Wikileaks bares extent of US interference in Philippine affairs

“What makes this not-so-new discoveries amazing is how everything — the interference, the spying, the continuous intervention into even the Philippines’ legislative and judicial affairs – is written down.” – Renato Reyes of Bayan

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Wikileaks cables about the Philippines and how the United States continues to interfere in its internal affairs are keeping the secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan up all night.

For the last two to three weeks, BAYAN’s Renato Reyes has been spending hours reading cables from the whistle-blowing site Wikileaks featuring messages sent by former United States ambassador to Philippine Kristie Kenney to the White House.

WikiLeaks is a not-for-profit media organization that declares itself as a champion of press freedom. It was formed in 2007 and has released more classified intelligence documents over the internet than the rest of the world press combined. It has won two awards, the 2008 Economist Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression award and the 2009 Amnesty International human rights reporting award (New Media).

“Reading all this information is mind blowing — you’re reading proof about how deep the interference of the US runs when it comes to the Philippine economic and political affairs,” he said in an interview with

Reyes has taken two days to sort out into different categories literally hundreds of Wikileaks cables, and hundreds of others he admits to not yet having read or analyzed sufficiently. Despite not having gone through every cable, however, Reyes is prepared to make what he insists is already a conclusion patently obvious to anyone who keeps an eye on the political workings of the country.

“The US definitely has more than a passing interest in the Philippines and it is by no means passive. Of course we have known this all along because there’s already a long and tragic history of how the Philippines has suffered under US colonial rule. In the last century we have also seen how the US never let go of one of its favorite colonies and ensured that it has maintained an iron-grip on Philippine affairs and strong control over the country’s natural resources. What makes this not-so-new discoveries amazing is how everything — the interference, the spying, the continuous intervention into even the Philippines’ legislative and judicial affairs – is written down,” he said.

In his blog “Like a Rolling Store,” Reyes analyzed some of the more controversial Wikileaks cables featuring Kenney’s correspondence with her White House superiors. He said Kenney is “not a writer” and that her cables mostly sounded like “press releases.”

“The tone of her cables is often optimistic — like she’s always celebrating her and the US embassy’s achievements and how Philippine authorities are so welcoming and even eager to give her information,” he said.

The following are some of Kenney’s observations on a myriad of topics.

On the May 2010 polls and then presidential contender Benigno Aquino III after meeting him: ““Senator Noynoy” seemed more at ease trading quips with his running mate or reminiscing about his parents than in describing his policy views, which he delineated more in negative terms. Where Senator Aquino was most comfortable was in talking about the past – parents and family, the 1987 coup attempt, the bloody HUK rebellion”.

Kenney’s assessment of the 2008 ARMM elections where Zaldy Ampatuan garnered 93 percent of total votes: “While the ARMM elections were not perfect, COMELEC demonstrated that it can run an efficient and, for the most part, clean automated election that required sophisticated management capabilities and extensive training of election workers, volunteers, and voting machine technicians.”

Her take on the hearing of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the VFA: “Critics of the U.S.-Philippine Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) turned out in force for an August 27 oversight hearing chaired by one of the Philippines most strident and thorny politicians, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago. She is one of the Philippines’ most vociferous and domineering politicians, was among the leading skeptics”.

Kenney on the controversial and much-abhorred Subic rape case: ” The burst of activity surrounding LCpl Smith in the past few weeks validates once again this Mission’s — and the U.S. government’s — intensive focus over the past three years on this highly fraught controversy, which has serious consequences not only for LCpl Smith, but the most crucial elements of our diplomatic and military ties with the Philippines”.

Wikileaks on the US views on the worsening human rights situation

According to Reyes, there are also numerous embassy cables on the US position regarding extrajudicial killings in the country.

“My own estimate is that there were more than 40 cables that referenced extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. These cables ranged from scene setters for visiting US officials, to actual reports on the actions taken by the US embassy and the Philippine government on EJKs,” he said.

From 2004-2010, human rights violations in the country were recorded by the thousands, and the number of political activists and human rights advocates abducted and killed also broke the thousand mark.

“It’s true that various US agencies issued strong statements of concern to address the killings of activists and journalists; but the truth is the US continued to provide economic and military aid to the then Macapagal- Arroyo government. While the US said ‘there’s more that needs to be done’, the US also noted progress in the human rights situation as well as Arroyo’s ‘seriousness’ in addressing the problem,” he said.

Reyes cited a cable dated April 20, 2007 detailing former executive secretary Eduardo Ermita’s explanations on the killings. In it, Kenney said that 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 (sic) 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,” Kenney wrote.

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