Sep 132014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/08/08MANILA1885.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANILA1885
2008-08-08 06:08
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO6095
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #1885/01 2210608
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 080608Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1522
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHHJJAA/JICPAC HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 001885

SIPDIS

STATE FOR S/CT, EAP/MTS, DS/IP/ATA, DS/SP/EAP, DS/IT/ATA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/06/2018
TAGS: ASEC PTER RP
SUBJECT: THE PHILIPPINE MILITARY FIVE YEARS AFTER OAKWOOD:REFORM CONTINUES, BUT CHALLENGES REMAIN

REF: A. MANILA 1384: JCS CHAIRMAN MEETS PHILIPPINE
COUNTERPART
¶B. MANILA 0167: AMBASSADOR MEETS WITH DEFENSE
SECRETARY TEODORO

Classified By: Kristie A. Kenney; for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Five years after a small group of Philippine
military personnel seized an apartment complex in Manila,
demanding an end to the corruption and neglect they believed
was crippling the armed forces, the Philippine military has
made significant progress in its efforts to retrain, reequip,
and reform its forces. Recently, Philippine Armed Forces
Chief of Staff General Yano publicly stated that while
isolated cases of corruption still exist in the military,
improvements have been made in logistical and operational
fields. However, other critics continue to complain that
recent reforms are merely administrative in nature and do not
address underlying problems, such as the politicization of
senior military officers and the lack of a defined direction
regarding the future of the armed forces. Defense Secretary
Gilberto Teodoro has repeatedly underscored his personal
commitment to the Philippine Defense Reform Program,
declaring it one of his top priorities and insisting that it
is a process for which the Philippine government must
continue to shoulder responsibility. Over the past four
years, the Philippine government has spent USD 414 million
funding military retraining and equipment purchases, with
U.S. contributions totaling USD 41 million during that same
period. Sustained U.S. support and engagement is paying big
dividends: we are seeing long-term financial and apolitical
commitment by the Philippine government, which is key to
sustaining progress in military reform. END SUMMARY.

——————————–
OAKWOOD MUTINY: LIGHTING A SPARK
——————————–

¶2. (C) On July 27, 2003, more than 300 Philippine military
officers and troops seized the upscale Oakwood Apartment
complex in downtown Manila, demanding the resignations of
President Gloria Arroyo, then Secretary of Defense Angelo
Reyes, and senior military officers for betraying the country
by allowing corruption and neglect to stifle modernization of
the Philippine military. Although the mutiny ended without
incident when the soldiers surrendered to authorities 18
hours later, as a result of the grievances aired by the
rebellious soldiers, President Arroyo created an independent
fact-finding commission to investigate the charges. The
commission validated several of the rebellious soldiers’
claims regarding problems in recruitment, retirement
benefits, military medical services, and other issues. While
the vast majority of the Philippine public, along with
members of the country’s armed forces, were adamantly opposed
to the mutineers’ actions, the concerns raised by the failed
mutiny became issues which the government was forced to
confront.

————————-
PHILIPPINE DEFENSE REFORM
————————-

¶3. (C) The seeds of Philippine Defense Reform (PDR) were
first planted in 1999, when U.S. and Philippine defense
officials initiated policy discussions on reform within the
Philippine military. Subsequently, both countries
participated in Joint Defense Assessments of the Philippine
Armed Forces in 2001 and 2003. During the second assessment
in 2003, the Oakwood mutiny occurred, further highlighting
soldiers’ and officers’ dissatisfaction with inequities and
corruption in the military. Consequently, as PDR took shape,
its goals and objectives incorporated recommendations from
the defense assessments as well as the Arroyo fact-finding
commission convened in the wake of the Oakwood mutiny. The
PDR Program was developed to initiate short-term improvements
and long-term goals of the Philippine military. Conceived as
a multi-year initiative, PDR focuses on key areas of the
armed forces, including personnel issues, logistics,
procurement, administration, and retraining and re-equipping
of 84 battalions. Over the past four years the Philippine
government has spent USD 414 million funding military
operations and equipment purchases, with the United States

MANILA 00001885 002 OF 003

contributing USD 41 million during that same time period.

¶4. (C) In late 2007, soon after being appointed by President
Arroyo, dynamic and politically influential Secretary of
Defense Gilberto Teodoro underscored his personal commitment
to the PDR Program, declaring it one of his top priorities
and making himself the PDR program chairman. Secretary
Teodoro insists that it is a process for which the Philippine
government must shoulder responsibility (ref B). For
example, he sought to de-link the sale of military property
assets from funding for the Philippine military, stressing
that modernization funds should not be contingent on the sale
or lease of military-titled property. Secretary Teodoro
wants to strengthen Philippine military capabilities, through
training and equipment, and believes the size of the
Philippine military may need to increase. Declaring PDR a
finite process with a proper endstate, Secretary Teodoro
stressed, “We cannot have a state of perpetual reform. We
will set our goals . . . as to where it should end and where
the function of the PDR should be undertaken by the major
services themselves.” To facilitate this process, Secretary
Teodoro set up an interagency group to participate in defense
reform.

