Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MANILA3611 2005-08-04 07:51 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Manila
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 003611
DEPT FOR EAP, EAP/PMBS, INR/EAP, DRL/CRA, DS, S/CT
USAID FOR CDOWNEY
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/04/2015
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM PINS PTER KISL ASEC RP
SUBJECT: SUPREME COURT DECLINES TO POSTPONE ELECTION IN
MUSLIM AUTONOMOUS REGION IN MINDANAO
REF: A. MANILA 3477
¶B. MANILA 3046
¶C. MANILA 2887
¶D. MANILA 2442
Classified By: Political Officer Timothy Cipullo for
Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
¶1. (C) Summary: The Philippine Supreme Court has declined a
request that it postpone the August 8 elections in the
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). At this point,
it looks like the elections will be held on schedule.
Preparations for the elections proceed apace, including in
the security arena. During a visit to Marawi, an important
Muslim city on August 3, residents told poloff that they were
excited about the elections, but they expressed concerns
about possible fraud and violence. Mission is moving ahead
with its observation plans, and continues to underscore the
need for free, fair and safe elections. End Summary.
Supreme Court Declines Request
¶2. (C) On August 3, the Philippine Supreme Court declined a
request that it issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)
that would postpone the August 8 elections in the ARMM. The
request for the TRO had been made by leftist “party list”
House representatives. The petition charged that the holding
of the election was unconstitutional because it was not
synchronized with national elections. In an August 4
conversation, Supreme Court Spokesman Ismael Khan told Acting
Pol/C that the justices were unlikely to consider any further
petitions on the matter before election day. Legislative
maneuvers to delay the elections also appear to have come up
for naught, so far. Congress, for example, has failed to act
on a bill proposed by Representatives Gerry Salapuddin and
Hussin Amin seeking to postpone the elections until 2007.
Salapuddin and Amin claimed that the election should be
postponed because the Commission of Elections (COMELEC) is
not ready to hold them. In addition, the ARMM Regional
Assembly has failed to act on a similar bill introduced by an
Preparations Move Forward
¶3. (C) At this point, barring the unforeseen, the elections
appear almost certain to proceed on schedule on August 8 and
preparations in the ARMM are continuing. During an August 3
visit to Marawi, a key Muslim-dominated city, poloff spoke
with Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Brigadier General
Benjamin Dolorfino, who is in charge of all military and
security preparations in the ARMM for the election period.
Dolorfino related that his Joint Task Force-HOPE (“Honest,
Orderly, and Peaceful Elections”) involves five brigades,
clustered in key cities in each of the ARMM’s five provinces.
He said the situation in the ARMM was currently stable, but
the Task Force expects problems in Lanao del Sur and
Maguindanao Provinces from private armed groups and
family/clan-based conflicts (locally known as “rido”).
Dolorfino did not voice concern that elements linked with the
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National
Liberation Front (MNLF) would try to disrupt the elections.
He indicted that he had received assurances from former MNLF
Chairman Nur Misuari, who is now in jail near Manila, that
his loyalists would vote in the elections and not try to
undermine it. (Note: The MILF has publicly announced that
it would boycott the ARMM elections. The MNLF also denounced
the elections, but Misuari later announced that members of
his faction would participate. End Note.)
¶4. (C) Dolorfino told poloff that the military is
coordinating closely with the Philippine National Police
(PNP) and COMELEC. Security forces plan to control crowds at
the precincts by allowing only 10 voters in at a time.
Security forces also aim to reduce the number of loiterers
who typically intimidate voters or otherwise interfere with
the voting process. Dolorfino added that voting materials
are arriving under controlled and secure conditions at
regional hubs for distribution in time for election day.
¶5. (U) At a separate “stakeholders dialogue” in Marawi
hosted by Mindanao State University, poloff underlined U.S.
support for free, fair, and safe ARMM elections to a
gathering of about 50 local NGO employees involved in voter
education. General Dolorfino and Ray Sumalipao, a COMELEC
official, also attended the meeting. The bulk of Sumalipao’s
remarks were in defense of COMELEC’s record (COMELEC has been
battered by charges of malfeasance and incompetence). He
concluded by emphasizing that COMELEC will work hard to make
the election a success. He urged that voters and candidates
conduct themselves responsibly during what is left of the
campaign, on election day, and during the counting of the
¶6. (U) Mission held its final briefing session for its teams
of election observers on August 4. Mission plans to send
five teams total to Cotabato City (two teams), Marawi City,
Basilan, and Sultan Kudarat municipality, starting August 7,
to observe polling and canvassing in the ARMM. The teams
have been accredited through COMELEC and Mission has
coordinated its efforts with other countries sending
observers, including Australia and the UK.
The Mood in Marawi
¶7. (C) While in Marawi, poloff noticed large numbers of
campaign posters and banners for all ARMM positions subject
to election there. There was a palpable sense of excitement
among local voter education and election monitors determined
to make a difference in the election. Regular citizens also
seemed interested and involved in the process. Nonetheless,
poloff also noticed a strong sense of pessimism on the future
of the ARMM and the perceived favorite in the governor’s
race, Zaldy Ampatuan. Marawi Mayor Omar Solitario Ali, a
candid, well-informed interlocutor, told poloff privately
that he hoped the elections would be postponed, adding that
he distrusted Ampatuan and did not think that the ARMM would
be governed well if Ampatuan won. Ali added that the
Ampatuan family has a reputation for being corrupt. The
Ampatuans were also at odds with the families and clans
associated with the MILF, which did not augur well for the
GRP-MILF peace process, he claimed.
¶8. (C) There has been considerable debate about the holding
of the ARMM elections. They were scheduled to take place
last year, but were pushed back due to lack of funding and
general election fatigue after the tumultuous May 2004
national elections. As noted, the elections also have not
been popular with the MILF, nor with some MNLF elements.
Nonetheless, the elections now look set for next Monday,
although there is little optimism — despite earlier hopes —
that they can serve as a model for the Philippines as a
whole. Mission, at every opportunity, continues to
underscore the need for the elections to take place in a
free, fair and safe environment.
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