Government, having held the position from
1998 until 2000 under former President Estrada. He has a
private sector background (including a business in West
Virginia), and he is an astute political operative, having

MANILA 00001988 002 OF 002

played a key role in the successful presidential campaigns of
Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

STRONG DEFENSE CREDENTIALS
————————–

¶6. (C) Teodoro is a highly articulate, Harvard-educated
lawyer who aced the Philippine bar exam. He served as a
congressman from his home province of Tarlac, a seat now held
by his wife, Monica Prieto-Teodoro. He is a staunch defender
of the U.S.-Philippine Visiting Forces Agreement and the
U.S.-Philippine security alliance, and his selection has
already drawn criticism from left-wing activists. The
strident Bayan group warned that Teodoro would be “bad news
for Philippine sovereignty.” Teodoro has been one of the
more hawkish members of the Arroyo cabinet on
counterinsurgency issues, having pressed for an end to
fighting by Muslim and Communist insurgents before engaging
in significant peace negotiations. Teodoro has also been a
prime motivating force behind the Philippine Defense Reform
program since he took office, and has pressed his
subordinates to craft a viable follow-on plan for the joint
U.S.-Philippine reform effort.

NEXT STEPS
———-

¶7. (SBU) In the coming weeks, Lakas-Kampi-CMD will hold a
national party convention to formalize Teodoro’s and Puno’s
nominations. The two must then register their candidacies
with the Commission on Elections by a November 30 deadline.

¶8. (C) It is unclear when Teodoro will resign as Secretary of
National Defense — he said publicly he will do so in due
time — but Philippine law requires that he vacate his
appointed position upon formally registering his candidacy.
Numerous political figures and commentators voiced concern
with Teodoro remaining in the cabinet, particularly with
authority over the armed forces, as he increases his
unofficial campaign activities. Speculation over his
successor is inconclusive.

COMMENT
——-

¶9. (C) Teodoro joins a large field of candidates. Senator
Manny Villar has significant private wealth that rivals the
financial resources that Teodoro is hoping to draw on from
Lakas-Kampi-CMD, and ranks near the top of all public polls.
But Villar, who rose to prominence in the private sector,
faces accusations of unethical dealings. Senator Benigno
“Noynoy” Aquino III, who recently announced his candidacy
(ref B), contrasts starkly with his cousin Gilberto: Aquino
has no management experience in the executive branch, is not
noted for his speaking talent, and has a lackluster
legislative record. Nevertheless, Aquino is riding a wave of
popularity based on his late parents’ role in modern
Philippine history, and he is trying to create a broad
activist/NGO-based national movement. Former President
Estrada, meanwhile, is embroiled in yet another scandal (ref
A), but he retains the strong support of many Filipino poor
and seems likely to remain influential as the race develops.

¶10. (C) While Teodoro can draw on the well-funded
Lakas-Kampi-CMD machinery, he has several obstacles to
overcome, not least his close linkage to a controversial
President. Reacting to the executive board decision,
ever-colorful Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago termed this
tie a “big anchor” that would weigh on Teodoro’s candidacy.
And Teodoro is starting at the bottom of the pack of major
party contenders. Credible survey organization Social
Weather Stations found in June that, when asked in an
open-ended manner who would be a good leader to succeed
President Arroyo, less than one percent of the sample
volunteered Teodoro’s name. End comment.
KENNEY

   

 

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