As of Monday, it was revealed that 1,796 cable transmissions from the USembassy in Manila were part of the 250,000 cables that will be released by whistleblower WikiLeaks in the ongoing controversy now known as “cablegate. None of the transmissions have so far been posted in the WikiLeaks cable reader or in any of the articles from the 5 media outlets given access to the files.
The US embassy in Manila reportedly transmitted some 65 “secret” and “749” confidential files included in the cache. Some 982 files are described as “unclassified”.
Except for two files, all the rest of the Manila files cover the period of January 2005 to February 2010, during the regime of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The files include “tags” or descriptions of topics such as terrorism, human rights, foreign relations, military operations, military assistance, internal governmental affairs and external affairs.
Umbrella group Bayan was the first to call on the Philippine government to look into the files and determine if Philippine interests were somehow undermined. The group also called on the government to check on the spying activities of the US government, saying that it is a well-known fact that US embassies around the world are intelligence posts.
Malacanang said it was “bothered” over the leaks but declined to comment on the contents, there being none yet. Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda admitted that it is the job of US embassies worldwide to gather intelligence. The Department of Foreign Affairs also played it safe, saying it was too early to tell what impact the leaks may have on PHL-US relations. Meanwhile, President Aquino has called the release “alarming”.
The Philippine officials’ statements came after US secretary Hillary Clinton condemned the leaks, calling them “an attack on the US foreign policy interests” and an “attack on the international community”. Clinton has been at the center of controversy after a memorandum purportedly from her ordered US diplomats to gather intelligence information on UN officials and diplomats. (Read leaked memo here.)
As expected, the Philippine government has played it safe and has been careful not to add fuel to the fire started by WikiLeaks. Aquino has gone on to say that the information generated by Cablegate can even be dangerous, saying that “a little knowledge is deadly.” DFA spokesman Ed Malaya has sought to downplay the possible impact of the leaks, saying cable transmissions are part of the regular work of diplomats.
The Philippine government has shown itself to be highly dependent on US economic and military aid and private investments. The entire Public-Private Partnership program of the Aquino government runs on foreign loans and investments.
The US embassy in Manila also sought to downplay the leaks and refused to comment on materials they believe to be illegally obtained. The US embassy believed that the PH-US relations will whether the worldwide diplomatic controversy.
Unsurprisingly, former Philippine president Fidel Ramos also downplayed the impact of Cablegate on the Philippines. Ramos even cast doubt on the authenticity of the files. It bears noting that the US State Department has not questioned the authenticity of the files. Quite the opposite, in vehemently condemning the files as being illegally obtained, the US government has bolstered the authenticity of the leaked memos.
No one from the Philippine government seems concerned about possible damage to national interests that the cable transmissions will reveal. The Philippine government seems to be very understanding of the predicament faced by the US.
It was about a year ago when Hillary Clinton visited Manila to much media fanfare. She was less than a year in office as State Secretary. Little did we know that she was already issuing orders that may have violated international law.
Meanwhile, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is being investigated both by the US and Australian governments. Sweden has sought the help of Interpol for his arrest. An online petition supporting Assange is now circulating.
US Congressman Peter King (R), who is the incoming chair of the US House Committee on Homeland Security, wants WikiLeaks to be designated as a terrorist organization, citing the supposed dangers it poses to US citizens and interests. He wrote a request to, of all people, Hillary Clinton.
The US State Department, in a recent press conference, has also taken pains to explain that US diplomats are not spies.
The Philippines has no choice but to wait for the US embassy Manila cables to come out. Some of the issues I am curious about would be 1) how the US views terrorism in the PH, 2) how the US viewed Arroyo during the years 2005-2010, 3) how the US intends to keep its troops indefinitely on Philippine soil and 4) what other economic interests is the US trying to gain from the PH.
Cablegate i not just a source of embarrassment for many US officials. It is also an eye-opener on how the US conducts its foreign policy initiatives. It is a reminder of US arrogance and duplicity even towards its own allies.
Given the leaks, the Philippine government cannot simply find comfort in the thought that we have a “lasting friendship” with the US, or that we are a “Major Non-Nato Ally” of America.