Sep 222014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MANILA1073 2007-04-03 08:51 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Manila
DE RUEHML #1073/01 0930851
O 030851Z APR 07





E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: The 2007 Philippine Senate Race

¶1. (SBU) Summary and comment: The nationwide May 14 elections for
all members of the lower house of Congress and for virtually all
governors and local officials also include the races for twelve
seats in the 24-member Senate. Predictions vary widely, with the
Administration boasting it will win all twelve seats, the Opposition
making similar claims, and many observers expecting a 50/50 split.
The Senate has faced much criticism over its perceived failure to
pass legislation, especially many in the once-pro-Administration
Senate withdrew their full support from President Arroyo following
the July 2005 political turmoil. Control of the Senate would be
imperative to the President if ever the lower house passed an
impeachment motion, as it failed to do in 2005 and 2006. The
campaign will be lively but the result is most likely to be a mixed
bag. End Summary and comment.

The games begin

¶2. (U) Campaigning has begun in the May 14 nationwide elections,
which includes half of the current Senate, or twelve seats. Six
incumbents are seeking a second and final six-year term, while six
former Senators seek comebacks, including one putschist facing coup
charges anew. There are five relatively young term-limited
Congressmen who aspire to the Upper House. A
Representative-turned-Cabinet Secretary is also campaigning, while
two provincial governors are banking on name recall to shift to a
national legislative office. Several are braving the national
campaign trail for the first time: a Philippine bar topnotcher —
whose father is currently a Senator; two movie actors; a junior
military officer also facing coup charges; a Muslim sultan; and, the
widow of a 2004 presidential candidate.

¶3. (U) Frontrunners, among a total of 37 official candidates, have
joined two major coalition slates, which are a confusing mix of
critics and cronies of President Arroyo and ousted President Joseph
“Erap” Estrada (still on trial for plunder): the pro-Administration
“TEAM Unity” and the pro-Estrada “Genuine Opposition.” Given the
need to campaign for votes nationwide – a peculiarity of the
Philippine system – the races will be expensive. Few observers
expect the most prominent candidates to stay anywhere within the
prescribed limits on spending per voter. The campaign season has
already been deadly, with murders so far of at least two candidates
on the local level, but none yet on the national level.

TEAM Unity

¶4. (U) The pro-Arroyo TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More) Unity
(TU) has not performed especially well in early poll surveys,
leading observers initially to conclude that the Administration had
virtually surrendered the Senate to the opposition, while
concentrating instead on keeping a sufficient majority in the lower
House again to block expected new impeachment motions. At an April
2 national meeting of the dominant Lakas CMD party — titularly
headed by President Arroyo, along with former President Ramos and
House Speaker De Venecia — pro-Administration forces nonetheless
boasted that they might win all twelve Senate seats.

¶5. (U) TEAM Unity has the strong advantage of a well oiled and
funded party machinery organized from the national down to the local
level. Lakas has maintained its strategic alliances with other
major parties, including Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (KAMPI) or
“Partner of the Free Filipino” (founded by President Arroyo), the
Liberal Party-Atienza wing, the Nationalist People’s Coalition
(NPC), and Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP) or “Fight of the
Democratic Filipino.” Also, the team has a strong field network,
controlling a majority of local government seats.

¶6. (U) To its further advantage, TU launched its nationwide
campaign amid the highest business confidence in the country since
2001, as reported by the Central Bank. TEAM Unity Spokesman Ace
Durano, concurrently Tourism Secretary, claimed that even American
investors have given their “vote of confidence” in the
Administration by pledging at least US$3 billion in investments this
year as a result of improved fiscal climate and business optimism in
the country.

