‘I TURN A BAD THING INTO A GOOD THING’ –- SISON
NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison’s listing as a “foreign terrorist” in 2002 brought about the suspension of his benefits and pension, and restrictions on his right to travel. “But I turn a bad thing into a good thing,” he said.
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Vol. VII, No. 50, January 27-February 2, 2008
For Jose Maria Sison, chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), coping with the day-to-day-demands of life and work has in the last five years remained possible largely by getting personal loans from friends.
“My living conditions are extremely difficult,” Sison shared in an e-mail interview with Bulatlat.
The e-mail interview between Sison and Bulatlat was conducted following a Jan. 21 global press conference held by the NDFP International Office. Philippine media were able to attend the press conference through Internet audio-video patch facilitated by the NDFP-nominated section of the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC).
As an asylum seeker, Sison is entitled to social benefits and old-age pension in the Netherlands but is not allowed to seek employment there. But even these -– his only source of “livelihood” –- have been withheld since 2002, when he was listed by the U.S. Department of State and the Council of the European Union as a “foreign terrorist.”
Aside from these, his listing as a “foreign terrorist” also brought about restrictions on his right to travel.
“But I turn a bad thing into a good thing,” Sison said. “Because I have no money to go places and to go on holidays and because I am also explicitly restricted from traveling, I have more time to read and write and I have ample opportunity to think and exercise my freedom of thought and expression in the interest of the Filipino people and other peoples.”
A poet and revolutionary
Sison –- a poet, essayist, and political analyst -– taught English and Social Science courses at his alma mater, the University of the Philippines (UP), and the Lyceum of the Philippines in the 1960s, after graduating with honors in 1959.
He founded the progressive organizations Student Cultural Association of the University of the Philippines (SCAUP) and Kabataang Makabayan (KM). He was later also involved in the workers’ and peasant movements through the Lapiang Manggagawa (Workers Party) and the Malayang Samahan ng Magsasaka (MASAKA or Free Association of Peasants). He became secretary-general of the Socialist Party of the Philippines (SPP) and, later, the Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism (MAN).
But he is best known as the founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
In 1968 he led a group that broke away from the leadership of the Lava brothers in the old Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP) due to ideological differences, and re-established the party as the CPP.
Under Sison’s leadership, the CPP rapidly gained strength and together with the NPA, its armed component, which was founded in 1969, it developed into one of the strongest organized forces opposed to the U.S.-Marcos regime during the martial law years.
He was the CPP’s highest-ranking leader from its reestablishment until he was arrested by the Marcos dictatorship in 1977.
Released in 1986 by virtue of then President Corazon Aquino’s general amnesty proclamation for political prisoners, Sison got involved in a number of legal political activities and even delivered a series of lectures at his alma mater, the University of the Philippines (UP).
In 1988, he found himself having to apply for political asylum after the Aquino government cancelled his passport while he was in Europe on a speaking tour. He has since lived in the Netherlands as an asylum seeker.
In 2002, the CPP-NPA was included by the U.S. Department of State in its list of “foreign terrorist organizations.” Sison was also listed as a “foreign terrorist.” The Dutch government listed the CPP-NPA and Sison in its own terror list a day after the U.S. listing.
According to Jan Fermon, one of Sison’s lawyers, the Dutch Foreign Ministry admitted in its website that the inclusion of the CPP-NPA and Sison in its list of terrorists was done to comply with the request of the U.S. government. It likewise stated that 150 Dutch companies have investments in the Philippines and that Holland is one of the major investors now in the country. It added that the only burden in the relationship between Holland and the Philippines is the presence of what they called the communist leadership in Utrecht.
The Netherlands is at present one of the leading U.S. allies in Europe – next only to the United Kingdom.
The Council of the European Union followed suit in listing Sison as a “terrorist” later that year.
On May 29, 2007 the Council of the European Union decided to retain Sison in its “terrorist” list. This decision was annulled by the July 11 verdict of the European Court of First Instance (ECFI).
On Aug. 28 that same year, Sison was arrested by Dutch police in Utrecht for allegedly ordering the murders of former CPP-NPA leaders Kintanar and Tabara in 2003 and 2004, respectively – an accusation he has denied. His apartment, the homes of a few other NDFP negotiators, and the NDFP International Office were raided and several important items like computers, hard disks, and files related to the NDFP’s peace negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) were taken.
The CPP-NPA leadership in the Philippines has owned up to the killings of both Kintanar and Tabara, citing them for “crimes against the Revolution.”
On Sept. 13, the District Court of The Hague ordered Sison’s release due to lack of direct and sufficient evidence against him. Part of the decision reads thus:
“The police files submitted to the court include many indications for the point of view that the accused has been involved in the CC (Central Committee) of the CPP and her military branch, the (NPA). There are also indications that the accused is still playing a leading role in the (underground) activities of the CC, the CPP and the NPA.
“Without prejudice to the justified suspicion that the accused during the period described in the charges played a leading role in the aforementioned organizations, the files nevertheless do not provide a sufficient basis for the suspicion that the accused, while staying in the Netherlands, committed the offenses he is charged with in deliberate and close cooperation with the perpetrators in the Philippines.”
Last Jan. 18, however, the Dutch Public Prosecution Service announced that it would continue its investigation of Sison’s alleged involvement in the killings of Kintanar and Tabara up to the middle of this year. This development was the subject of the Jan. 21 global press conference.
Despite all these, Sison remains in a fighting stance and throwing in the towel is the farthest thing from his mind.
“After consultations with my lawyer, I let him do the work in my legal defense,” he said.
“I am not at all mentally and physically weighed down by the further investigation announced by the prosecutor. I am confident about winning my case completely because the charge is patently false and politically motivated and because so far I have won several court decisions pertaining to it.”
He admits, however, that the “ceaseless persecution” and prolonged suspension of his benefits and pension “adversely affect” his living conditions.
“They expose the brutal character of imperialist states like the U.S. and the Netherlands,” he said. Bulatlat