Sep 222014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
2007-05-11 06:05
2011-08-30 01:44
Embassy Manila

DE RUEHML #1521/01 1310605
O 110605Z MAY 07
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 001521



E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/10/2017

¶B. MANILA 1467
¶C. MANILA 1215
¶D. MANILA 1073

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney, reason 1.4 (d)

¶1. (C) Summary. Philippine democracy faces both familiar
and new challenges in the mid-term elections on May 14, even
without the dramatic element of a Presidential campaign.
U.S. interests remain focused on the success of democratic
processes. The outcome of the elections will not in any
meaningful way affect our close ties and cooperation with the
government, which will remain pro-American and
anti-terrorism. Philippine citizens seek — and are
mobilizing to ensure — more free, fair, and transparent
elections, although the levels of violence are already of
concern, and there are already widespread expectations of
cheating again this year. A top goal for the Arroyo
Administration is to ensure sufficient Congressional seats to
block future impeachment motions against President Gloria
Macapagal Arroyo, especially since opposition forces will
likely dominate the new Senate. President Arroyo’s allies
may be relying on new pro-Administration “party list”
representatives not only to help protect her against
impeachment but also as leverage against possible challenges
within her coalition related to charter change that could
limit her powers or term of office. End Summary.

¶2. (C) In June 2007, the Philippines will celebrate the
centennial of the founding of a Philippine legislature. Its
democratic history has had its ups and downs — with memories
of the Marcos-era martial law still haunting the older
generation, notably when legislators deliberated extensively
before passing the landmark counterterrorism “Human Security
Act of 2007.” The Philippines’ democratic history is
inherently linked with the United States, first as a
democratic model and more recently as a partner in the
Community of Democracies and other fora. The May 14 mid-term
elections (reftels) are the next stage in the Philippines’
democratic evolution, as well as an opportunity to
demonstrate to the region and the world that the Philippines
remains committed to a democratic path. The challenges are
at once familiar and new.

U.S. interests

¶3. (C) As we consistently tell our public and private
audiences here, the U.S. strongly supports Philippine
democracy, encourages civic responsibility and voter
participation, and does not engage in any partisan politics.
We make very clear that we will observe — with a team of
over 80 Mission observers accredited by the Philippine
Commission on Elections (COMELEC) — with great interest the
democratic processes in action for the mid-term elections.
We also underscore that the U.S. will not judge or validate
the outcome, which is the sovereign role of Philippine
institutions and Philippine civil society. We also hope for
the most free, fair, and transparent elections possible —
and believe that we have contributed, in part, through our
long-standing technical assistance through USAID to the
COMELEC — and we encourage those in the Philippines who seek
to improve their own democratic processes further. We have
expressed concern about political violence again in this
year’s election, as well as our hope that the culprits will
face justice, just as those allegedly engaged in unlawful or
extrajudicial killings of leftists, journalists, and judges

¶4. (C) Our key interest is that the Philippines continues
on its democratic course, and does not veer off into military
adventurism or attempted coups d’etat that seek to subvert
the democratic system, however flawed it may appear to many
— perhaps even most — Philippine citizens. At the same
time, we have no interest in covering up the warts of
Philippine democratic procedures and institutions, but do
have an interest in continuing whatever assistance we can
provide to the COMELEC and civil society groups who seek to
improve the electoral process.

¶5. (C) The electoral outcome is virtually irrelevant to the
U.S. We are confident that we will continue to encounter
excellent cooperation and overwhelmingly pro-U.S. sentiments
from whatever slate of new Congressmen, governors, and local
officials emerge from these elections, whether
pro-Administration or Opposition. One common aspiration
among candidates — and the public — is for a more peaceful
and prosperous Philippines, and there is widespread

MANILA 00001521 002 OF 002

recognition across the political spectrum (apart from the
Communist Party of the Philippines) that the U.S. is a
natural partner and generous ally in these endeavors.

Philippine interests

¶6. (C) With the alleged cheating scandals from the 2004
Presidential election still fresh in many voters’ minds,
thoughtful Philippine citizens seek more concerted efforts by
both the COMELEC and civil society groups to crack down on
violations of election laws, whether at the ballot box or
during the canvassing phases moving from local to national
levels. The failure of Congress to pass legislation on
automation in time for implementation in these elections was
a blow to more serious-minded reformers; they now must focus
instead on the 2010 Presidential, national, and local
elections. The mobilization of more than one million
volunteers to monitor their own elections, as well as the key
role played by tens of thousands of public school teachers as
election day workers (since most polling places are in
schools), is a testament to the desire of ordinary Philippine
citizens to ensure the best elections possible.

¶7. (C) The Administration shares these goals, but clearly
has some more partisan calculations of its own also at stake.
Paramount to President Arroyo and her supporters is ensuring
sufficient seats in Congress to ward off almost inevitable
new impeachment charges in the next Congress, as in 2005 and
¶2006. Pro-Administration coalition parties have made sure
that they are present in all Congressional districts, with
the dominant Lakas/Christian-Muslim-Democrat Party under
House Speaker Jose de Venecia alone fielding candidates for
all seats in Congress, as well as for 80 of the 81 provincial
slots. Lakas officials predict that they will win at least
98 of the 220 Congressional seats, especially since their
candidates are running unopposed or against a weak candidate
in 21 districts in Luzon, 26 districts in the Visayas, 40
districts in Mindanao, and 12 in Metro Manila. At the
provincial and local levels, superb political organization by
Lakas and other pro-Administration parties virtually ensures
that pro-Administration candidates will win heavily.

¶8. (C) Speaker de Venecia likely has “charter change” plans
for his party’s expected plurality in the lower House that
may not entirely suit President Arroyo, however. He
continues to advocate a transformation to a parliamentary
system, with possible power-sharing between a prime minister
— the job he covets — and a president (probably
“grandfathering” in the incumbent until the end of her term
in 2010). While President Arroyo and other Malacanang
leaders have in the past voiced support for such change,
their enthusiasm has been increasingly guarded and appears to
have diminished since she survived the 2006 impeachment
effort. She may view de Venecia’s plans with increased
suspicion, fueled by advice of caution from various close
advisors. This may explain the emergence of apparent new
Administration-backed or -linked “party list” organizations
(ref c). These possible additional new representatives, if
indeed victors from the elections and if firmly behind the
Administration, could not only give the President more
protection from new impeachment measures but also more
leverage with de Venecia and his allies in Lakas.

¶9. (C) The Opposition nonetheless has expressed confidence
that it may win at least 80 Congressional seats from its 151
candidates nationwide — enough, in principle, to pass a vote
of impeachment for Senate deliberation. There is already
widespread expectation that Opposition and Independent
candidates will dominate the new Senate, making it all the
more imperative to Malacanang to ensure that an impeachment
never reaches the Senate.

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