Cablegate: Philippine Mid-Term Elections: Overall Win for Arroyo

DE RUEHML #1787/01 1510613
O 310613Z MAY 07





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Summary and comment. The Arroyo Administration's
coalition scored an overall victory in the May 14 mid-term
elections, winning at least 195 seats in the 220 House of
Representatives. It also retained control at the local government
level, winning 72 of 81 gubernatorial seats and 102 of 118 city
mayoral seats. However, it apparently lost heavily in the Senate
race, probably gaining only two of the 12 vacant seats. The results
in the House constitute a fatal blow to further opposition attempts
to unseat the President through impeachment. Administration
dominance at the local government level assures grassroots support
for the President's economic programs. However, the opposition's
continued domination of the Senate will allow it to check the
Administration, likely often frustrating the President's legislative
agenda. In Maguindanao Province, the Commission on Elections
(COMELEC) suspended the tabulation of certificates of canvas amid
allegations of widespread cheating.

2. (SBU) As in the past, the Philippine elections were messy and
often violent, but civil society monitoring groups played a welcome
and active role in ensuring fairer counts. Their results are
remarkably similar to those of the COMELEC for virtually all races.
The apparent sweep by the Opposition in the Senate races arguably
demonstrates the fundamental fairness of the elections despite
irregularities. There is nonetheless widespread agreement that the
COMELEC should make significant and tangible progress toward
automated transmission of results in time for the 2010 elections.
End summary and comment.

Administration Coalition Retains House

3. (U) As of May 30, the Arroyo Administration's coalition had
garnered at least 195 of the 220 Congressional district seats. The
number could go higher, with 15 seats still under contest. Ruling
party Lakas won at least 92 seats. Administration allies Kabalikat
ng Malayang Pilipino (KAMPI) or Partners of the Free Filipino ---
President Arroyo's own political party -- won at least 47 seats;
Nationalist People's Coalition, 28; Liberal Party, 21, and two other
smaller parties, 7 seats. The opposition has won only 10 seats so
far. Given these numbers, Liberal Party chief and former Senate
President Drilon publicly conceded that any impeachment attempt
against the President - which requires a 1/3 vote (79 members) in
the House for transmittal to the Senate - will be almost impossible
to succeed.

KAMPI Representative to Challenge de Venecia?

4. (U) Topping the list of Administration winners is Pangasinan
Fourth District Representative and Lakas Party President and
incumbent House Speaker Jose de Venecia who, banking on multi-party
support, has expressed confidence that he will retain the
Speakership for an unprecedented fifth term, despite a credible
challenge by newly-elected Cebu Representative and former Cebu
Governor Pablo Garcia. Camarines Sur Representative and KAMPI
President Luis Villafuerte announced a plan to challenge de Venecia
after a recent caucus of this second biggest political party, but
Malacanang sources have distanced the President from any effort to
replace de Venecia.

First Family Goes Undefeated

5. (U) The First Family was highly successful in these elections.
First Son Juan Miguel "Mikey" won re-election as Second District
representative in Pampanga. Son Diosdado Ignacio "Dato" won his
first bid at politics as representative of Camarines Sur Province's
First District. Ignacio Arroyo, brother of First Gentleman Jose
Miguel "Mike" Arroyo, won re-election as Fifth District
representative of Negros Occidental Province.

Cabinet Members' Relatives Also Succeed

6. (U) Cabinet members' relatives also did well. Roman Romulo,
lawyer-son of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, won in his
second attempt at a Congressional seat in Pasig City.
Representative Elenita Ermita-Buhain, daughter of Executive
Secretary Eduardo Ermita, won re-election in the First District of

Batangas, although it appears her brother Edwin failed in his bid
for the vice gubernatorial seat in the province. Political neophyte
Mark Leandro "Dong" Mendoza, son of Transportation Secretary Leandro
Mendoza, won the Fourth District seat in Batangas, while Jesi Lapus,
younger brother of Education Secretary Jesli Lapus, won his
brother's former seat as representative of the Third District of
Tarlac. Pryde Henry Teves, nephew of Finance Secretary Gary Teves,
replaced grandfather Hermino Teves as Negros Oriental's Third

