Sep 162014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MANILA1792 2005-04-19 08:51 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Manila
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

¶1. (U) This is an action request — please see paras 7-8.

¶2. (SBU) Summary. One of the key tasks facing the
Philippines (GRP) in its struggle against terrorism is
streamlining the currently excessive length and unwieldy
number of defendants in terrorism trials. The Mission’s Law
Enforcement Working Group believes that a minor adjustment of
existing programs for prosecutors earmarked (but not yet
spent) for FY 2003 and 2004 by the Bureau of International
Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) could have a
significant immediate — as well as long-term — impact.
Training in caseload management and evidence rules could
strengthen the rule of law and energize the GRP’s ability to
operate within the international counterterrorism legal
framework. Redirecting a planned (but not implemented) FY
2003 “Prosecutorial Assessment for the Autonomous Region of
Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)” to concentrate instead on GRP
terrorism prosecutions could invigorate the GRP’s
counterterrorism polices and help the USG and other
international donors target and mobilize future law
enforcement assistance. The estimated $80,000 cost of this
minor adjustment of INL spending for the Philippines (4.25%
of the total $2 million INL FY 2004 budget) would be minimal
in relation to its potential favorable impact on the GWOT.
End Summary.


¶3. (SBU) Terrorist arrests in the Philippines typically are
highly publicized, but then suspects disappear into GRP jails
and prisons for years. When cases finally go to trial,
proceedings often consist of dozens or sometimes hundreds of
defendants, and frequently take years to conclude. The slow
pace of prosecution in the GRP’s high-profile terrorism cases
(as detailed in the “GRP Terrorism Prosecution Matrix” on the
Mission’s SIPRNET site) not only inhibits the GRP’s full and
effective cooperation with international efforts to catch and
punish terrorists, but also reinforces perceptions (within
and outside of the Philippines) of the weakness of the rule
of law here.

¶4. (SBU) The GRP assigns high-profile/high-value terrorist
cases to the Department of Justice’s (PODJ) Anti-Terrorism
and National Security Cases Task Force in Manila for
prosecution. The majority of terrorism trials meet for one
four-hour session each week, with the rest meeting bi-weekly.
While PDOJ prosecutors pride themselves as always prepared
for trial, delays on the part of defense counsel are common.
Courts often permit private defense lawyers to withdraw
mid-trial once the defendants can no longer pay attorney
retainer fees, necessitating the search for a private
attorney to work pro bono, or the assignment of a public
defender; both choices result in additional delays while the
new defense counsel reviews court documents. Other delays
come from venue changes. Given the surprisingly common lack
of understanding by judges and prosecutors of Philippine
evidence codes, the proceedings often become snarled over the
admissibility of documents or testimony.

¶5. (SBU) The five prosecutors responsible for all pending
terrorist cases in Manila are in court generally every day,
with the exception of two Tuesdays a month. Their trial
caseload is far too large for them and the four judges
hearing these cases. An ever larger pretrial caseload
compounds the problem. Prosecutors are frustrated because
the cases are unwieldy, given the large number of defendants
combined with the slowness of the proceedings. PDOJ
prosecutors realize that they should try a smaller number of
higher value defendants and work plea arrangements in which
minor suspects plead guilty to lesser offenses. Mission
believes that these prosecutors would welcome outside experts
to provide the technical assistance and training to advise on
these changes.

¶6. (SBU) Several PDOJ prosecutors have already attended
courses at the International Law Enforcement Academies (ILEA)
in Bangkok and Roswell, NM. PDOJ prosecutors have also
participated in INL-sponsored conferences in Bangkok.
Filipino judges and prosecutors have taken part in
INR-sponsored symposia at the Southeast Asia Regional Center
for Counterterrorism (SEARCCT) in Kuala Lumpur. Despite the
low pay and the inherent risks of their jobs, they are
capable and hard working, but need outside assistance to
provide the impetus (and the bureaucratic cover) for reform.
Based on our close and productive cooperation with our GRP
counterparts, we believe that it is possible to improve
performance within the existing judicial framework to speed
up the overall process and ensure more effective terrorism


¶7. (SBU) Mission requests the immediate release of $60,000
in INL FY 2004 funds earmarked (but not yet spent) for the
Administration of Justice to allow the Mission (in
coordination with INL/AAE and the U.S. Department of Justice)
to conduct the following:

¶I. A one-week course for all terrorism prosecutors on
caseload management to a) prioritize cases; b) plead cases
out; c) charge cases; d) organize cases; and, e) evaluate
cases. This would include dividing large numbers of
defendants (for the four Manila cases with more than 10
defendants) into smaller, more manageable groups, then
quickly taking to trial only the most culpable defendants (no
more than 10 to 15) first. Later, after the convictions of
the first batch, prosecutors could attempt to offer plea
agreements to lesser defendants.

II. A one-week course in evidence for prosecutors and
judges. While Philippine and U.S. evidence codes are
similar, lawyers and judges here lack strong knowledge on how
and why the evidence codes work and how to apply them in
court. In-depth training on understanding why evidence is
admissible or inadmissible is essential.

III. Provide USG technical assistance to the Supreme Court to
develop ethical standards for the conduct of defense
attorneys in terrorism cases.

¶8. (SBU) Mission notes that the FY 03 “Prosecutorial
Assessment for the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao
(ARMM)” budgeted at $25,000 has not yet been implemented.
Mission proposes the reconfiguration of the ARMM assessment
into an “Anti-Terrorism Prosecutions Assessment” that would
allow resident U.S. Department of Justice Attache and an
OPDAT-selected technical expert to conduct a thorough
assessment of the GRP’s anti-terrorism prosecutorial
functions and, with GRP input, develop an action plan to
reduce the current case backlog as well as a strategic plan
for future prosecutions. The assessment would also evaluate
the technical needs of the GRP’s Department of Justice’s
Anti-Terrorism & National Security Cases Task Force and local
ARMM prosecutors to identify a modest package of computer
hardware and software as possible grant aid for remaining INL
FY 2004 funds or for solicitation from other USG and donor
nation law-enforcement/security assistance funding streams.

Visit Embassy Manila’s Classified SIPRNET website: cfm

You can also access this site through the State Department’s
Classified SIPRNET website:



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