Sep 172014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MANILA1348 2005-03-23 07:17 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 001348



E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/23/2015

¶B. MANILA 1056

Classified By: Political Officer Paul O’Friel
for reasons 1.4(b) and (d).

¶1. (C) SUMMARY. The third in a series of counterterrorism
scenario staff talks clarified the parameters of possible
enhanced US-Philippine cooperation, setting the stage for a
tentatively scheduled flag officer-level seminar in May that
will examine the key issues for key decision makers,
especially on the Philippine side. Department of National
Defense (DND) legal experts appear to be preparing arguments
in anticipation of potential Philippine Congressional
challenges. END SUMMARY.


¶2. (C) March 16-18 working-level discussions between USPACOM
and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and DND
counterparts focused on fleshing out the land and maritime
counterterrorism scenarios developed in two earlier sessions
(reftels). Strategic communications and legal working groups
separately examined the public diplomacy and legal aspects of
the proposed enhanced cooperation.

¶3. (C) AFP and US military planners created courses of
action for each scenario that expanded significantly beyond
current levels of cooperation. The third course of action in
the land scenario had US operations/intelligence fusion team
elements operating forward with the AFP’s Light Reaction
Company to coordinate US naval gunfire and air support, and
US helicopters standing by to evacuate AFP casualties. The
third course of action of the maritime scenario envisaged a
Philippine Navy Task Force commander embarked upon a USN
vessel to coordinate a combined US-RP intercept of a hostile
craft, with US maritime forces in a blocking position and a
Philippine officer aboard a US helicopter to direct a fire
mission, if needed.


¶4. (C) Both sides agreed that the follow-on senior leaders
seminar, tentatively scheduled for May 2005, would need to
address questions of combined rules of engagement,
intelligence sharing, legal authority and permissions, and
command and control raised during the scenario development
talks. This seminar would involve the USPACOM and AFP staffs
from J2-intelligence, J3-operations, and J5-plans, as well as
legal experts, US Special Operations Command Pacific
(SOCPAC), US Joint Task Force 515 (JTF 515), the AFP’s
Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), and Undersecretary- and
Assistant Secretary-level participants from the DND.


¶5. (C) The US-RP strategic communications working group
agreed that, once policy direction was clearer, enhanced
counterterrorism cooperation would be a relatively easy
“sell” to the majority of the Philippine population, which is
strongly pro-US. Communication themes would highlight the
enduring and steadfast nature of the bilateral relationship,
while emphasizing the common strategic threat faced by both
countries. The RP participants observed that in highlighting
the exchange of expertise and benefits of cooperation, the
communications strategy would nonetheless have to make
explicit that US forces would not engage in direct combat
operations. Both sides agreed to collaborate further on
communications strategy, including developing common
terminology and press guidance.


¶6. (C) Attorney Jose Pascual, Secretary of Defense Cruz’s
Legal Counsel, and Department of Foreign Affairs legal
advisor Sharon Rivera actively participated in the legal
working group. In briefing the discussions of this group,
Pascual emphasized that US forces in the Philippines must
continue to satisfy the requirements of the Mutual Defense
Treaty (MDT) and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
Article II of the MDT, as well as the VFA, authorized
activities approved by the Philippine Government. He
explained further that the Philippine Supreme Court case “Lim
vs. the Executive Secretary” (380 SCRA 742) — by not
defining “combat related activities” — allowed “tremendous
flexibility” in interpreting the extent of “advice and
assistance” that US forces could provide to the AFP.

¶7. (C) Pascual noted that US and Philippine policymakers
would have to decide whether or not to incorporate the
proposed “Kapit Bisig” (“Camaraderie”) counterterrorism
cooperation framework in the Mutual Defense Board process.
He noted that Philippine legislators had already questioned
the possible inclusion of counterterrorism under the MDT
umbrella. “Kapit Bisig” would likely require signed Terms of
Reference (TOR) or an Administrative Procedures Agreement
(APA), if it is viewed as a single activity, Pascual opined.
However, if “Kapit Bisig” is viewed as an overarching
cooperation framework, then discrete activities under that
framework could fall under the MDT. “Kapit Bisig,” as a
strategic concept, would not itself require a TOR or an APA,
he opined.

¶8. (C) Pascual separately commented to poloff that the lack
of definition of combat related activities in the Lim case
decision had definitely “created an opportunity.” He noted
that “we’ve got a tremendous gray area and we’re playing with
it.” However, he predicted that Senators Juan Ponce Enrile
and Miriam Defensor-Santiago would be quick to file legal
challenges to the enhanced US-RP counterterrorism cooperation
envisaged by “Kapit Bisig.” Once the proposed senior leaders
seminar fully framed the issues and arguments, policymakers
would have to decide whether to run the risk of litigation
and carry the argument to the people. In that event, Pascual
said the Philippine Supreme Court could either allow activity
to continue until it rendered a decision, or issue a
prohibition order. Asked if the Lim case offered any firm
precedent as to how the Court might rule, Pascual observed
that the composition of the Court had changed since that
decision, making it “impossible to predict” what the Court
might do now. Pascual added that, while he himself
discounted the possibility, other legal experts feared that
President Arroyo’s political foes might even seize such a
chance to pursue grounds for impeachment.

¶9. (C) During his closing remarks at the conference,
Assistant Secretary of Defense Alejandro Melchor, the senior
DND official present, praised bilateral efforts to date while
reiterating the need for patience on the part of the U.S.,
citing the GRP’s need to build consensus. He also discussed
a need for the DND/AFP to review further the results of the
maritime scenario development, indicating possible concern
with some of the more forward leaning proposed cooperation

¶10. (C) COMMENT: By and large, the Philippine public
remains supportive of the US-Philippine military alliance and
of bilateral exercises. Some individual politicians, as well
as insurgent groups, have protested US military presence
during exercises and even humanitarian operations for purely
political purposes and can be expected to do so again,
whether or not we move to a new stage in counterterrorism
cooperation. While the possibility of impeachment hearings
is a constant reality for President Arroyo, especially in
light of the 2001 controversy over her predecessor’s
impeachment, Embassy does not believe that enhanced US-RP
counterterrorism cooperation would offer her opponents a
successful base for impeachment.

Visit Embassy Manila’s Classified website: cfm



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