Oct 262014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/09/08MANILA2171.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANILA2171
2008-09-18 08:54
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 002171

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/18/2018
TAGS: PGOV EAID PINR PREL PHUM KISL RP
SUBJECT: SECRETARY OF NATIONAL DEFENSE DISCUSSES MINDANAO PEACE AND SECURITY WITH AMBASSADOR

REF: MANILA 2072

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: In a September 17 private breakfast with
the Ambassador, Secretary of National Defense Gilberto
Teodoro said that the Philippine military was still pressing
the fight against rogue Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)
leaders in Mindanao, whose attacks against civilians and
government forces over the last month had led to thousands of
displaced residents and a tenuous security situation in the
conflict affected areas of the island. Teodoro agreed that
it was important to reestablish the peace process between the
government and the MILF, but said the government would need
to bolster police presence and better integrate law
enforcement with military forces to ensure security in
advance of renewed peace negotiations with the MILF
leadership. While emphasizing that the Philippine military
was having success, Teodoro noted that the conflict had
strained the armed forces’ logistical capability and said
that should another natural disaster strike the Philippines
in the next few months, the government might request USG
assistance. The Ambassador thanked Secretary Teodoro for
public comments by him and senior military leaders over the
last week regarding the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and
the temporary nature of U.S. military presence in the
Philippines. The Ambassador expressed concern about the
Supreme Court hearing on custody of Marine LCpl Daniel Smith
scheduled for September 19, registering our concern that if
the court took an activist stance, the hearing could
metastasize into a broader referendum on the
constitutionality of the VFA. Teodoro acknowledged the
current political and media sensitivity surrounding the
U.S.-Philippine military relationship and said that upcoming
bilateral events such as the Mutual Defense Board/Security
Engagement Board meeting on September 26 would have to be low
profile to avoid negative fallout. Teodoro closed by
addressing the longstanding threat of the New People’s Army
(NPA), saying that their actions had proven the NPA was no
longer an organization with an ideology and, consequently,
they should be treated as criminals, not rebels. END SUMMARY.

——————————————— –
SECURITY IN MINDANAO NECESSARY FOR PEACE TALKS
——————————————— –

¶2. (C) During a private breakfast with the Ambassador
September 17, Philippine Secretary of National Defense
Gilberto Teodoro said that the Philippine military still was
intensively engaged in the hunt for the two rebel Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commanders who had unleashed
a series of attacks on civilians and government forces
following the breakdown of peace talks in August (reftel).
Teodoro said he did not see the fighting ending in the
immediate future, as the MILF guerrillas had changed tactics
and were using ambushes and smaller units to attack the Armed
Forces of the Philippines (AFP), whereas earlier the MILF was
massing forces and suffering high casualties. Secretary
Teodoro said that President Arroyo had made the conflict in
Mindanao a top priority and was traveling there September 18
to meet with military commanders and assess firsthand the
government’s handling of internally displaced persons. The
Ambassador reiterated that it was important to reestablish
the peace process as soon as possible and Teodoro agreed, but
said that in order to protect the civilian population from
both Christian vigilante forces and rogue MILF insurgents, a
more robust police presence — coupled with stronger
cooperation between law enforcement and the military — would
be necessary in Mindanao. The Ambassador emphasized that the
USG had been looking at ways to help improve police capacity
to complement U.S. assistance to the Armed Forces.

——————————————— ————-
MILITARY OPERATIONS IMPACTING DISASTER RESPONSE CAPABILITY
——————————————— ————-

¶3. (C) The Ambassador remarked that the logistical
operations of the AFP had been impressive to date. Teodoro
said that although the AFP had performed very well in moving
their forces and managing the conflict, including minimizing
civilian casualties, he was concerned about the military’s
ability to sustain operations from a resupply standpoint in
the aftermath of losing one of their C-130 aircraft on August
¶25. Teodoro said the loss of the aircraft and the focus on
Mindanao had temporarily stretched the ability of the AFP to
respond to other demands, and that if the Philippines

MANILA 00002171 002 OF 003

suffered another large natural disaster in the next few
months, the Philippine government might have to call on the
USG for assistance. At the same time, Teodoro underscored to
the Ambassador that the Philippines was mobilizing its
civilian and military planning machinery in preparations for
next year’s ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Disaster Relief
exercise, which will be co-hosted by the USG and Philippines.
Teodoro said disaster assistance was a major focus of the
Philippine government and they believed the exercise would be
valuable for all ARF participants.

