WikiLeaks cable: Kenney ripped Enrile for scolding foreign lobbyists

by Jojo Malig,

Posted at Sep 01 2011 07:53 PM | Updated as of Sep 03 2011 02:18 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Former US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney threw everything but the kitchen sink at  Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and some senators in 2008 after the lawmakers scolded a group of foreign lobbyists, according to a US embassy cable published by WikiLeaks.

Cable 08MANILA1417, sent by Kenney to the US Department of State June 13, 2008, accused Enrile of having "ulterior motives" for having "raked over the coals" several officials of the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines over the lobby group's opposition to reforms in the power sector.

In a letter to Malacañang dated May 27, 2008, the group urged the government against proposed amendments to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA).

The letter prompted the Senate to summon the foreign business group, with the cable saying Enrile "decried the 'intervention' of foreigners into the policymaking of the government."

"Enrile labeled foreign investors 'carpetbaggers, predators, and buccaneers' and demanded that they appear in the Senate to explain themselves," it added.

During the Senate hearing, Enrile accused the foreign chambers of failing to respect the Philippines' constitutional system.

Kenney quoted Enrile as having have shouted at the Joint Foreign Chambers officials, "You wanted to make a profit. Because you are forcing the government to sell [its generation and transmission assets] for a song. My goodness, get out of this country if you can't live with us. You're guests in this country."

Kenney links Enrile to smuggling

Without naming sources, the US envoy said "a few commentators have gone so far as to suggest that there may have been ulterior motives behind the show at the Senate."

The cable linked Enrile's outburst to the Joint Foreign Chambers' talks earlier in the year with smuggling.

"Some analysts suggest that the Chambers' anti-smuggling efforts may have incited Enrile's reaction since representatives of the Foreign Chambers last month discussed smuggling with Enrile's son-in-law, who runs an auto import operation operating in Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Free Port and is suspected of involvement in smuggling," it said.

Defending lobbyists

Kenney, who has drawn flak over her remarks about the late President Corazon Aquino in another cable released by WikiLeaks, also sought to defend  the Joint Foreign Chambers' lobbying efforts in the Philippines.

"The Joint Foreign Chambers has been active for some years lobbying the government on a wide variety of issues, ranging from competitiveness reforms to promotion of public investment in infrastructure and education. It frequently interfaces with the government via letters to the President or other executive branch officials," the cable said.

"The Joint Foreign Chambers are an important ally of the Embassy in pressing for key economic reforms here. This ordeal may actually have strengthened their credibility and visibility as a force for reform," it added.

The memo also downplayed media coverage that the story received, saying local newspapers criticized Enrile and his fellow senators for their actions.

"The story had no legs on television, where it was carried only on Friday and did not elicit much commentary. Though appeals to nationalism are often effective for Philippine politicians, the perception that the Senators were rude and treated their foreign guests poorly may have helped counterbalance nationalist sentiment in this case," it said.