Oct 042014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
2007-04-20 09:00
2011-08-30 01:44
Embassy Manila

DE RUEHML #1284/01 1100900
O 200900Z APR 07



E.O. 12958: N/A


¶1. (U) Summary. During an April 11-15 visit, Staffdel Mixter — a
bipartisan staff delegation from the U.S. House Committee on Foreign
Affairs comprised of Cobb Mixter, Melissa Adamson, and Dennis Halpin
— met with high-ranking Philippine military officials regarding
U.S.-Philippine military cooperation, senior Arroyo Administration
officials regarding government efforts to combat unlawful killings,
and various other non-government stakeholders in the unlawful
killings issue, including journalists and human rights groups. The
Staffdel also visited the sites of two Peace Corps volunteers and
toured the American Military Cemetery in Manila. End Summary.

¶2. (SBU) In almost a dozen meetings with high-ranking Philippine
civilian and military officials, representatives from human rights
organizations, and journalists, Staffdel Mixter conveyed U.S.
concern about the rise in unlawful killings of leftist activists.
Mixter emphasized that the Staffdel was on a fact-finding mission to
learn first hand about the issue and to seek ways in which the USG
could assist. He acknowledged the difficult task the Philippine
government faces, and recognized that some progress has been made.
However, he emphasized that much remains to be done.

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U.S.-Philippine Military Cooperation: A Mature Relationship
————————————- ———————

¶3. (SBU) Malacanang Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, who also
chairs the Presidential Human Rights Committee, praised the
“excellent” and “special” relationship the U.S. and Philippines
enjoy in military cooperation and noted that the citizens of Jolo
Island in Mindanao had clamored that the annual U.S.-Philippine
Balikatan military exercises take place there after having seen the
contributions these exercises made to peace on the island of Basilan
in earlier years. Ermita also noted that the U.S. Rewards for
Justice program had proven to be extremely successful, and he
predicted that other senior terrorist leaders would be captured or
killed in military operations.

¶4. (SBU) Separately, National Defense Undersecretary Ernesto
Carolina, in charge of the Philippine Defense Reform program, called
U.S.-Philippine military cooperation a “unique” and “mature”
relationship. He said that, with the help of the USG, the
Philippines was on track to complete reform in the Armed Forces of
the Philippines (AFP). He noted that reform was proceeding even as
the AFP waged a war on three fronts: against the Communist
insurgency, the Muslim secessionist movement, and terrorist threats.
He praised AFP successes against terrorist organizations in
Mindanao and underscored that, reflecting U.S. commitment to
Philippine military efforts, the U.S. Ambassador Kenney had already
visited Jolo nine times during her first year in-country. National
Defense Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor, also head of the
Philippine Anti-Terrorism Task Force separately called the
U.S.-Philippine relationship “just short of incest.”

Killings Occur in a Combat Context

¶5. (SBU) In discussing unlawful killings of leftist activists,
Ermita provided a detailed historical account of the communist
insurgency. He argued that the killings did not take place in a
vacuum but instead occur in the context of the Philippines’ war
against the terrorist Communist insurgency. He underscored that the
National People’s Army (NPA), the armed component of the Communist
Party of the Philippines, routinely ambushes and kills members of
the AFP. “There is a war going on,” he emphasized. Separately, U/S
Blancaflor commented that killings have resulted from the
“intensification of anti-insurgency and anti-terrorist drives.”
Referring to the constitutionally-mandated inclusion of
underrepresented groups in the Philippine Congress, Blancaflor added
that many within the AFP believe the NPA has taken advantage of the
initiative to include Communist elements in the political process.
In contrast, Department of Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for
the Americas Rey Carandang told the Staffdel that the unlawful
killing issue had been greatly exaggerated. “We are not in a state
of war,” he claimed.

“Numbers are Irrelevant; Let’s Get to Work”

¶6. (SBU) U/S Carolina told Staffdel Mixter that the AFP had
identified 116 cases purportedly committed by military elements.
(Comment: Carolina was probably alluding to the 116 cases identified
by Task Force Usig where the victims are leftist activists, not all
of which have military suspects. See para 7. End Comment.)
Carolina quoted Secretary of Defense Hermogenes Ebdane as vowing
that the “numbers are irrelevant; the AFP must get to work.”

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Carolina said the AFP needed a strong human rights policy with a
solid educational foundation to combat unlawful killings. He noted
that the AFP had recently established an internal human rights
office and was seeking to strengthen its relationship with the
Commission on Human Rights, a government-funded but independent
body, to help educate the troops. Lt.Col. Jose, the head of the AFP
internal Human Rights Office, separately said his office would refer
the cases to the field for investigation and agreed to provide
monthly updates on his office’s progress to U.S. officials.

