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Analysis

Cables show how US intervened in the Philippines

/ 02:44 AM September 12, 2011

Former US Ambassador to Manila Kristie Kenney is at the center of the furor over the release by WikiLeaks of secret diplomatic cables dispatched by the US Embassy to Washington from 2006 to 2010 during the most tumultuous years of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration.

The embassy files were pilfered by WikiLeaks, a group of Internet hackers, which then released the material to the international news media in the biggest security breach of state secrets since the leaking of the “Pentagon Papers,” a classified government history of the Vietnam War, by a whistle-blower, Daniel Ellsberg.

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The release of the sensitive documents from the US Embassy in Manila prompted the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to issue a statement that “unauthorized disclosure of sensitive diplomatic reports is very disturbing.”

A DFA official said the disclosure “would probably serve no useful purpose in the long run, other than to delight those who wish to embarrass the US government, and the foreign personalities named in the report.”

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The official added that the disclosure “may… prejudice the safety of well-intentioned people who have worked with the Americans for the benefit of both countries.”

“Confidentiality is vital in the give-and-take among countries,” the official said.  “Political leaders will rarely compromise if such is to be done in the full glare of the media.”

The Aquino administration has been offended by the scathing dispatches of Kenney describing the “weak” leadership styles of both the President and his mother, the late former President Cory Aquino.

Kenney, who is now American ambassador in Bangkok, has also come under fire for being sympathetic to then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and for downgrading the corruption scandals that engulfed her regime.

Blind eye to graft

A total of 1,798 diplomatic cables from the embassy in Manila are part of more than 251,000 documents uploaded on the WikiLeaks website in November 2001.

Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, described the documents as a “diplomatic history of the United States” that would cover “every major issue as governments braced for damaging revelations.”

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The files contain confidential communications between 274 embassies in countries throughout the world and the US Department of State. These cables include “orders sent out from the Department of State reporting about the local governments and details of US government activities in each country.”

A cable leaked in November 2010 contained an order by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton directing diplomats to acquire credit cards and information of diplomats from France, Russia and China in the United Nations.

The cables covered from Dec. 28, 1988, to Feb. 28, 2010. “The cables show the extent of spying on its allies and turning a blind  eye to corruption and human rights abuse in the ‘client states’; backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; lobbying for US corporations; and  the measures US diplomats take to advance those who have access to them,” WikiLeaks said.

Listening post

The embassy in Manila ranked 44th among embassies and consulates that have the most cables in the leak. There are 65 secret and 749 confidential files pertaining to the Philippines from Dec. 28, 1966, to Feb. 28, 2010.

It should not come as a shock to Filipinos to read the released files on the Philippines as it is no secret to them that the US Embassy in Manila is an important listening post for intelligence in Asia.

Leaked cables published in the local media reveal accounts of interventions by US diplomats in Philippine affairs, ranging from then President Arroyo’s “defiant stare” at an embassy official who told her that Washington could not “go along with the plan” to declare martial law as her government was under siege after the “Hello Garci” tapes showed she interfered in the counting of results of the 2004 presidential election, and to other sensitive issues from 2006 to 2010.

Arroyo did declare a state of emergency on Feb. 24, 2006, which lasted a week, after the Marines officers called for a mutiny and the overthrow of her government.

The published cables include an embassy report that the Vatican “pressured” Filipino bishops to remain neutral and stay away from calls for the ouster of Arroyo during the “Hello Garci” scandal in 2005.

According to the cable, the papal nuncio at the time, Archbishop Antonio Franco, made it clear to the bishops during their annual meeting that the Vatican “did not support popular uprising as a method to remove government.” He urged the group “to be cautious, keeping in that it should refrain from political activism.”

Caught in a bind

Another cable said that Arroyo knew of the “heavy involvement” of her husband, Mike Arroyo, in smuggling and illegal gambling syndicates but refused to stop him because he “got her elected as President.”

According to the cable, classified “confidential” by the embassy and sent by then Charge d’Affaires Joseph Mussomeli, some of the Philippines’ top business leaders “raised the issue before American officials in 2005 as they feared for the worst for the country.”

Washington Sycip, a founding partner of the accounting firm SGV, reportedly told US officials that Mike Arroyo “is heavily involved in the illegal gambling (jueteng) networks and closely connected with major smuggling syndicates.”

The memo said that according to Sycip, “President Arroyo is aware of her husband’s misdeeds, but she is unwilling to do anything to cut his activities because he was instrumental in marshalling campaign donations and is now keeping those supporters in line to help her maintain her grip on power.”

According to the cable, Cabinet officials were also caught in a bind. “Many of their subordinates—Arroyo loyalists who were placed in key government positions—reported directly to the First Gentleman, bypassing the chain of command.”

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TAGS: “Pentagon Papers, ” Vietnam War, Daniel Ellsberg, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration, Former US Ambassador to Manila Kristie Kenney, US Embassy to Washington, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whistle blower, WikiLeaks, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange
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