Sep 222014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/09/09MANILA1901.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA1901
2009-09-09 10:23
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 001901

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/10/2019
TAGS: PGOV PINR KDEM RP
SUBJECT: SENATOR AQUINO DECLARES PRESIDENTIAL BID

REF: A. MANILA 1856 (MOMENTUM FOR AQUINO PRESIDENTIAL
BID GROWS)
¶B. MANILA 1845 (DEFENSE SECRETARY DISCUSSES
ELECTION PROSPECTS)

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

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Appearing more confident and self-assured
after a week of introspection, Senator Benigno “Noynoy”
Aquino announced September 9 his intention to run as the
Liberal Party candidate for president in the May 2010
election. Aquino, son of late President Corazon Aquino and
assassinated Senator Ninoy Aquino, said he would carry out a
grassroots campaign centered on clean government, equal
justice and education reform. Alone among the presidential
candidates, he also focused on the need for dialogue with
Muslim insurgents in Mindanao, saying the alternative was
endless fighting. Senator Aquino acknowledged to an audience
of Aquino loyalists and civil society activists that he is
getting a late start against a field of well-funded
opponents, but his backers hope a nationwide “Give a Peso for
Noynoy” fundraising campaign can spark broad popular support
that builds on the national outpouring of admiration that
accompanied his mother’s funeral last month. End Summary.

CONFIDENT START
—————

¶2. (U) On the early morning of September 9, Senator Benigno
“Noynoy” Aquino III confidently announced to the public his
intent to seek the Philippine presidency, following days of
seclusion at a convent where he says he carefully
contemplated the decision. Speaking to Aquino family
loyalists, leaders from his Liberal Party (LP), civil society
leaders, and journalists at conference in a crowded room at
Club Filipino — where his mother, Cory Aquino, took her oath
of office in 1986 — the Senator spoke clearly and directly
about his desire to serve the nation, reading his speech with
uncharacteristic confidence. He presented his decision as
emanating from a strong popular desire among ordinary
Filipinos for him to seek the presidency and continue his
parents’ fight for democracy. Aquino acknowledged LP
President Mar Roxas’ gracious withdrawal last week from the
presidential race (ref A) and gave him the option of being
his running mate, but did not announce a formal decision on
the matter.

NON-TRADITIONAL CAMPAIGN
————————

¶3. (C) Noynoy Aquino’s press conference in an unadorned and
cramped room at the Club Filipino, and held at the unusual
morning rush-hour time of eight o’clock, portends a
non-traditional election campaign for this relatively
inexperienced senator. The event was notable for its lack of
choreography. Without even a chair to sit on when he first
entered the room, Aquino delivered his speech from a piece of
crumpled paper, wearing a casual polo shirt, and speaking
loudly (but with confidence) over a faulty sound system. The
potential symbolism of the date of this important
announcement, held on the ninth day of the ninth month in
2009, appears to have eluded the senator, who chose eight
o’clock for the event (and not nine o’clock), when Manila’s
masses were stuck in traffic on rain-swollen streets rather
than in front of their television sets.

¶4. (C) Though lacking polish on its first day in the public
eye, Aquino’s campaign appears poised to become nationally
significant. A fund-raising movement called “Give a Peso for
Noynoy” (Piso Para kay Noynoy) was launched to encourage
ordinary citizens to donate money for the new candidate and
become active in his campaign. While he admitted to showing
up late for an election campaign that will be extraordinarily
expensive to run, Aquino expressed hoped that the support of
ordinary Filipinos would help propel his candidacy forward.

REFORMIST, PRO-PEACE PLATFORM
—————————–

¶5. (C) In a question-and-answer session following his
declaration, Aquino offered glimpses of his vision to make
democracy work better for Filipinos: clean governance through
leadership by example, speedy and equal justice for all
citizens, educational reform, and continued dialogue with
insurgents. “We should not stop talking,” he said about
government negotiations with Muslim separatists in Mindanao,

MANILA 00001901 002 OF 003

“because when we do, it’s war, war, war.” He underscored the
need for more dialogue with the Muslim rebels, more open
lines of communication, and better intermediaries. He
promised to make democracy work better not only for the rich
and well-connected but for the rest of Philippine society,
and while he said he would prosecute corrupt government
officials, he also proposed using a “carrot” instead of a
“stick” to straighten up the bureaucracy. “I want to be
remembered as a President who will be missed when I step
down. I have to be able to show a list of accomplishments
and say I was true to the people and served them well,”
Aquino said, a clear reference to the low public approval
ratings of current President Gloria Arroyo.

