Red Flag Express №11

We demand the immediate and unconditional release of Jose Maria Sison

Scene from a picket line in Manila to condemn Joma Sison’s arrest.

The Centre for Philippine Concerns (CAP-CPC) vehemently condemns the arrest of the Professor Jose Maria Sison, 68, by the Dutch Police on false charges of multiple murders. Professor Sison has been a political refugee in the Netherlands for nearly 20 years, under the Refugee Convention and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

The CAP-CPC, made up of peace and freedom-loving overseas Filipinos and Canadians, demands the immediate and unconditional release of Prof. Jose Maria Sison.

Sison was arrested August 28, 2007. Police broke down the door of his flat, confiscated papers, files, cd’s and computers. They similarly broke into the homes of other Philippine refugees, without producing search warrants, and into the offices of the National Democratic Front in Utrecht grabbing boxes of documents, files and computers. Observers said the raids were conducted Gestapo-style. Sison is accused of the murders of Romulo Kintanar and Arturo Tabara. Dutch police say Sison ordered the murders from the Netherlands in 2003. Sison will be put on trial in the Netherlands, not the Philippines, for these trumped-up charges.

We maintain that the real reasons for Professor Sison’s arrest are political… not criminal. Prof. Jose Maria Sison has been a leading figure of the Philippine national democratic revolution for almost forty years. He was one of the pioneers who revived the anti-imperialist movement in the Philippines in the early 1960s and he reestablished the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). For nine years, he was the most prominent political prisoner of dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The Philippine government has been plotting to try to silence Professor Sison for many years. Recently he received reports that National Security Advisor Norberto Gonzales told the Philippine cabinet that Sison’s assassination could resolve the ongoing armed insurgency in the Philippines. This would be directly in line with the over 850 extrajudicial politically-motivated killings that have been perpetrated with impunity under the reign of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

He has also been the target of character assassination. Prof. Sison was labelled a “terrorist,” along with the New People’s Army (NPA) and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), by the U.S., the European Union (EU), Canada and other states, after Washington declared its so-called “global war on terror” in 2001. This was not only a direct attack on Prof. Sison and his family, but on all peace- and freedom-loving people and anti-imperialists around the world. In Canada, we are all too familiar with the damaging effects of reactionary and repressive anti-terrorism measures that put innocent civilians such as Maher Arar through unjustified persecution. Now the Philippine government appears to have worked out a deal with the Dutch authorities to criminalize… and silence Sison, one of the most influential and vocal critics of the Arroyo government.

They want Professor Sison out of the way because, as the Chief Political Consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), he embodies the aspirations and struggle of the Filipino people in the over 30-year old revolutionary war they are waging for the country’s national and social liberation. As a staunch anti-imperialist, he also personifies the spirit of true and genuine international solidarity necessary to bring about a just and lasting peace.

This arrest comes in the wake of a series of events involving Sison. Earlier this year, the European Court of First Instance (ECFI) annulled the Council of the European Union (EU) decision blacklisting Prof. Sison as a “terrorist.” But both the Philippine and Dutch governments maintain that this verdict applies only to an older list where Prof. Sison’s name appears and not the latest June 29, 2007 EU “terrorist list.”

Professor Sison was also a major player pushing for the resumption of peace talks between the NDF and the Philippine government. The Arroyo administration has recently intensified the all-out war in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, where the Muslim minority is concentrated, under the auspices of the US War on Terror. This move clearly aims to draw an increase in its annual pork barrel of military aid from the US government.

Professor Sison has also been instrumental in drawing world attention to the ongoing spate of political assassinations in the Philippines, and as a result the Philippine government has been feeling the heat from human rights watchdogs such as the UNHRC, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and even the US Senate following a hearing that could impact US military aid to the Philippines.

On the so-called criminal charges, the New People’s Army has already claimed responsibility for the deaths of Kintanar and Tabara. Sison admits having been the founder and first chairman of the CPP, from its re-establishment in 1968 until his capture by the Marcos regime in 1977, but today he clearly states he is only the chief political consultant of the NDF and is not in the leadership of the NPA nor the CPP.

As Sison has stated: “My enemies are also amazingly mendacious and stupid in blaming me for the revolutionary actions of the NPA despite the fact that I have been out of the Philippines for more than 20 years. A number of prosecutors and judges have already dismissed these complaints because of their patent falsity and the lack of jurisdiction over me.”

“Since July 2007, no less than the (Philippine) Supreme Court has dismissed as invalid the charge of rebellion and the hundreds of folders of supposed evidence against me and 50 other individuals. The false charge and supposed evidence spanned the period from the founding of the CPP in 1968 to the filing date of the charge in 2006. The invalidated evidence can no longer be used against me in any new charge.” But again it seems as though the Arroyo government and their Dutch counterparts will stoop to any depths to get Sison.

The CPP, the NPA and the NDFP have been leading an exemplary people’s struggle for national liberation and democracy against foreign domination, exploitation and oppression. We reject the notion that the struggle for national liberation, including armed struggle, is equated to terrorism. We are concerned that legitimate political organizations and individuals, including legitimate asylum seekers and recognized political refugees, may become the target of unjustified repressive measures in the guise of fighting terrorism.

The blacklisting of Prof. Sison and various revolutionary movements by the EU and Canada does not bode well for democracy. Groups and individuals who express and concretize their solidarity with them may be the next victims. The democratic rights to freedom of expression and of association are at stake. The human value of solidarity is under threat.

We concur with Supreme Bishop Millamena of the Philippine Independent Church, who said in a recent interview: “Prof. Sison is not a terrorist. All he does is to fight with the poor for a life in dignity. That is a legitimate struggle.” Former Philippine Vice President Teofisto Guingona, Jr. added to this by declaring that “one needs to make a distinction between a rebel who is fighting because of hunger and perceived injustice, and a terrorist who seeks to sow terror and hatred.”

As a country that professes to be a champion of human rights and democracy, the Canada must immediately and unconditionally remove Prof. Sison from its “foreign terrorist” list under the UN Suppression of Terrorism Financing Regulations.

And we call upon the Dutch government and police to immediately and unconditionally release Professor Jose Marie Sison.

The Centre d’appui aux Philippines / Centre for Philippine Concerns (CAP-CPC) is a member of the International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS) and the Philippines Canada Task Force on Human Rights (PCTFHR)

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