By Raïssa Robles
It’s not really clear what US Ambassador Kristie Kenney is denying or if she at all denied having written those unflattering things about the late President Corazon Aquino.
Let me explain.
First of all, I must confess I’m very fascinated by what Wikileaks has recently released regarding cables allegedly sent from the Manila waterfront to Washington.
It’s like having my ear pressed to the door of a heavily guarded room and you know, the US Embassy by the bay is one of the most tightly guarded places.
Kristie Kenney is one of a lengthening line of foreign officials who have distanced themselves from cables leaked from US embassies around the world.
But did Kristie Kenney actually DENY she had written what the leaked cable said?
Let’s examine the Twitter exchange on the matter.
It all started when Gerald Magno, a masteral student of International Studies at the University of the Philippines tweeted Kenney this morning:
Kenney tweeted back:
But did she really deny writing it?
Initially, I took that as a blanket denial.
On second thought, it could also mean she had said – believe SOME of the things you read but NOT ALL. So I would like to know, which ones I could believe and which ones I shouldn’t.
But then again, – “Don’t believe all you read” could be just like a general aphorism or saying, which really has nothing to do with the subject on hand.
In other words, it really doesn’t mean much unless she elaborates.
Because Kristie Kenney did not say right out – “No, I never wrote those things.” Or, “those words are not mine.”
Among reporters, we call what Kristie Kenney tweeted “ambassadorspeak”.
But you decide for yourself if the cable really reflects what Kenney said or we should just not believe ALL of it.
Or because what the cable says is simply not true of Cory Aquino. We really don’t know.
One thing foreign correspondents in Manila do know and do remember is that Kristie Kenney never gave the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (Focap) the time of her day. We did get to see her up close and meet her individually but she never ever gave Focap a formal briefing. Which is another way of saying, we never got the chance to give her a grilling.
One thing I can say about Kristie Kenney, though. She is a very personable woman who knows how to dance the papaya. I don’t know how to dance the papaya.
And she did protect US interests, which was her only job to do in Manila. As for protecting democracy from being abused locally, it was not part of her job description, I guess.
Here’s the text of the Wikileaks cable which Kristie Kenney allegedly wrote:
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 001414
STATE FOR EAP/MTS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV RP
SUBJECT: IN POOR HEALTH, FORMER PRESIDENT CORY AQUINO FIGHTS ONE LAST BATTLE
REF: MANILA 1262 (RALLY AGAINST CONSTITUTIONAL REVISIONS DRAWS ONLY MODEST PARTICIPATION)
¶1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Former President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino is in serious medical condition after a 15-month battle against cancer. Prospects for her recovery are dim. Family members rushed Aquino to Makati Medical Center nine days ago after she lost her appetite for food, and she has not eaten since, although she remains conscious and is able to speak.Relatives, friends, and political supporters began a nine-day healing mass July 1 for the country’s venerated moral icon, who was catapulted to the presidency in 1986 following the earlier assassination of her husband, opposition leader Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. Two of Aquino’s five children are popular personalities in politics and media, and are likely to carry forth their mother’s support for democratic rule. In addition to her reputation as one the Philippines’ modern heroes, Aquino will leave behind the legacy of an incomplete transition to modern democracy and her well-known antipathy for the nation’s current chief, President Arroyo.
STRUGGLING AGAINST CANCER
¶2. (SBU) Former President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino — or “President Cory,” as she is fondly called by most Filipinos — was diagnosed with colon cancer in March 2008 and was rushed to the hospital nine days ago for emergency chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Frail and weak from battling the disease and from not eating, she has refused to undergo additional procedures and rejected feeding through a nose tube. Aquino’s former Malacanang assistant Margie Juico said that the 76-year-old Aquino has already “surrendered to God’s will.” The Aquino family has asked the public to pray for her recovery during a nine-day mass. However, doctors say prospects for Aquino’s recovery are dim, making this battle the final challenge for an important public figure who defined the Philippines’ transition from authoritarianism to modern democratic rule more than twenty years ago, following in the footsteps of her celebrated husband, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr., who was assassinated in 1983. In morning radio interviews July 2, the Ambassador told listeners that the prayers of Mrs. Aquino’s many admirers were with her and her family in hopes of a speedy recovery.