¶7. (SBU) Individual candidates on TEAM Unity include:

– Edgardo “Ed” Angara, incumbent Senator, LDP. Age 72, born
September 4, 1934 in Quezon Province. Although head of the
opposition party LDP, Angara has pursued a policy of critical
collaboration with the Arroyo Administration and in 2005 even
contemplated joining the Cabinet. He is among the few in the Senate
who supports “charter change” (Constitutional revision) via

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convening Congress as a constituent assembly. He voted in favor of
maintaining U.S. bases, the Anti-Money Laundering Act, and the 2007
Human Security Act. A champion of education, senior citizen
welfare, and agricultural modernization, Angara ranked ninth in the
2001 senatorial race. His current survey ratings place him in the
same vicinity so far;

– Joker Arroyo, incumbent Senator, KAMPI. Age 79, born January 5,
1928 in Naga City, Camarines Sur. The well-known human rights and
anti-corruption advocate ranked fifth in the 2001 Senate race under
the pro-Administration coalition slate. He served as a Congressman
from Makati City 1992- 2001, and was the lead prosecutor in the
failed Estrada impeachment trial in 2000. He turned critical of the
Arroyo Administration when the election fraud controversy involving
President Arroyo erupted in July 2005. The “maverick” Senator —
who also criticized the Administration on major issues including the
declaration of a state of emergency in February 2006, restraints on
the media, and charter change — decided nonetheless at the last
minute to seek reelection under the pro-Administration ticket.
Defending his decision, he explained that the Administration had
never undermined his independence;

– Michael “Mike” Defensor, Lakas. Age 37, born June 30, 1969 in
Manila. Defensor gave up his Quezon City seat in Congress first to
become Environment Secretary, then housing czar, and finally
Presidential Chief of Staff to President Arroyo. He is the nephew
of current Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, chair of the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee. Among the President’s staunchest
allies, he strongly defended her against opposition allegations of
election fraud during the 2004 presidential elections. He was one
of the complainants in the impeachment case against then-President
Estrada but agreed to (unsuccessful) proposals for the latter’s
release on recognizance. He continues to reach out to the
opposition and advocate national reconciliation. He ranked
fourteenth or fifteenth in surveys for this race;

– Jamalul Kiram III, Partido Demokratiko Sosyalista ng Pilipinas
(PDSP). Age 68, born July 16, 1938 in Sulu Province. One of the
claimants to the Sultanate of Sulu in Mindanao, Kiram is the lone
Muslim candidate in the race and was chosen for the perceived
influence he wields over the Islamic community. He bats for
Mindanao development and Muslim representation in the Senate. The
last Muslim Senator was Mrs. Santanina Rasul, who served in

– Vicente “Vic” Magsaysay, Lakas. Age 67, born January 20, 1940 in
Zambales. He served repeatedly as Governor of Zambales Province:
1998-2007; 1980-1986; 1978; 1971; and, 1967. Although lacking in
national exposure, he has the advantage of name recall. Both his
late uncle, President Ramon Magsaysay, and his cousin, outgoing
Senator Ramon Magsaysay, Jr., were widely popular and highly
respected politicians. He advocates strengthening local
governments through more effective decentralization;

– Teresa “Tessie” Aquino-Oreta, NPC. Age 62, born June 28, 1944 in
Manila. Sister of the martyred national hero Benigno “Ninoy”
Aquino, Jr. and sister-in-law of former President Corazon Aquino.
Served as Senator, 1998-2004, and Congresswoman from
Malabon-Navotas, 1987-1998. As a lawmaker, she pursued an agenda
centered on education and the rights of women and children.
Strongly identified with ousted President Estrada, she did not seek
reelection in 2004 apparently fearful of the backlash of her
unflinching loyalty to him. However, apparently smarting from the
opposition camp favoring her nephew Benigno Aquino III, she joined
the administration slate. The twelfth winning candidate in the 1998
Senate, she has not fared well so far in this year’s surveys;

– Cesar “Buboy” Montano, Lakas. Age 44, born August 1, 1962 in
Manila. The highly popular movie actor-director-producer (with a
starring role in Miramax’s “The Great Raid” in 2005) plunged into
politics aiming at no less than a Senate seat. (Note: There are
already three movie actors in the Senate: Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon
“Bong” Revilla, and Manuel “Lito” Lapid. End note) Actress-wife
Sunshine Cruz is in the thick of the campaign with him; both are
capitalizing on their showbiz popularity to win votes. So far they
are not succeeding; he is at the tail-end of surveys. He seeks to
revive the ailing movie industry as well as to promote education,
health, and tourism. He is currently a Philippine Commissioner for
Culture and the Arts to UNESCO;