¶5. (C) While putting his personal stamp on defense reform and
emphasizing to military leaders that the formal PDR program
must obtain certain key goals in the near term, Secretary
Teodoro has not ignored the need to obtain buy-in from the
Philippine Congress to institutionalize the reforms the
military is implementing. Teodoro has told Philippine
legislators that modernization of the Philippine military may
be expensive at the outset, but it is a necessity that cannot
be avoided, whether the Philippines focuses on internal
threats or external strategic partnerships. A former
congressman, whose wife is currently in the House of
Representatives, Teodoro not only understands the importance
of the legislative process in securing stable funding for the
military, but also the difficulty in convincing skeptical
politicians to commit scarce funds to an organization with a
history of corruption.

——————————————— —–
MILITARY MAKES PROGRESS AGAINST ENDEMIC CORRUPTION
——————————————— —–

¶6. (C) Parallel to the focus on modernizing the military
through enhanced training and new equipment, there has been a
strong effort on the part of the military to root out
corruption. During recent meetings with senior U.S.
officials, Philippines Armed Forces Chief of Staff General
Alexander Yano has admitted that isolated instances of
corruption still exist within the Philippine military, but he
cites recent court-martial proceedings against officers
charged with corruption as evidence the Philippine military
will not condone institutionalized malfeasance (ref A). In
June, the Philippine Army announced they had convened
court-martial proceedings against a two-star general for
unlawful recruiting procedures. Critics point out that the
lack of lawyers in the Philippine military — 80 lawyers for
more than 2,500 pending cases — stymies prosecution of fraud
and corruption cases in the armed forces. Military sources
respond that with a higher budget and more personnel, they
could tackle corruption more effectively. In 2007 for
example, there were more than 1,500 complaints filed in the
military regarding accusations of fraud, embezzlement, and
corruption. Only 253 were recommended for filing due to lack
of evidence, but out of those filed, there was a 57 percent
conviction rate.

——————————————— –
TRYING TO GET IT RIGHT, DESPITE THE CHALLENGES
——————————————— –

¶7. (C) Trying to balance conducting military operations
against terrorist groups well-entrenched in the clan
societies of the southern Philippines with upholding the rule
of law, the military has begun an effort to clean up their
past image as an organization which abused human rights (ref
A). Over the past few years, senior military leadership have
made concerted efforts not only to improve the Philippine
military’s record on human rights, but also to address the
legacy of politicization of senior military officers that

MANILA 00001885 003 OF 003

began during the Ferdinand Marcos regime. Since taking
office in May, General Yano has emphasized that military
promotions will be based on meritocracy, a criteria which has
been demonstrated by the promotion of officers based on
professional merit, not political ties. In public
statements, as well as in private meetings with U.S.
officials, senior Philippine military leaders have
acknowledged the importance of being “above” the political
fray and that respect for human rights does much to enhance
the military’s standing not only with the Manila political
establishment, but also with the Muslim populace in Mindanao.

————————
CONTINUED USG ENGAGEMENT
————————

¶8. (C) Since 1951 with the signing of the U.S.-Philippine
Mutual Defense Treaty, the United States has maintained a
continued engagement with its Philippine military
counterparts. Bilateral annual military exercises such as
Balikatan, our growing number of ship visits to various
Philippine ports, and our continued subject matter expert
exchanges do much to strengthen our relationship with the
Philippines. Part of that engagement is an emphasis on the
Philippine military’s embrace of soft power, including
civil-military and humanitarian assistance operations. The
Philippine armed forces have shown a strong interest in such
operations over the last two years, increasingly using
civil-military projects as a viable and highly-effective
method in maintaining and securing a peaceful environment in
areas of southern Mindanao prone to terrorist recruitment by
groups such as Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah.

——-
COMMENT
——-

¶9. (C) Challenges remain in the Philippine military’s drive
to reform itself after years of corruption and neglect.
However, the Arroyo Administration, especially given
Secretary Teodoro’s personal commitment to the PDR program,
appears to be willing to make some substantive efforts in
facilitating the military’s modernization efforts. Any such
attempt is dependent upon a Philippine Congress that may be
skeptical about increasing funds for the armed forces.
Nonetheless, in the budget deliberations for 2008 held last
fall, the Philippine military budget was approved with little
debate and no reduction of the amount requested. It remains
to be seen whether this outcome was a one-time phenomenon or
a signal that Congress realized that the Philippine armed
forces have been underfunded for almost two decades and that
the internal and external stability of the nation depends in
large part on a healthy, modern military committed to
democratic principles.
KENNEY

   

 

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