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Foreign Office slams WikiLeaks

By Jerry E. Esplanada
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 15:15:00 12/15/2010

Filed Under: Diplomacy, Espionage & Intelligence, Foreign affairs & international relations, Internet

MANILA, Philippines?The Department of Foreign Affairs has joined the WikiLeaks-bashing, warning that the online whistle-blower's disclosures "may inhibit candid exchanges between diplomats and government officials rather than facilitate them."

DFA spokesman J. Eduardo Malaya issued the warning in an interview Wednesday, noting "relations among and between countries are often highly nuanced and sensitive."

"The disclosure of classified information is a crime in most jurisdictions and disclosure on a massive scale is most alarming," Malaya told the Inquirer.

According to Malaya, "these documents are internal to another government (the US government) and inasmuch as gentlemen are not supposed to snoop on each other's mails, it is best to reserve one's judgment on their contents for the time being."

Contrary to published reports, Malaya said there were "no formal consultations (with the US Embassy in Manila on the leaked memos from the mission) other than the heads-up and alerts the embassy gave when the WikiLeaks disclosures started."

Earlier, he said the foreign office was closely monitoring the developments as he also stressed the need to verify the authenticity of the leaked US Department of State documents.

Malaya called on the media to be responsible when releasing Philippine-related documents once these became available on the WikiLeaks website. He said there was no point in asking the press to withhold information.

Meanwhile, militants on Wednesday said they expected the WikiLeaks cache to "reveal detailed information exposing the extent of US involvement in the country's internal affairs."

Teachers party-list Representative Antonio Tinio said "never before have the secret workings of US foreign policy been opened to such public scrutiny."

"In an environment that makes it increasingly difficult to keep secrets given the proliferation of information technology, governments should always conduct their affairs, both domestic and foreign, in ways that are accountable to the public," Tinio told the Inquirer.

Youth party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino believes WikiLeaks "could confirm US intervention in our domestic affairs."

Palatino said "only governments and diplomats who have something to hide are afraid of transparency in governance."

For his part, Renato Reyes Jr., Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary-general, expressed hope "the government would seriously study any leaked cable pertaining to the Philippines."

"It must examine if national interest was compromised in any way by the Arroyo administration. And let's hope the government doesn't follow the US lead in attempting to censor the release of such documents over the Internet," said Reyes.

Earlier, Reyes said it was "no secret that the US Embassy in Manila is actually a post for US intelligence-gathering and intervention in Philippine affairs."

The release of the files comes at a crucial moment for Philippine-US ties when the Visiting Forces Agreement is being reviewed by Malacañang.

Reyes said, "Maybe through these files, we can better understand the US positions on the VFA and the American troops in Mindanao."

Reports said the Manila documents total 1,796 memos, from a cache of 251,287 cables emanating from 274 US embassies and consulates worldwide.

Of the Manila memos, 982 were unclassified, 749 were confidential while 65 were secret, based on a graph in the WikiLeaks website that categorized the documents by origin.

Out of the total sent by the US mission in Manila, 1,794 were sent between January 2005 and February 2010. The remaining two leaked cables were dated Nov. 21, 2001 and July 19, 1994.

A Jakarta Globe report said the US embassy in Indonesia had the biggest number of cables sent from Southeast Asia.

From Jakarta, the US embassy sent 3,059 cables while the US consulate in Surabaya sent 167. Most of the cables tackled human rights, security, refugees and labor.

The US embassies in Bangkok sent 2,941; Rangoon, 1,854; Kuala Lumpur, 994; Phnom Penh, 777; Singapore, 704; Dili, 390; and Bandar Seri Begawan, 256.

According to the WikiLeaks website, the cables showed, among others, the "extent of US spying on its allies and the United Nations"; the US turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse in "client states"; backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; lobbying for US corporations; and measures US diplomats took to "advance those who have access to them."

Even though the US Embassy communications did not cover his five-month-old administration, President Benigno Aquino III last week said the security breach was alarming.

The President said there could be danger that the information in these communications would not be understood properly.

US embassy spokesperson Rebecca Thompson said "any unauthorized disclosure of classified information by WikiLeaks has harmful implications for the lives of identified individuals that are jeopardized, but also for global engagement among and between nations."

"Given its potential impact, we condemn such unauthorized disclosures and are taking every step to prevent future security breaches," Thompson added.

Copyright 2015 Philippine Daily Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.




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