– Prospero “Butch” Pichay, Lakas. Age 56, born June 20, 1950 in
Surigao del Sur Province. A print media publisher and radio station
owner, he served three full terms in Congress from 1998 through
2007, most recently as Majority Leader. A loyal political
lieutenant of President Arroyo, he defended her against impeachment
moves in Congress. He was among the then-opposition Congressmen who
endorsed the impeachment complaint against Estrada in 2000. A

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survey conducted by private firm Nielsen Media Research Philippines
placed him on top in terms of campaign spending for pouring P33
million in television advertisements in the first two weeks of this
senatorial campaign. However, he is at the bottom of the second 12
in current surveys;

– Ralph Recto, incumbent Senator, Nacionalista Party (NP). Age 43,
born January 11, 1964 in Quezon City. He is married to popular
movie actress and Lipa City Mayor Vilma Santos, who is the
Administration’s gubernatorial candidate in Batangas Province
(barely edging out her brother-in-law). After serving three terms
(1992-2001) as the same province’s representative in Congress, Recto
placed twelfth in the 2001 Senate race under the Administration
slate. As Senator, he defended the passage of the unpopular
Expanded VAT law to generate additional government revenues to
reduce the budget deficit and to fund basic services, an issue that
the opposition now raises against him. He voted in favor of
Anti-Money Laundering Act and the Human Security Act. While in the
lower house, he endorsed the impeachment complaint against Estrada.
He continues to advocate for economic reform and countryside
development. So far the third highest (P22.7 million) campaign
advertisement spender, he has occupied the middle position of the
top 12 in surveys;

– Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, NPC. Age 58, born August 24, 1948 in
Manila. A highly popular television host and comedian, he topped
the 1992 senatorial race and ranked third during his 1998 reelection
bid. As Senator, he voted in favor of the Visiting Forces Agreement
and the Anti-Money Laundering Act, and actively pursued anti-illegal
drug legislation. A staunch ally of his showbiz colleague Estrada,
Sotto was among those who successfully convinced popular movie actor
Fernando Poe Jr. to run in the May 2004 presidential race. Like
Aquino-Oreta, he nonetheless joined the Administration slate after
being ditched by the opposition. However, regardless of which side
he takes, Sotto holds a track record of win-ability;

– Luis “Chavit” Singson, Lakas. Age 65, born June 21, 1941 in
Ilocos Sur. His role as Estrada whistleblower — which eventually
led to the President’s ouster and detention for plunder charges –
instantly brought Singson national fame. A long-time politician, he
has served as Ilocos governor for over 25 years (off and on) and
also represented the province in Congress in 1987-1992. His
campaign took off late due to a medical condition. He has had a
hard time shaking off his “tradpol” (traditional politician) image
and the Estrada camp’s tirades against him. Somewhat inexplicably,
he played a prominent role in the resolution of a highly publicized
hostage-taking of schoolchildren in Manila in March 2007, leading to
allegations that he had staged the bizarre episode for political
gain. He champions agriculture and farmers’ welfare as well as
strong local governments. However, he has so far performed poorly
in surveys;

– Juan Miguel “Migs” Zubiri, Lakas. Age 37, born April 13, 1969
in Makati City. The young Zubiri belongs to the political elite but
his environmental, agricultural, and biofuel advocacies have helped
him to develop a broader constituency. Representing Bukidnon
Province for three terms (1998-2007), he also supported economic
reform legislation, endorsed the impeachment complaint against
Estrada, and voted to junk the impeachment complaints against
President Arroyo in 2005 and 2006. He has expressed optimism that
party machinery and a ctchy campaign ad portraying him as the
people’s “migo” will up his survey rating, currently at the
seventeenth notch.

