Oct 242014


Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MANILA1452 2005-03-30 09:05 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.

300905Z Mar 05
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 001452



E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/30/2015


¶B. 04 MANILA 6096
¶C. 04 MANILA 5959

Classified By: Political Officer Andrew McClearn for
reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (C) Summary: The Supreme Court, sitting as the
“Presidential Electoral Tribunal,” ruled on March 29 that
Susan Roces, the widow of Fernando Poe, Jr., could not take
over Poe’s challenge to the May 2004 election of President
Arroyo. There has been little reaction from Malacanang or
the opposition to the ruling. The ruling did not affect the
electoral challenge case of Loren Legarda, the defeated vice
presidential candidate, against Vice President Noli de
Castro; that case continues. The opposition might try to use
the ruling to energize its supporters to go to the streets,
but there are no signs yet of increased political tensions or
of a new more overtly political role for Roces. End Summary.

No to Mrs. Poe

¶2. (U) The Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential
Electoral Tribunal (PET), unanimously ruled on March 29 that
Susan Roces, the widow of Fernando Poe, Jr. (FPJ), could not
take over as petitioner in Poe’s challenge to the May 2004
election of President Arroyo. Both Poe and opposition vice
presidential candidate Loren Legarda (see below) had filed
electoral protest petitions with the PET on July 23, 2004,
after President Arroyo and Vice President de Castro were
proclaimed the winners in the election last June 24. In
their petitions, Poe and Legarda charged that both President
Arroyo and Vice President Noli de Castro had won the election
by fraudulent means. Shortly after Poe’s death in December
2004, his widow Jesusa Sonora Poe — better known by her
screen name Susan Roces — filed a motion requesting that she
substitute for FPJ and that the court continue to pursue the
protest motion.

¶3. (U) In its 14-page ruling, the court explained that,
after many years of similar electoral protests, the PET had
“consistently rejected substitution by the widow or the heirs
in election contests where the protestant dies during the
pendency of the protest.” Justice Leonardo Quisumbing, who
wrote the opinion, added that Roces was not the “real party
in interest,” according to existing PET rules that
specifically allow for electoral protests by second or
third-place finishers in both the presidential and
vice-presidential elections. (Note: In the May 10, 2004
contest, Arroyo won with 12,905,808 votes, Poe finished a
close second place, and challenger Panfilo Lacson finished
third. Lacson did not protest the election results. end
note) Roces now has 15 days to file a motion for
reconsideration, but there seems little to no possibility of
the success of such a motion.

No Official Reaction from Malacanang

¶4. (U) Malacanang has so far not issued an official reaction
to the ruling. According to press reports, however,
President Arroyo was relieved with the decision. Romulo
Macalintal, Arroyo’s main electoral attorney, publicly
applauded the decision. He urged the opposition to accept
that the case is over.

Opposition almost mum

¶5. (C) There has been little reaction, so far, from the
opposition to the ruling. Minority House leader Francis
Escudero, after a discussion with Roces, said that Roces and
Poe supporters were “shocked that in one sweep, (the PET)
junked the two petitions.” He added Roces was disappointed
to learn of the decision first through the media, and that
many FPJ supporters would continue to doubt the results of
last year’s election. Senate Minority leader Aquilino
Pimentel told reporters that opposition forces should unite
to accept the decision and agree not to continue the protest
and “destroy FPJ’s name as a man of peace.” Other opposition
sources told poloff that the opposition had no single unified
position regarding the ruling as of yet. One contact said
that many in the opposition were not surprised by the result,
as most expected that the protest would fail “because the
court is packed with supporters of Arroyo.” (Note: Arroyo
has nominated 8 of the 15 justices. end note)

Roces’ future undecided

¶6. (C) Roces, personal lawyer Harriet Demetriou told poloff
on March 30 that Roces and her legal team would most likely
file a motion for reconsideration. Queried about widespread
reports that Roces might be tempted to become involved in
politics, Demetriou replied that Roces was still in mourning
over the sudden death of her husband last December. She
added that “in the Filipino context, it is too soon for
Susan to be seen taking up the political legacy of FPJ” and
that that it would be “unseemly” for Roces to capitalize on
FPJ’s fame without additional grieving. She also highlighted
that, in recent discussions, Roces had not made any decision
on whether to enter the tumultuous world of Filipino
politics. Without naming personalities, Demetriou claimed
that many leaders in the opposition had privately told Roces
that she should assume the leadership of the anti-Arroyo
camp. She said several opposition leaders hoped that Roces
could assume a “Cory Aquino-like role in the national
political arena,” but predicted that Roces would only enter
the political game “on her own terms,” if at all.

VP Case Continues

¶7. (C) The ruling did not concern Legarda’s electoral
challenge case, which will continue. Legarda had run under
the same coalition banner as FPJ in the 2004 election, and
lost the race for vice president to Noli de Castro by a
slightly larger margin than FPJ lost to Arroyo. Evelyn
Dumdum, Director of the Supreme Court’s Program Management
Office, told poloff on March 30 that Legarda’s case was
ongoing, although “the sense among the justices indicated a
desire to get past this case by June or July of this year.”
Dumdum added that Legarda’s legal team was still struggling
to come up with sufficient funds to press forward with the
expensive protest case, and she speculated that it would be
difficult for Legarda to continue her case given the recent
unanimous decision in the similar FPJ protest. Legarda has
yet to issue any public comment on the Poe/Roces suit.


¶8. (C) The ruling should bring some relief for President
Arroyo and enable her team finally to put this electoral
challenge behind them. The opposition might still try to use
the ruling to energize its supporters to go to the streets,
but there are no signs of increased political tensions so
far, or improved prospects for intra-opposition coordination
and organization. If the ruling somehow energizes Susan
Roces to get involved in politics, however, she could prove
to be a considerable boon to the weak, fragmented opposition.

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