Oct 242014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/07/09MANILA1586.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA1586
2009-07-28 10:22
2011-08-30 01:44
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO7996
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #1586/01 2091022
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 281022Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4743
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 001586

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958:N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINS PINR SOCI PTER ECON KPAO ASEC RP
SUBJECT: THE BEST DEFENSE: IN FINAL ADDRESS TO THE NATION, ARROYO TOUTS ACHIEVEMENTS, SLAMS CRITICS

REF: MANILA 1568 (SUSPENSION OF MILITARY OPERATIONS AGAINST ROGUE
MUSLIM REBELS)
MANILA 1207 (POLITICAL MANEUVERS SHIFT ELECTION LANDSCAPE)

¶1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In her ninth and final State of the Nation Address
(SONA) July 27, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo confidently touted
a seemingly endless list of economic achievements: the country’s
resilience in the face of the global financial crisis; its
successful welfare, social, and infrastructure programs; and its
eight years of robust economic growth under her leadership. She
defended her legacy by attacking her opponents and casting herself
as a champion of democracy, hoping to put to rest concerns that she
might extend her term beyond its natural end in 2010. President
Arroyo devoted few words to recent advances on resuming peace talks
with communist insurgents and Mindanao’s Muslim rebels (ref A) and
only briefly addressed security concerns. Faulting “the West” for
its role in generating the global financial crisis, she nonetheless
highlighted the positive direction of U.S.-Philippine bilateral
relations, illustrated by the veterans’ benefits package and her
meeting later this week with President Obama. But for those who
speculated Arroyo intended to stay in power one way or another, the
speech did seem to signal she will depart the presidency at the end
of her term. END SUMMARY.

HIGHLIGHTING ECONOMIC GAINS
—————————

¶2. (SBU) In her ninth and final State of the Nation Address (SONA)
on July 27, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo trumpeted her
accomplishments in office, focusing on the country’s economic
resilience that cushioned the impact of the global financial crisis,
which, she emphasized, “the best in the West failed to anticipate.”
She exuded optimism and determination to stay the course until her
last day in office, pledged greater investment in education, and
sought the passage of legislation to sustain these economic gains.
She cited statistics noting that the economy posted uninterrupted
growth for 33 quarters and doubled its size from $76 billion to $186
billion. Average GDP growth from 2001 to first quarter of 2009 was
the highest in 43 years. GNP per capita rose from $967 to $2,051,
and eight million jobs were created at an average of one million
jobs per year. Self-rated poverty, she noted, decreased from 59
percent to 47 percent during her tenure, despite the country’s
increase in population.

SECURITY AND BILATERAL CONCERNS
——————————-

¶3. (SBU) President Arroyo sparingly addressed issues of bilateral
concern, including security and counterterrorism. She acknowledged
the “good prospect” for peace talks with communist insurgents and
Mindanao’s Muslim secessionists (ref A), expressing her sincere wish
for peace in Mindanao, which would be a “blessing for all its
people, Muslim, Christian, and Lumads (indigenous people).” She
asked the Philippine Congress to fund a strengthening of the
nation’s law enforcement capacity to protect citizens in all corners
of the country from crime, and noted the continued success of
programs to incentivize the demobilization of communist insurgents.
Proudly, she announced that later this week she would be the “first
Southeast Asian leader” to meet President Obama at the White House,
presenting an opportunity to discuss counterterrorism, nuclear
non-proliferation, climate change, and global recession.

ATTACKING HER CRITICS
———————

¶4. (SBU) Toward the end of her speech, Arroyo returned the criticism
she had received in recent months from her opponents, many of whom
accused her of misgovernance and corruption. While she herself was
falsely accused of corruption, she said that “Many who accuse me of
it have lifestyles and spending habits that make them walking proofs
of that crime.” In an indirect, witty reference to her predecessor
and fiercest critic, former President and convicted felon Joseph
Estrada, she said, “Those who live in glass houses should cast no
stones. Those who should be in jail should not threaten it,
especially if they have been there.” Her comment drew laughter from
the audience.

PREDICTABLE REACTIONS FROM TWO CAMPS
————————————

¶5. (SBU) Supporters of President Arroyo were predictably ebullient
in their praise. Speaker Prospero Nograles, a known ally of
President Arroyo, called the SONA “tough but accurate and full of
substance.” Despite criticism and low popularity ratings in the
polls, he said, Arroyo delivered on her commitments. Chief Justice
Reynato Puno similarly commended Arroyo for her accomplishments,
noting an increase in budget appropriations for the judiciary.

MANILA 00001586 002 OF 002

Palawan Representative Antonio Alvarez said the presidential address
was a “fighting, feel-good, factual speech, which, best of all, was
rendered mostly in Filipino to better rally us to have more faith in
ourselves.” Albay Governor and presidential economic adviser Jose
Salceda opined that the next President will be lucky to inherit an
“unused credit card.”

¶6. (SBU) President Arroyo’s political opponents, including House
Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora, Bayan Muna Representative Teddy
Casio, and Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, expressed disappointment
that she did not declare “categorically” her intention to step down
in 2010, noting with suspicion that the President’s address sounded
more like a campaign speech than a SONA. Ilocos Norte Rep.
Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos II suggested that the economic
statistics cited by the President were not reflected in actual
economic conditions. Senator Francis Escudero, a presidential
hopeful in the 2010 elections, said that allegations of corruption
“may very well be the darkest legacy of the Arroyo administration’s
nine years in power.”

SMALL PROTESTS, LOUD VOICES
—————————

¶7. (SBU) As a receptive audience inside the Philippine House of
Representatives cheered and applauded the President’s forceful
delivery, some 7,000 demonstrators led by left-wing organization
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) — a small protest by Philippine
standards — conducted a peaceful protest to oppose what they
regarded as President Arroyo’s political maneuvers to perpetuate her
tenure (ref B). The marching protesters represented a cross-section
of society and included well-known figures such as Senator Manuel
Roxas, another 2010 presidential contender, who in a speech earlier
that day railed against the Arroyo administration. Held near the
legislative complex, the protest culminated with the burning of an
effigy of the president. The demonstration, though peaceful, was
marred by the beating of alleged intelligence agents by protesters
who accused them of infiltration. Simultaneous rallies were held in
Aklan, Bacolod, Bohol, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Capiz, Cebu, Davao,
Digos, Iloilo, Naga, and Tacloban.

COMMENT
——-

¶8. (SBU) President Arroyo’s supporters characterized her speech as a
spirited defense of her strong economic record, while her detractors
highlighted the speech’s omissions and the continued harsh effects
of the global financial crisis on average Filipinos. On the most
contentious issue, Arroyo’s alleged desire to stay in power through
constitutional revision, her critics’ fears are unlikely to be
assuaged; they remember Arroyo’s 2003 announcement that she would
not run for president in the 2004 elections, which she ultimately
did. While Arroyo claimed in the SONA that she “never expressed the
desire to extend” her term — her clearest statement yet that she
intends to step down as president — her harshest critics appear
prepared to perpetuate the idea that she will cling to office beyond
her term. This reaction all but ensures that President Arroyo will
continue to be the most convenient political target for opposition
groups and presidential candidates seeking to rally voters during
the next ten months of campaigning, in the lead-up to the May 2010
elections.

BASSETT

   

 

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