AQUINO CHILDREN MOURN MOTHER’S SICKNESS
¶3. (SBU) Aquino will leave behind five children, two of whom have become national figures. Son Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III was elected to his first term as Senator in 2007 after serving three terms in Congress as representative of Tarlac province, political bailiwick of the Aquino-Cojuanco clan. He survived the 1987 failed coup attempt against his mother, when he was hit by five bullets as military rebels stormed the Presidential Palace, Malcanang. Benigno belongs to the oppositionist Liberal Party which will field Senator Manuel Roxas II as a leading candidate in the May 2010 presidential elections. Aquino’s highly popular and influential daughter, Kris, a show business personality who has generously footed her mother’s medical bills, has stated her intention to enter politics, possibly in 2010. The youngest of the Aquino brood, Kris was barely twelve years old when her father was assassinated in 1983. Aquino’s three other daughters kept low profiles during and after their mother’s six years in Malacanang. Having witnessed their father’s political persecution under the Marcos dictatorship, the Aquino children are inconsolable over losing their remaining pillar of strength.
“CORY” — ICON OF DEMOCRACY
¶4. (SBU) The 1983 assassination of Aquino’s husband Ninoy during the Marcos regime triggered a “People Power” revolution that toppled the Marcos dictatorship and catapulted Cory Aquino to the presidency from 1986 through ¶1992. She is credited for helping restore Philippine democracy after twenty years under Marcos. However, her presidency was rocked by at least seven failed coup attempts. In a bloody 1989 coup attempt by the military, Aquino sought and received U.S. assistance to quell violence which killed nearly a hundred people, including some 50 civilians. Although she retired from politics after her six-year term, she became a visible figure in the moral crusade against government corruption during the Estrada and Arroyo administrations. Aquino maintained the respect of peers in the political establishment, including Senator Roxas, who called Aquino a “great leader” he could “respect and emulate.”
BUT ONLY A PARTIAL ICON OF MORALITY
¶5. (SBU) Once allied with President Arroyo, Aquino asked Arroyo to make the “supreme sacrifice” of resigning following Arroyo’s 2004 “Hello Garci” election fraud controversy and subsequent impeachment moves against her in the House of Representatives. Aquino has since supported civil society protests against President Arroyo (reftel), including efforts to block constitutional revisions that critics fear could perpetuate President Arroyo’s hold on power after her term expires in 2010. However, Aquino’s credibility as a moral crusader was tarnished when she was seen with disgraced former President Estrada in protest movements against President Arroyo — even after she supported then-Vice President Arroyo’s 2001 successful “second people power” revolt which ousted President Estrada. Her falling out with the Arroyo administration continued after President Arroyo’s move to distribute Hacienda Luisita, the huge Aquino-Cojuangco sugar estate in Tarlac, to farm workers under the government’s agrarian reform program.
COMMENT: THE AQUINO LEGACY
¶6. (SBU) Revered as a hero for taking the reins of power at a difficult moment in Philippine politics, and at a time of great personal loss, President Aquino leaves behind an incomplete transition to democratic governance that, while marked by great personal freedom for Philippine citizens, never seems to have properly taken root in the institutions that must handle the difficult task of governing a diverse and divided society. Her moral leadership, while coming at an important time for the Philippines, never fully compensated for her weak leadership style. Her presidency was marked by numerous coup attempts and allegations of corruption. Following her tenure, her antipathy toward President Arroyo led her to ally with more dubious political figures such as former President Estrada, blemishing her reputation as a moral crusader. The Philippines must also live with an imperfect 1987 Constitution that, according to some observers, was passed in extreme haste to meet an artificial deadline imposed by Aquino, taking the country from one extreme — rigid rule under Marcos — to another extreme, in which minority parties and groups without defined constituencies (such as the Philippine Senate) are given extensive power at the expense of a more mature and stable political system.
The cable can be accessed here if the site is not down yet.