Cablegate: Arroyo Opposition Fails to Produce Massive
UNCLAS MANILA 003231
DEPT FOR EAP/PMBS, INR/EAP, DS/ITA
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PINS PGOV ASEC RP
SUBJECT: ARROYO OPPOSITION FAILS TO PRODUCE MASSIVE
REF: A. MANILA 3187
B. MANILA 3167
1. (SBU) Summary: A July 13 opposition rally in Manila's
central business district produced only an estimated
15-20,000 demonstrators as of 1600 hrs local, although
numbers may grow somewhat with speakers like FPJ widow Susan
Roces later on. Police appear to have blocked busloads of
would-be protesters, some of them possibly "rent-a-crowds."
There were no reports of violence. The opposition plans
additional rallies to highlight its call for President Arroyo
to resign, but the momentum for protest appears for now to
have sizzled -- barring new scandals that might affect the
President's credibility. Pro-GMA forces also plan a large
public demonstration on July 16. End Summary.
2. (U) A July 13 opposition rally as of 1600 hours local in
the central business district of Makati in Metro Manila had
produced a mostly lackluster crowd that emboffs and others
estimated at no more than 15-20,000 people, despite claims
from organizers of up to 100,000 demonstrators already. The
rally is scheduled to last until 8 p.m., but many predict it
will continue longer. Although the crowd was the probably
the largest yet this summer, it was significantly smaller
than the 50,000 to one million crowd that some opposition
leaders had anticipated. Traffic was interrupted in Makati,
but not on the near-by EDSA ring road (where 1986 and 2001
"people protests" took place) or other major arteries.
According to media reports, Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, an
opposition leader, closed Makati City Hall at midday on July
13 and instructed all employees to attend the rally. There
are also numerous reports of "rent-a-crowd" protesters, and
of Philippine National Police restrictions on busloads of
protesters traveling on EDSA to get to the rally. There were
no reports of violence.
3. (U) Various speakers at the rally have already called on
President Arroyo to resign. Susan Roces, widow of the late
2004 presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr., was scheduled
to speak at 6 p.m. and also to call for Arroyo to step down.
Other participants in the protests included Senator Panfilo
"Ping" Lacson and Renato De Villa, leader of the Reporma
political party and a former Secretary of Defense under
then-president Fidel Ramos. Significant numbers of
protesters appeared to come from supporters of former
president Joseph Estrada as well as from "legal left"
political parties including Bayan Muna, Anak Pawis, San
Lakas, Gabriela, and Bayan as well as from the militant labor
union Kilosang Mayo Uno (KMU). Anti-Arroyo college students
were also present. Evangelical Christian supporters of
Brother Eddie Villanueva participated in the rally, following
their smaller July 12 anti-Arroyo "nighttime vigil" in the
same Makati venue.
4. (U) Supporters of President Arroyo separately plan a
July 16 "Gathering for Peace and Unity for the Rule of Law"
in downtown Manila closer to Malacanang Palace (and the
Embassy), and are hoping for a turnout of between 100,000 and
5. (SBU) Comment: Despite opposition plans for additional
rallies, the anti-GMA momentum seems to have fizzled
following the decision of Catholic Bishops not to support a
call for Arroyo's resignation. In the absence of a new
scandal that might further affect Arroyo's credibility and
leadership, opposition efforts to galvanize much of a popular
turnout are unlikely to be any more successful than today.
Rainy weather at this time