¶7. (SBU) At a briefing by top Philippine National Police (PNP)
officials, PNP Deputy Director Avelino Razon assured Staffdel Mixter
of the Philippine government’s “strong resolve and determination” in
protecting human rights. Task Force Usig Director Geary Barias said
his office had identified 116 cases involving leftist activists and
was prioritizing for investigation those with identifiable victims
and perpetrators. Barias harshly criticized Karapatan, the most
vociferous leftist organization, which claims over 800 unlawful
killings have been committed in the last five years, for its
unwillingness to cooperate with Task Force Usig to identify
perpetrators. He lamented that the PNP had to work from Karapatan
lists obtained from the internet, pamphlets, books, and other
sources. He cited the difficulty in verifying cases where Karapatan
provided only vague information, such as naming the location of an
incident as “northern Luzon.” Barias stated that the PNP had
recently worked with the Department of Justice on an executive order
that would permit closer police-prosecutor cooperation, thereby
enhancing prosecutions. Razon added that the President was expected
to sign it shortly.

Justice Melo Offers Personal Recommendations

¶8. (SBU) Former Supreme Court Justice Jose Melo, who headed a
Presidentially-appointed Commission on Extrajudicial Killings, told
the Staffdel that President Arroyo had extended the Commission for
several months, specifically to meet with leftist organizations.
However, Melo had decided to defer hearings until after the May 14
midterm elections, fearing that leftist activists would use the
issue as a political club to batter the Arroyo Administration. Melo
said Karapatan had previously approached him through the French
Ambassador to testify. However, with the arrest of a leftist
congressman in connection with an NPA internal purge in the
communist movement in the early 90’s, Karapatan had withdrawn its
offer, he said.

¶9. (SBU) In addition to the widely reported Melo Commission’s
recommendations to combat unlawful killings, Justice Melo offered
two personal recommendations: exemplary justice and military
firings. He called for the Philippine government to prosecute a
handful of midlevel military officers to demonstrate its seriousness
about the issue. He argued that such exemplary justice would have a
deterrent effect on other would-be perpetrators. He further
proposed that the President give military commanders a prescribed
period of time to investigate and resolve killings in their areas of
responsibility. Those who failed should be summarily removed from
their position, he said.

¶10. (SBU) Malou Mangahas, Chairperson of the Board of Editors of
the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, separately
bemoaned the “reprehensible lack of results” in the government’s
fight against unlawful killings. She questioned President Arroyo’s
ties to the military, suggesting that she was beholden for support
during the failed 2006 coup attempt. She also claimed that, by
publicly praising in her 2006 State of the Nation Address
now-retired AFP General Palparan — whom the Melo Commission singled
out as partly responsible for the killings — President Arroyo was
sending mixed signals regarding her commitment to stop the killings.
Mangahas also called for “exemplary justice” to convince citizens
to “believe in the government again.”

¶11. (SBU) Renato Mabunga, Secretary General of the Philippine
Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), told the Staffdel that
his organization had counted 103 cases of unlawful killings between
2001-2006. Explaining that the phenomenon cut across many societal
sectors, he said over a third of the victims were farmers who had
been killed by landowners when they attempted to reclaim disputed
land. He added that many killings involved journalists killed by
politicians who believed they had been libeled, while other cases
involved non-political petty criminals killed by vigilante groups.
Mabunga nonetheless blamed many of the killings on security forces
and argued that, whether or not the government was ordering the
executions, it was responsible for stopping them.

¶12. (SBU) Purificacion Quisumbing, Chairperson of the
Constitutionally-mandated Commission on Human Rights, said that
disappearances and unlawful killings were interrelated since most
people who disappear are eventually found dead. She said that the

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Commission had identified 250 cases that required investigation.
She denied that the unlawful killing issue constituted a “crisis,”
however, and labeled Karapatan’s claim of over 800 killings a “gross
exaggeration.” She underscored that the Philippine government is a
party to all international human rights treaties and has a legal
obligation to comply. She commended the role of the active and
vocal civil society in holding the government accountable for human
rights violations.

Staffdel Visits Peace Corps Volunteers

¶13. (U) The Staffdel traveled outside of Metro-Manila to visit two
Peace Corps volunteers in the Subic Bay area, two hours north of
Manila. The Staffdel visited Marian Hills, an extremely poor
community without a school where one volunteer home-schools children
of all ages in a variety of subjects, as well as the Shepherd of the
Hills Children’s Home, a long term shelter where another volunteer
provides basic education and development activities to over 50
neglected children aged 3-12, most of whom have been orphaned,
abandoned, or abused.

¶14. (U) The Staffdel has approved this message.



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