Oct 242014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
2005-01-13 08:21
2011-08-30 01:44
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 000219



E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/12/2015

REF: 04 MANILA 06069

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

¶1. (C) Summary: Over 50 congressmen have signed “a letter
of appeal” calling for President Arroyo to pardon former
congressman Romeo Jalosjos, who has been in jail since 1997
for raping an 11 year old girl. President Arroyo is studying
the request, apparently in a ploy to win votes for her
legislative program on fiscal reforms, but there is also very
strong opposition. According to a senior adviser, she will
almost certainly not grant the pardon. Even contemplation of
pardoning a convicted child rapist highlights Arroyo’s
continued insecurity over her political position. End

Pressing for a Pardon

¶2. (SBU) With signatures of over 50 congressmen, a recent
“letter of appeal” called for President Arroyo to pardon
influential former congressman Romeo Jalosjos, who was
arrested in 1997 and subsequent convicted for rape of an 11
year old girl. (Note: See Para five for further background.
end note) Deputy Speaker Abdulgani “Gerry” Salapuddin from
Mindanao and Representative Ernesto Nieva from Manila are
leading calls for his pardon, along with Jalosjos’ brother
Cesar and sister Cecilia, both current members of the House.
Over the holidays, Jalosjos’ mother Angelina led her family
in making an emotional public appeal to the President to
grant clemency on the basis that his health had deteriorated
while in prison.

Arroyo Considers Matter

¶3. (C) Several sources have confirmed that President Arroyo
is indeed studying the pardon request. The President’s
Political Adviser Gabriel Claudio told Dep Polcouns on
January 12 that Arroyo was “closely reviewing the matter as
she awaited further input from the Department of Justice.”
He confirmed press reports that Presidential chief of staff
and former National Security Adviser Norberto “Bert”
Gonzales, a known political ally of Jalosjos, was also urging
her to grant the pardon “on humanitarian grounds.” Claudio
added that some of the representatives who had signed the
request for a pardon had indicated that their support for
Arroyo’s legislative agenda — notably, some key fiscal and
tax reform measures — could hinge on whether or not she
granted the pardon.

GMA — Leaning Against Pardon

¶4. (C) However, Claudio assured Dep Polcouns that he did not
believe that Arroyo would grant the pardon. Most politicians
and other people he had canvassed were fiercely opposed to a
pardon to a convicted child rapist. He noted in particular
that Secretary of Social Welfare and Development Corazon
“Dinky” Soliman and Senate President Franklin Drilon, both
close allies of the President, had publicly voiced their
opposition, along with leftist groups and civil society
advocates for women’s and children’s rights.
Pro-administration Congressman Ronaldo Puno confided to Dep
Polcouns during a recent meeting that he also did not think
Arroyo would grant the pardon. He added, however, that there
was “a slim possibility” that she might do so because of “her
political insecurities.” Puno remarked that a possible
pardon of Jalosjos was questionable on legal grounds in any
case because he had not served the required minimum prison
time corresponding to his life sentence, and thus was not yet
eligible for parole. Puno added that he had met with
Jalosjos in early 2004 and found the former congressman
active and in good health, which he commented should indicate
that humanitarian parole should not be a serious option.

Further Background on Case

¶5. (SBU) Jalosjos was already a long-time politician when
police arrested him in 1997 for raping an 11 year old girl.
He received two life terms sentences in 1998. Jalosjos was a
popular representative from Zamboanga del Norte province in
Mindanao and the scion of a highly-influential family.
Despite his conviction and imprisonment, he won reelection to
the House in both 1998 and 2001 (his seat remained vacant
during those terms). The 65-year-old Jalosjos reportedly
still wields considerable political power even from prison.
He remains a key member of an influential regional political
grouping in Western Mindanao called the “Partido Demokratiko
Sosyalista ng Pilipinas,” currently chaired by Bert Gonzales.
In addition, Jalosjos, once a television producer and the
owner of a luxury resort, enjoys strong support from many in
the entertainment industry.


¶6. (C) That Arroyo would even contemplate pardoning a
convicted child rapist highlights her continued insecurity
over her political position and surprisingly weak base,
despite nominal strong majorities for her Administration in
both Houses. Since winning last year’s election in a close
vote and amid much controversy over voting irregularities,
Arroyo has appeared to lack confidence, a factor that became
glaringly apparent when the kidnapping of Filipino worker
Angelo de la Cruz in Iraq led to her decision to withdraw a
Philippine peacekeeping contingent early. In a similar
anxious state, she seems to be reviewing Jalosjos’ case as a
way to appease a large segment of the House and other friends
of Jalosjos. The good news is that she appears unlikely to
grant the pardon request, especially in the wake of a recent
informal agreement that Congress and the Senate could pass
whichever tax bills they like as long as the net result was
80 billion pesos more in revenue. If she does, however,
Arroyo’s reputation for caving in to pressure will only grow,
but this time with a blow to her popularity polls.



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