——————————————— ————-
CONCERN OVER THE VFA AND USG-PHILIPPINE MILITARY RELATIONS
——————————————— ————-

¶4. (C) The Ambassador thanked Secretary Teodoro for public
comments he and senior military leaders had made over the
last week regarding the U.S.-Philippine Visiting Forces
Agreement (VFA) and the temporary nature of U.S. military
presence in the Philippines. Teodoro, Chief of the Armed
Forces General Alexander Yano, and other military commanders
have made numerous press statements rebutting allegations of
a permanent U.S. military presence in the Philippines and
emphasizing that both countries gain great benefits from
approved bilateral military activities conducted under the
VFA. At the same time, the Ambassador told Teodoro that the
USG was concerned that the September 19 hearing on a civil
suit regarding the custody of Marine LCpl Daniel Smith could
turn into a broader discussion on the constitutionality of
the VFA and the presence of U.S. forces in the Philippines.
The Ambassador emphasized that the USG takes the VFA very
seriously, has always closely adhered to the provisions of
the agreement, and that we fully expect Smith to remain in
U.S. government custody until all judicial proceedings have
been completed.

¶5. (C) Teodoro agreed that the current political and media
attention on U.S.-Philippine military relations had
heightened sensitivity towards the presence of U.S. forces in
the Philippines, but stressed that the United States is the
closest military partner of the Philippines and that the
government would continue to support our military-military
engagement. He said it was good that U.S. troops had been
able to play a supporting role in Mindanao without being
associated with the conflict. However, Teodoro said that
upcoming bilateral events such as the Mutual Defense
Board/Security Engagement Board meeting on September 26 and
the Talon Vision/Phiblex combat training exercise in October
would have to be managed with an eye toward potential
negative reaction in the press or among opposition
politicians.

—————————-
NPA — “NO IDEOLOGICAL BASE”
—————————-

¶6. (C) Teodoro concluded by raising the Philippine
government’s ongoing battle with the New People’s Army (NPA),
saying that the NPA no longer could make claims to an
ideology. Communism is a dead movement, said Teodoro, and
the government was not helping itself by continuing to refer
to the NPA as communists. Teodoro insisted that the
Communist Party of the Philippines and NPA forfeited their
legitimacy long ago and they were no more than common
criminals now, “bandits that should be handled as a law
enforcement problem.” The Ambassador expressed concern over
the Philippine government’s preference for citing the number
of NPA fronts dismantled and monthly tallies for NPA members
arrested or killed. The methodology was dangerous, the
Ambassador said, because it could lead to accusations of
human rights violations if police and military commanders
felt pressured to generate ever higher reports of insurgents
apprehended. Teodoro said he appreciated and agreed with the
Ambassador’s comments and that Philippine authorities were
continuing to stress respect for human rights as a
fundamental principle of government and the security forces.

——-
COMMENT
——-

¶7. (C) The Philippine military has expended a great deal of
resources fighting lawless MILF elements over the last month,
and it may be difficult for them to maintain momentum as the
MILF increasingly resorts to guerrilla tactics. Logistical
support for the Philippine troops has become a problem with
the loss of the C-130, and as the fighting continues, the

MANILA 00002171 003 OF 003

military may have a diminished capacity to conduct effective
operations. Philippine officials recognize that security
forces are limited in their ability to reestablish security
by these logistical constraints, but also realize that if the
rogue MILF commanders are not captured, the conflict could
morph into a low-level, but protracted three-way fight
between the Philippine forces, civilian militias, and MILF
commandos. While President Arroyo, senior Philippine
officials, and the military leadership are committed to an
integrated security strategy that uses law enforcement and
military elements to restore order in Mindanao as quickly as
possible, the challenge will be for the Philippine government
to prosecute the campaign against the rogue MILF commanders
who instigated the conflict without alienating the overall
MILF leadership, which appears legitimately to seek peace.
END COMMENT.
KENNEY

   

 

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