COUSIN VS. COUSIN FOR PRESIDENT?
——————————–

¶6. (C) Aquino’s announcement comes against the backdrop of an
important recent endorsement by provincial governors for the
presidential candidacy of Secretary of National Defense
Gilberto Teodoro, Noynoy Aquino’s cousin and a fellow scion
of the elite Cojuangco-Aquino clan. Teodoro’s flagging
campaign received a significant boost last week when 49
governors loyal to the Lakas-KAMPI-CMD ruling coalition of
President Arroyo endorsed Teodoro to be the ruling party
candidate over his coalition rival, Vice President Noli
DeCastro. The governors’ move drew praise from President
Arroyo, who has been stinting in her public praise for
Teodoro, a fact lamented by Teodoro in recent comments to the
Ambassador (ref B). Aquino’s announcement will likely
increase pressure on the ruling coalition to choose its
candidate before the end of the month. Secretary Teodoro
will shorten his current visit to the U.S. in order to return
home to lobby his party’s coalition, which is facing
increasing internal turmoil.

LIBERAL PARTY OPTIMISTIC
————————

¶7. (C) Senator Aquino noted in his remarks that he had
offered the vice presidential spot on the ticket to Liberal
Party President and fellow Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas, who
stepped aside in favor of Aquino in an emotional press
conference last week, but there was no formal announcement or
acceptance by Roxas. Still, LP spokesman and legislator
Lorenzo Tanada III told us that Roxas was certain to join
Aquino on the ticket as the VP candidate. While no
nationwide polls have yet tested Aquino’s popular standing,
Tanada claimed “preliminary, unscientific” sampling in the
country’s largest provincial cities showed Aquino placing
first in Davao and second in Cebu.

¶8. (C) Tanada dismissed media speculation that other
candidates could drop out of the race to rally behind Aquino.
He fully anticipated the other major parties would field
their own candidates, and he acknowledged that Aquino had far
less funding available than some of his rivals.
Nevertheless, Tanada believed that many Filipinos would feel
inspired to contribute efforts and resources to Aquino’s
campaign. He also claimed that Aquino could redefine the
race, making character the central issue.

RIVALS SCOFF
————

¶9. (C) Shortly after Aquino’s announcement, House Minority
Leader Ronaldo Zamora, actively working on behalf of rival
candidate Senator Manuel Villar, opined privately that Aquino
entered the race “too late” to have a chance of winning.
Zamora said Aquino lacked the necessary money and
organization to compete successfully, and the political class
would be uninspired by his performance as a legislator.
Zamora acknowledged, though, that Aquino was the one
candidate with “game-changer” potential, making him the most
significant threat to Villar. Other parties’ figures have
not appeared intimidated by Aquino’s entry into the race.
Former legislator Prospero Pichay, a staunch supporter of
President Arroyo, privately derided Aquino as “a joke,”
claiming he was far too inexperienced to run for or serve as
President.

COMMENT
——-

¶10. (C) Senator Aquino’s confident, energetic announcement
today was a stark contrast to his diffident performance last
week, when he appeared unwilling or unable to sustain the

MANILA 00001901 003 OF 003

momentum created by Senator Roxas’ decision to abdicate in
favor of his colleague. Aquino’s spiritual retreat with the
Catholic nuns who served as his mother’s spiritual advisors
appears to have strengthened his conviction to launch a
full-fledged campaign. It remains unclear whether Aquino can
turn his shy, reserved qualities into strengths, appealing to
voters by portraying himself as a man drawn reluctantly into
the race by the will of the people rather than by ambition.
However, in the span of just one week following his personal
sequestering, he seems to have grown in confidence to carry
out a grassroots campaign in the spirit of his mother and
father, who are the most widely cherished figures in
Philippine politics. Aquino may be perceived as having had a
lackluster political career, but he also appears to have a
relatively clean record with no baggage of scandals, which
could be a distinct advantage.
KENNEY

   

 

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