Viewing cable 07MANILA1284

07MANILA12842007-04-20 09:00:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Manila
DE RUEHML #1284/01 1100900
O 200900Z APR 07
E.O. 12958: N/A 
¶1.  (U) Summary.  During an April 11-15 visit, Staffdel Mixter -- a 
bipartisan staff delegation from the U.S. House Committee on Foreign 
Affairs comprised of Cobb Mixter, Melissa Adamson, and Dennis Halpin 
-- met with high-ranking Philippine military officials regarding 
U.S.-Philippine military cooperation, senior Arroyo Administration 
officials regarding government efforts to combat unlawful killings, 
and various other non-government stakeholders in the unlawful 
killings issue, including journalists and human rights groups.  The 
Staffdel also visited the sites of two Peace Corps volunteers and 
toured the American Military Cemetery in Manila.  End Summary. 
¶2.  (SBU) In almost a dozen meetings with high-ranking Philippine 
civilian and military officials, representatives from human rights 
organizations, and journalists, Staffdel Mixter conveyed U.S. 
concern about the rise in unlawful killings of leftist activists. 
Mixter emphasized that the Staffdel was on a fact-finding mission to 
learn first hand about the issue and to seek ways in which the USG 
could assist.  He acknowledged the difficult task the Philippine 
government faces, and recognized that some progress has been made. 
However, he emphasized that much remains to be done. 
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U.S.-Philippine Military Cooperation: A Mature Relationship 
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¶3.  (SBU) Malacanang Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, who also 
chairs the Presidential Human Rights Committee, praised the 
"excellent" and "special" relationship the U.S. and Philippines 
enjoy in military cooperation and noted that the citizens of Jolo 
Island in Mindanao had clamored that the annual U.S.-Philippine 
Balikatan military exercises take place there after having seen the 
contributions these exercises made to peace on the island of Basilan 
in earlier years.  Ermita also noted that the U.S. Rewards for 
Justice program had proven to be extremely successful, and he 
predicted that other senior terrorist leaders would be captured or 
killed in military operations. 
¶4.  (SBU) Separately, National Defense Undersecretary Ernesto 
Carolina, in charge of the Philippine Defense Reform program, called 
U.S.-Philippine military cooperation a "unique" and "mature" 
relationship.  He said that, with the help of the USG, the 
Philippines was on track to complete reform in the Armed Forces of 
the Philippines (AFP).  He noted that reform was proceeding even as 
the AFP waged a war on three fronts: against the Communist 
insurgency, the Muslim secessionist movement, and terrorist threats. 
 He praised AFP successes against terrorist organizations in 
Mindanao and underscored that, reflecting U.S. commitment to 
Philippine military efforts, the U.S. Ambassador Kenney had already 
visited Jolo nine times during her first year in-country.  National 
Defense Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor, also head of the 
Philippine Anti-Terrorism Task Force separately called the 
U.S.-Philippine relationship "just short of incest." 
Killings Occur in a Combat Context 
¶5.  (SBU) In discussing unlawful killings of leftist activists, 
Ermita provided a detailed historical account of the communist 
insurgency.  He argued that the killings did not take place in a 
vacuum but instead occur in the context of the Philippines' war 
against the terrorist Communist insurgency.  He underscored that the 
National People's Army (NPA), the armed component of the Communist 
Party of the Philippines, routinely ambushes and kills members of 
the AFP.  "There is a war going on," he emphasized.  Separately, U/S 
Blancaflor commented that killings have resulted from the 
"intensification of anti-insurgency and anti-terrorist drives." 
Referring to the constitutionally-mandated inclusion of 
underrepresented groups in the Philippine Congress, Blancaflor added 
that many within the AFP believe the NPA has taken advantage of the 
initiative to include Communist elements in the political process. 
In contrast, Department of Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for 
the Americas Rey Carandang told the Staffdel that the unlawful 
killing issue had been greatly exaggerated.  "We are not in a state 
of war," he claimed. 
"Numbers are Irrelevant; Let's Get to Work" 
¶6.  (SBU) U/S Carolina told Staffdel Mixter that the AFP had 
identified 116 cases purportedly committed by military elements. 
(Comment: Carolina was probably alluding to the 116 cases identified 
by Task Force Usig where the victims are leftist activists, not all 
of which have military suspects.  See para 7.  End Comment.) 
Carolina quoted Secretary of Defense Hermogenes Ebdane as vowing 
that the "numbers are irrelevant; the AFP must get to work." 
MANILA 00001284  002 OF 003 
Carolina said the AFP needed a strong human rights policy with a 
solid educational foundation to combat unlawful killings.  He noted 
that the AFP had recently established an internal human rights 
office and was seeking to strengthen its relationship with the 
Commission on Human Rights, a government-funded but independent 
body, to help educate the troops.  Lt.Col. Jose, the head of the AFP 
internal Human Rights Office, separately said his office would refer 
the cases to the field for investigation and agreed to provide 
monthly updates on his office's progress to U.S. officials. 