Grand Alliance of the Genuine Oppostion
¶8. (SBU) The Genuine Opposition slate is the compomise handiwork
of the fractious opposition, whih nonetheless agreed to consolidate
forces to prserve an opposition-dominated Senate and continue he
fight against the Arroyo administration. Obsrvers see the Estrada
camp’s effort to flex its rmaining political muscle and note that
some canddates have quietly condoned past attempts to overtrow the
Arroyo government, while others played a active role in the ouster
of Estrada himself. lthough lacking in organization and apparently
deendent on Estrada’s declining financial resources,the opposition
“powerhouse” slate stands a good hance of bagging more seats than
the administraton slate. Composed of two Senate incumbents, thre
former Senators, three term-limited Congressmen,three neophytes,
and “guest candidates,” the oppsition line-up is as follows:

– Benigno “Noynoy Aquino III, LP. Age 47, born February 8, 190 in
Manila. Son of the late Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. and former
President Corazon Aquino, he has vowed to continue his parents’
fight for democracy, minus his father’s fiery eloquence and his
mother’s influential moral leadership. He initially had a very

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popular campaigner in his youngest sister, popular television host
and movie actress Kris Aquino, until well-publicized marital and
pregnancy woes recently took her off the campaign trail. He
represented Tarlac Province in Congress from 1998 through 2007, and
was Deputy Speaker until he supported opposition calls for President
Arroyo to resign, even endorsing the impeachment complaint against
her. He had earlier supported the impeachment move against Estrada
in 2000;

– Alan Peter “Companero” Cayetano, NP. Age 36, born October 28,
¶1970. He has acquired high media mileage with his systematic
attacks against both President Arroyo and even more so First
Gentleman Mike Arroyo. His latest accusation that the First Family
kept multi-million dollar accounts in a German bank led the House
Ethics Committee to investigate and recommend his suspension from
office for 45 days for failing to substantiate his claim. However,
Congress adjourned before the recommendation could take effect.
Cayetano’s senatorial bid has received some criticism since his
older sister Pia is already serving in the Senate (as did their late
father Rene). There are moves as well to disqualify him due to
alleged U.S. citizenship (his mother was an American and he
reportedly at one time held a U.S. passport). He is on his third
and final term as Taguig-Pateros Congressman; he has pursued health
and education reform legislation. He endorsed impeachment
complaints against Estrada in 2000 as well as against President
Arroyo in both 2005 and 2006. He has performed well so far in
surveys and could very well land in the second six of the top 12;

– Anna Dominique “Nikki” Coseteng, Independent. Age 54, born
December 18, 1952 in Manila. She served as Senator 1992-2001 and as
Congresswoman from Quezon City 1987-1992. As a lawmaker, she
focused on legislation to protect women’s rights. She opposed
extension of U.S. bases but voted in favor of the Visiting Forces
Agreement. Identified with the Estrada camp, she defended him
during the failed impeachment trial. She is at the tail-end of

– Joseph Francis “Chiz” Escudero, NPC. Age 37, born October 10,
1969 in Manila. Graduate of Georgetown University. He represented
Sorsogon Province in Congress from 1998-2007, and most recently
served as Minority Leader. A brilliant and eloquent lawyer,
Escudero reportedly dreams of becoming President someday and likely
believes that landing a Senate seat is a step in that direction. He
gained media mileage for leading failed opposition attempts in the
House to impeach President Arroyo twice. He consistently performs
well in poll surveys, often landing in the top six. His campaign
platform includes housing, livelihood, education, health, human
rights, and the environment;

– Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, incumbent Senator, United Opposition (UNO).
Age 57, born June 1, 1948 in Cavite Province. A member of
Philippine Military Academy’s Class of 1971, he was Philippine
National Police chief under Estrada. Ranking 10th in the 2001
Senate race, he launched a failed presidential bid halfway into his
term in 2004, effectively splitting opposition votes. He voted in
favor of the Anti-Money Laundering Act. One of the proponents of an
anti-terror bill in the Senate, he expressed disappointment over a
“mangled and watered down” Human Security Act that Congress passed
in 2007. He is in the top six of the surveys. His campaign slogan
“HOPE” stands for health, order, peace, and education;