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District representative. Trinidad Apostol, wife of Chief
Presidential Legal Counsel Sergio Apostol, won re-election as
Leyte's Second District representative. Justice Secretary Raul
Gonzalez' son, Raul Jr., won re-election as Iloilo City

Opposition To Dominate Senate

7. (U) As of May 30, the COMELEC had counted 87% of the
certificates of canvass nationwide for the Senate and party-list
races but had not yet formally proclaimed any of the 12 Senate
victors. Partial official results are generally consistent with
pre-election and exit poll surveys, which placed the opposition in
the lead. So far, eight "Genuine Opposition" (GO), two
pro-Administration "Team Unity" (TU), and two independent candidates
appear poised to win the 12 available Senate seats. Former Senator
Loren Legarda apparently garnered the highest number of votes, with
16.5 million so far. The rank order so far for the top 12
candidates nationwide are:

- Loren Legarda (GO)
- Francis Escudero (GO)
- Panfilo Lacson (GO)
- Manuel Villar, Jr. (GO)
- Francis Pangilinan (Ind)
- Benigno Aquino III (GO)
- Edgardo Angara (TU)
- Joker Arroyo (TU)
- Alan Peter Cayetano (GO)
- Gregorio Honasan (Ind)
- Antonio Trillanes (GO)
- Aquilino Pimentel III (GO)

TU Candidates Still in the Running

8. (U) TU Senate candidates Miguel Zubiri and Ralph Recto are still
in the running for the "Magic 12," pending final tabulation of votes
from Mindanao, but TU candidate Michael Defensor (former
Presidential Chief of Staff and Secretary of Environment and Natural
Resources) conceded defeat on May 30.

Metro Manila a Mixed Bag

9. (U) Opposition Mayor Jejomar "Jojo" Binay won a land-slide
re-election in Makati City against challenger and incumbent Senator
"Lito" Lapid, who will resume his Senate seat for the remaining
three years of his six-year term. Also, opposition
lawyer-journalist Teodoro "Teddyboy" Locsin, Jr. won a third term as
First District representative in Makati. Opposition Senator Alfredo
Lim won the mayorship of the city Manila, regaining the post he held
before entering the Senate. This will leave two Senate seats vacant
until 2010, given the unlikelihood of special nationwide elections
to fill Lim's and Vice President Noli de Castro's spots. There will
thus be only 22 Senators (out of a possible 24) for the next three

10. (U) Independent Las Pinas City Representative Cynthia Aguilar
Villar -- wife of winning incumbent Senator Manuel Villar -- won a
third term, while brother Vergel Aguilar won re-election as mayor.
In San Juan City, former President Estrada's son Joseph Victor "JV"
Ejercito, running with the opposition, won a third and final term as
mayor, while opposition Congressman Ronaldo Zamora won re-election.

11. (U) Mandaluyong City's Benjamin Abalos Jr., son of COMELEC
Chairman Benjamin Abalos, and Neptali Gonzalez II are back as mayor
and representative, respectively, after temporarily warming each
other's seats after reaching term limits in 2004. All incumbent key
officials in Quezon City won re-election, including former House
Speaker and incumbent Mayor Feliciano Belmonte and Representative
Matias Defensor, father of failed TU senatorial candidate Mike
Defensor. Sherwin and Rexlon Gatchalian, sons of Estrada crony
William Gatchalian, won as mayor and First District representative,
respectively, of Valenzuela City. A third son lost to returning
representative lawyer Magtanggol Gunigundo III in the Second
District. The latter is the son of former Presidential Commission
on Good Government Chairman Magtanggol Gunigundo, who served during
the Ramos Administration.