¶7.  (SBU) At a briefing by top Philippine National Police (PNP) 
officials, PNP Deputy Director Avelino Razon assured Staffdel Mixter 
of the Philippine government's "strong resolve and determination" in 
protecting human rights.  Task Force Usig Director Geary Barias said 
his office had identified 116 cases involving leftist activists and 
was prioritizing for investigation those with identifiable victims 
and perpetrators.  Barias harshly criticized Karapatan, the most 
vociferous leftist organization, which claims over 800 unlawful 
killings have been committed in the last five years, for its 
unwillingness to cooperate with Task Force Usig to identify 
perpetrators.  He lamented that the PNP had to work from Karapatan 
lists obtained from the internet, pamphlets, books, and other 
sources.  He cited the difficulty in verifying cases where Karapatan 
provided only vague information, such as naming the location of an 
incident as "northern Luzon."  Barias stated that the PNP had 
recently worked with the Department of Justice on an executive order 
that would permit closer police-prosecutor cooperation, thereby 
enhancing prosecutions.  Razon added that the President was expected 
to sign it shortly. 
Justice Melo Offers Personal Recommendations 
¶8.  (SBU) Former Supreme Court Justice Jose Melo, who headed a 
Presidentially-appointed Commission on Extrajudicial Killings, told 
the Staffdel that President Arroyo had extended the Commission for 
several months, specifically to meet with leftist organizations. 
However, Melo had decided to defer hearings until after the May 14 
midterm elections, fearing that leftist activists would use the 
issue as a political club to batter the Arroyo Administration.  Melo 
said Karapatan had previously approached him through the French 
Ambassador to testify.  However, with the arrest of a leftist 
congressman in connection with an NPA internal purge in the 
communist movement in the early 90's, Karapatan had withdrawn its 
offer, he said. 
¶9.  (SBU) In addition to the widely reported Melo Commission's 
recommendations to combat unlawful killings, Justice Melo offered 
two personal recommendations: exemplary justice and military 
firings.  He called for the Philippine government to prosecute a 
handful of midlevel military officers to demonstrate its seriousness 
about the issue.  He argued that such exemplary justice would have a 
deterrent effect on other would-be perpetrators.  He further 
proposed that the President give military commanders a prescribed 
period of time to investigate and resolve killings in their areas of 
responsibility.  Those who failed should be summarily removed from 
their position, he said. 
¶10.  (SBU) Malou Mangahas, Chairperson of the Board of Editors of 
the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, separately 
bemoaned the "reprehensible lack of results" in the government's 
fight against unlawful killings.  She questioned President Arroyo's 
ties to the military, suggesting that she was beholden for support 
during the failed 2006 coup attempt.  She also claimed that, by 
publicly praising in her 2006 State of the Nation Address 
now-retired AFP General Palparan -- whom the Melo Commission singled 
out as partly responsible for the killings -- President Arroyo was 
sending mixed signals regarding her commitment to stop the killings. 
 Mangahas also called for "exemplary justice" to convince citizens 
to "believe in the government again." 
¶11.  (SBU) Renato Mabunga, Secretary General of the Philippine 
Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), told the Staffdel that 
his organization had counted 103 cases of unlawful killings between 
2001-2006.  Explaining that the phenomenon cut across many societal 
sectors, he said over a third of the victims were farmers who had 
been killed by landowners when they attempted to reclaim disputed 
land.  He added that many killings involved journalists killed by 
politicians who believed they had been libeled, while other cases 
involved non-political petty criminals killed by vigilante groups. 
Mabunga nonetheless blamed many of the killings on security forces 
and argued that, whether or not the government was ordering the 
executions, it was responsible for stopping them. 
¶12.  (SBU) Purificacion Quisumbing, Chairperson of the 
Constitutionally-mandated Commission on Human Rights, said that 
disappearances and unlawful killings were interrelated since most 
people who disappear are eventually found dead.  She said that the 
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Commission had identified 250 cases that required investigation. 
She denied that the unlawful killing issue constituted a "crisis," 
however, and labeled Karapatan's claim of over 800 killings a "gross 
exaggeration."  She underscored that the Philippine government is a 
party to all international human rights treaties and has a legal 
obligation to comply.  She commended the role of the active and 
vocal civil society in holding the government accountable for human 
rights violations. 
Staffdel Visits Peace Corps Volunteers 
¶13.  (U) The Staffdel traveled outside of Metro-Manila to  visit two 
Peace Corps volunteers in the Subic Bay area, two hours north of 
Manila.  The Staffdel visited Marian Hills, an extremely poor 
community without a school where one volunteer home-schools children 
of all ages in a variety of subjects, as well as the Shepherd of the 
Hills Children's Home, a long term shelter where another volunteer 
provides basic education and development activities to over 50 
neglected children aged 3-12, most of whom have been orphaned, 
abandoned, or abused. 
¶14.  (U)  The Staffdel has approved this message.