– Loren Legarda, NPC. Age 47, born January 28, 1960 in Manila.
Popular television personality turned politician, she is a former
U.S. Embassy Ninoy Aquino Fellow for Journalism. Legarda topped the
1998 Senate race and was Majority Leader from 2001-2004. Although
she actively stood against Estrada during the failed impeachment
trial, she aligned with his camp and became the running mate of
opposition bet Fernando Poe, Jr. Her ongoing formal election
protest against proclaimed Vice Presidential winner Noli de Castro
apparently ended when she filed her candidacy for the 2007
senatorial race. As a lawmaker, she voted for the Anti-Trafficking
of Persons Act and the Anti-Money Laundering Act. She stood against
the Retail Trade Liberalization Act and the Visiting Forces
Agreement. The highly confident Legarda — who champions the
rights of women and children as well as environment protection —
consistently tops poll surveys again this year;

– John “Sonny” Osmena, UNO. Age 72, born January 17, 1935. After
collaborating with the Administration during his unsuccessful 2004
re-election bid, he joined the Estrada camp apparently hoping to
make a successful comeback. Part of the prominent but internally
feuding Osmena clan of Cebu, he is clearly banking on the Visayas
vote. He entices voters with a promise to push for free text
messaging and the abolition of the EVAT law. As a lawmaker, he
voted in favor of the Visiting Forces Agreement and the extension of
U.S. bases. He is an advocate of federalism and has also projected

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himself as an anti-corruption advocate. He ranked eighth in the
1998 Senate elections and has retained a similar ranking in current
poll surveys;

– Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, PDP-Laban. Age 43, born January
20, 1964 in Cagayan de Oro City. This is his second attempt at
politics, having lost his mayoral bid in Cagayan de Oro City in
¶2004. Like Cayetano, he is also facing political dynasty issues,
since his father, Minority Leader Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, Jr., is
an incumbent Senator. A brilliant young lawyer, he pursued
private practice after topping the 1990 Philippine Bar examinations.
He was Commissioner for Mindanao in the National Youth Commission,

– Sonia Roco, Aksyon Demokratiko (AD) or Democratic Action. Age 62,
born July 20, 1944. An educator by profession, she co-founded the
Center for Early Childhood Education at the Ateneo de Manila
University’s Psychology Department and established the Live and
Learn PreSchool in Loyola Heights, Quezon City. She presents
herself in the campaign trail as “Inang Guro” — mother-educator —
and vowed to continue the educational reforms started by her late
husband, former Education Secretary and Senator Raul Roco, who ran
and lost in the 2004 presidential elections. She has also been
active in NGO work for women, children, and the disabled;

– Antonio “Magdalo” Trillanes IV, UNO. Age 35, born August 6, 1971
in Manila. The youngest candidate in the opposition line-up,
Trillanes is a junior military officer belonging to the Philippine
Military Academy’s Class of 1995. His ticket to fame was leading
the Oakwood mutiny in July 2003, for which he has been under
military detention for four years now on coup d’etat charges. He
apparently eyes the Senate as the new venue for his reform advocacy,
but his candidacy is hampered by inability of travel while in
detention and a lack of media access. He apparently is banking on
“Magdalo” – a small organization of young military reformists who
launched the mutiny – as well as the internet to reach the voters.

Independent Candidates

¶9. (SBU) There are four independent candidates who either want to
run without the political baggage of either camp or who failed to
win inclusion. These are:

– Manuel Villar , Jr., incumbent Senator and current Senate
President, NP. Age 57, born December 13, 1949 in Manila. Although
running as an independent, Villar has agreed to be a “guest
candidate” of the Genuine Opposition. He will need the support of
ousted President Estrada — over whose impeachment he presided as
then-House Speaker — to maintain this leadership position as well
as to prepare for his expected 2010 presidential plans. A real
estate developer, he is the current richest Senator, while his wife
Cynthia holds the same distinction in the lower House. The second
highest media campaign spender so far, he has spent some P30.29
million in the first two weeks of the senatorial campaign. A role
model for entrepreneurship, he also advocates for environment
protection and women’s rights. As Senator, he voted for the
Anti-Money Laundering Act and pushed for the passage of the Human
Security Act. He placed seventh in the 2001 Senate elections and is
presently in the top 6 of surveys;

– Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, incumbent Senator and Majority Leader,
LP. Age 43, born August 24, 1963 in Manila. Having supported
calls for the resignation of Estrada in 2001 and Arroyo in 2005,
Pangilinan said he rejected the offer to be the second “guest
candidate” of the Genuine Opposition and to run independent as a
matter of principle. He is married to a very effective campaigner,
popular movie actress and product endorser Sharon Cuneta. He placed
eighth in the 2001 Senate race and is currently in the top three of
the surveys. As Senator, he pushed the passage of the Juvenile
Justice and Welfare Act and as well as other human rights and
judiciary reform legislation;

– Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, Independent. Age 59, born March 14,
1948 in Baguio City. A member of the Philippine Military Academy’s
Class of 1971, he is facing new coup d’etat charges for allegedly
masterminding the failed Oakwood mutiny in July 2003 as well as
alleged involvement in the attempted coup in February 2006. Honasan
was arrested for a number of coup attempts against the Aquino
government but was granted amnesty by President Ramos, his co-player
in the EDSA I people power revolution. Like fellow candidate
Trillanes, he again is presently detained and unable to directly
wage a national campaign, having been denied bail. But unlike
Trillanes, Honasan is doing well in this year’s surveys. He hopes
to retake his Senate seat after having faced term limitations in
2004, and to continue his advocacy for police and military reform.

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Placing thirteenth in the 2001 elections, he served the unexpired
portion of the six-year term of Teofisto Guingona, whom President
Arroyo appointed as Vice President in 2001;

– Richard “Goma” Gomez, Independent. Age 40, born April 7, 1966 in
Manila. A popular movie actor and television host now seeking to
join the political bandwagon, Gomez is also active in the anti-drug
movement. The Commission on Elections disqualified his
organization, “Mamamayan Ayaw sa Droga (MAD)” or Citizens Against
Drugs, as a party-list organization this year for having receiving
funds from the government. Like fellow actor Montano on the
Administration ticket, he is so far still in the losing bracket of

Other Alternatives

¶10. (SBU) A trio from “Ang Kapatiran” (Brotherhood) — a political
organization pursuing “God-centered politics” — claim to offer a
fresh alternative to “tradpols.” Without political machinery or
clout, much less name recall, medical doctor Mario Bautista, former
Visiting Forces Agreement Commission Executive Director Zosimo Jesus
Paredes – who lost his job after publicly opposing the December 2006
transfer of Lance Corporal Daniel Smith from Philippine custody back
to U.S. custody – and lawyer Adrian Sison are facing an uphill
battle. They are at the tail end of virtually all poll surveys.

——————————————— –
Latest Poll Surveys Show Opposition Head Start
——————————————— –

¶11. (U) The Social Weather Station and Pulse Asia — two of the
more credible survey outfits — have run parallel surveys on the
Senate race. Both show 17-18 candidates with statistical chances of
winning. The latest SWS survey, conducted March 1-18, showed seven
from the Genuine Opposition, five from TEAM Unity, and three
independent candidates in the top fifteen. Topping the list is
Legarda (GO), followed by independent incumbents Villar in second
place and Pangilinan in third. Opposition bets Lacson, Escudero,
and Cayetano occupy the fourth, fifth, and sixth places,
respectively. In seventh and eighth places are Administration bets
Recto and Angara; independent candidate Honasan is ninth. Arroyo
(TU) and Aquino (GO) share the tenth and eleventh spots, while Sotto
(TU) and Osmena (GO) are in twelfth and thirteenth places.
Pimentel (GO) and Defensor (TU) are fourteenth and fifteenth. Roco
(GO) and Zubiri (TU) follow as sixteenth and seventeenth,

¶12. (U) Pulse Asia’s March survey also showed Legarda leading the
pack, followed by Lacson, Pangilinan, Escudero, Recto, Villar,
Arroyo, Aquino, and Angara. Pulse Asia predicted that Cayetano
could bag anywhere between the fifth to eleventh number of votes,
followed by Honasan, Sotto, Pimentel, Magsaysay, Roco, Osmena and
Defensor. This would indicate that nine GO candidates, six TU
candidates, and three independent candidates have statistical
chances of winning.



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