Winning Party-List Organizations

12. (U) As of May 30, 16 party-list organizations have garnered the
minimum two percent nationwide vote required for a seat in Congress.
At least six of these parties are clearly anti-Administration,
including: pro-life BUHAY, 8.57 percent of the total vote; leftist

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Bayan Muna, 6.65 percent; anti-corruption CIBAC, 5.49 percent;
militant pro-women Gabriela, 3.85 percent; leftist AKBAYAN, 2.89
percent; militant labor group Anak Pawis, 2.46 percent. Should
these numbers hold, they would account for 11 anti-Administration
representatives. Ten other organizations are poised to win
party-list seats, but none are publicly identified as overtly pro-
or anti-Administration. These parties are: electric cooperatives
group APEC, 3.84 percent; farmers' group BUTIL, 3.52 percent,
pro-poor ALAGAD, 3.42 percent; A TEACHER, 3.35 percent; agricultural
group ABONO, 2.90 percent; agricultural group AGAP, 2.63 percent;
new citizen advocacy group BATAS, 2.63; Alliance of Rural Concerns
(ARC), 2.42 percent; Cooperative-National Confederation Network
Party (COOP-NATCO), 2.34 percent; and Visayan organization An Waray,
2.13 percent. Under the party-list system, an organization may have
a maximum of three seats in Congress, at two percent votes
nationwide per seat. So far, only BUHAY and Bayan Muna will likely
each get three seats.

Entertainers Fail to Persuade

13. (U) Entertainment personalities flopped in both national and
local races, indicating that voters are slowly discerning the reel
from real. One exceptions was movie actress and outgoing Lipa City
Mayor Vilma Santos Recto -- wife of senatorial candidate Ralph Recto
- who won her gubernatorial bid in Batangas Province. A big
surprise was the defeat of featherweight boxing champion and
national hero "Manny" Pacquiao for the Congressional seat in General
Santos City.

Special Elections in Maguindanao

14. (SBU) Maguindanao Province in Mindanao was at the center of
controversy over alleged fraud and irregularities in the May 14
elections. Amid allegations of widespread cheating, the COMELEC
suspended the tabulation of certificates of canvas in the province.
To date, the COMELEC has not counted the certificates of canvas from
Maguindanao. According to National Movement for Free Elections
Chairman Go, "we cannot even be sure that elections really took
place in Maguindanao." Several teachers have anonymously provided
evidence of alleged abuses that publicly cast doubt on the validity
of these elections.

15. (SBU) Governor Andal "Andy" Ampatuan, Vice-Governor Sajid
Ampatuan (Andal's son), Congressman Simeon Datumanong (Andal's
nephew), and 21 out of 22 mayoral candidates in Maguindanao ran for
office unopposed. According to a senior Autonomous Region in Muslim
Mindanao (ARMM) official, no one "dared" to challenge Ampatuan and
his handpicked candidates because "the word was out" in Maguindanao.
He privately bemoaned that the "non-election" in Maguindanao had
undermined the democratic process.

16. (SBU) Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita attributed Team
Unity's supposed 12-0 win in Maguindanao to "strong support" from
local officials and the failure of opposition candidates to campaign
within the province. "How can you fault the people in that area if
the other party has no machinery, and, in fact, does not have any
candidate for mayor," Ermita told the press. "If you do not go
there, if you are not seen there, chances are they might forget to
vote for you," explained Ermita. However, COMELEC Commissioner and
Task Force Maguindanao Chief Rene Sarmiento, who briefly headed an
investigation of electoral fraud in the Ampatuan clan-dominated
province, resigned from his special post on May 28 due to "health
reasons." COMELEC Chairman Abalos on May 30 admitted publicly that
the 12-0 TU results in Maguindanao were "statistically improbable"
and ordered a recount at the municipal level.

Special Elections in Lanao del Sur Province

17. (U) After election workers refused to man their polling
precincts on May 14 due to threats from rival political clans, the
COMELEC declared a failure of elections in 13 towns in Lanao del Sur
Province in Mindanao. COMELEC held special elections on May 26 in
these towns, but election results have not yet arrived at the
national canvassing board in Manila.

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