Jose Maria Sison
|José María Sison|
February 8, 1939 |
Cabugao, Ilocos Sur, Commonwealth of the Philippines
|Other names||Joma Sison
Armando Liwanag (alleged pseudonym)
|Alma mater||University of the Philippines Colegio de San Juan de Letran Ateneo de Manila University|
|Political party||Communist Party of the Philippines
National Democratic Front (Philippines)
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan
Makabayang Kowalisyon ng Mamamayan
|Spouse(s)||Julie de Lima|
José María Sison (born 8 February 1939 in Cabugao, Commonwealth of the Philippines) is a writer and activist who founded the Communist Party of the Philippines and added elements of Maoism to its philosophy.
Since August 2002, he has been classified as a "person supporting terrorism" by the United States. The European Union's second highest court ruled to delist him as a "person supporting terrorism" and reversed a decision by member governments to freeze assets.
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Sison was born in Cabugao, Ilocos Sur on 8 February 1939 to a prominent landowning family with connections to other prominent clans such as the Crisologos, the Sollers, the Serranos, and the Singsons. His uncle was Teofilo Sison, a prominent politician who was convicted in 1946 of having collaborated with the Japanese occupation forces. During his childhood in Ilocos, he talked to his barber about the Hukbalahap activity, and unlike his relatives, attended a public school before entering Ateneo de Manila University and later studying at Colegio de San Juan de Letran.
Sison graduated from the University of the Philippines in 1959 and studied in Indonesia and then returned to the Philippines and become a university professor of literature. He joined the Lavaite Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas as well as was one of the founding members of the Socialist Party and Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism. In 1964, he co-founded the Kabataang Makabayan, or Patriotic Youth, with Nilo S. Tayag. This organization organized youth against the Vietnam War, Ferdinand Marcos, corrupt politicians, Imperialism, Bureaucrat Capitalism and Feudalism. The organization also spearheaded the studying of Maoism as part of the struggle.
On December 26, 1968, he formed and led the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), an organization founded on Marxism–Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought, stemming from his experience as a youth leader and labor and land reform activist. This is known as the First Great Rectification movement where Sison and other radical youth criticized the existing Party leadership, that was run under the Moscow leaning Lava and its failure. The reestablished CPP set its general political line as two-stage revolution comprising national-democratic as the first stage then proceeding to the socialist revolution. During this period, Sison went by the nom de guerre of Amado Guerrero, meaning "beloved warrior", under which he published the manifesto Philippine Society and Revolution. In December 2007 the Communist Party of the Philippines commemorated its 39th anniversary.
Jose Maria Sison was confirmed to have given birth, at Barangay Dulacac at the tri-boundary of Alaminos, Bani and Mabini, Pangasinan, where the CPP "congress of reestablishment" was held on December 26, 1968, exactly at a hut near the house of the Navarettes, the parents-in-law of Arthur Garcia, one of the CPP founders. Sison announced that communist guerillas held "cultural activities" and celebrated the 39th anniversary of the movement.
After this, the old Communist Party sought to eliminate and marginalize Sison. However, the reorganized CPP had a larger base and renewed political line that attracted thousands to join its ranks. On March 29, 1969, the CPP, along with an HMB (Huk) faction led by Bernabe Buscayno, organized the New People's Army (NPA), the guerrilla-military wing of the Party, whose insurgencies around the Philippines, particularly in the northern part of the country, persist to this day. The NPA seeks to wage a peasant-worker revolutionary war in the countryside against landlords and foreign companies by hiding in mountains as strategy for protection.
Sison was arrested during the Marcos presidency and was imprisoned for almost 9 years. His experience was described in Prison & Beyond, a book of poetry released in 1986, which won the Southeast Asia WRITE award for the Philippines.
The CPP has stated for 20 years that Sison is no longer involved in operational decisions and serves from Europe in an advisory role. In 1986, after he was freed from prison, Sison embarked on a world tour. In October he accepted the Southeast Asia WRITE award for a book of his poems from the Crown Prince of Thailand in Bangkok. While visiting the Netherlands three months later, he was informed that his passport had been revoked and that charges had been filed against him under the Anti-Subversion Law of the Philippines. Those charges were later dropped, as have subsequent charges filed by authorities in the Philippines.
Sison met his wife, Julie de Lima, when both studied at UP Diliman. Attending the same study groups, they grew closer and married in 1960. The couple had four children. Their youngest daughter was born in 1981 in prison.
Sison went into exile in the Netherlands after the Marcos regime ended. He had already been released from prison by the government of Corazón Aquino for the sake of "national reconciliation" and for his role in opposing Marcos. The release of Sison was vehemently protested by the military. It is reported that upon his release, Sison and his followers actively sought to discredit the Aquino government in the European media by speaking out on Aquino's human rights violations including the Mendiola Massacre, in which members of the military were accused of firing on unarmed peasants in Manila, killing 17 people.
He is the chairperson of the International League of Peoples' Struggle, and the current Chief Political Consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. Since 1987, Sison has resided in the Netherlands where he is seeking asylum as a political refugee. A 2004 court ruling by the European Union endangers the residency status of Sison in Europe and he is expected to be expelled. He has been charged with orchestrating the 2001 murder of Congressman Rodolfo Aguinaldo in the Philippines. There has even been speculation the revocation of the death penalty in that country was in part to convince the Netherlands he could safely be deported, as he would have been facing the death penalty if convicted.
The International Crime Investigation Team of the Dutch National Criminal Investigation Department arrested Jose Maria Sison in Utrecht on August 28, 2007. Sison was arrested for his alleged involvement from the Netherlands in three assassinations that took place in the Philippines: the murder of Romulo Kintanar in 2003, and the murders of Arturo Tabara and Stephen Ong in 2006. On the day of his arrest, Sison's apartment and eight apartments of his co-workers were searched by the Dutch National Criminal Investigation Department.
There were no plans to hold the trial in the Philippines since there was no extradition request and the crimes Jose Maria Sison is accused of were committed in the Netherlands. Dutch lawyer, Victor Koppe said that Sison would enter a plea of not guilty during his indictment. He could have faced the maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
On September 1, 2007, National Democratic Front peace panel chair Luis Jalandoni confirmed that the Dutch government was "maltreating" Sison because the Court detained him in solitary confinement for several weeks without access to media, newspapers, television, radio or visitors; it also denied him the right to bring prescription medicines to his cell. The place where Sison was held was the same one used by the late former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic who was held for war crimes and corruption. Meanwhile, protests were held in Indonesia, Hong Kong, Australia, the United States and Canada. The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) feared Sison may be "extra-judicially" transferred to the United States. CPP spokesman Gregorio Rosal said that the U.S. may detain and subject Sison to extraordinary rendition in Guantanamo Bay or some secret facility. U.S. ambassador Kristie Ann Kenney formally announced that the U.S. will extend support to the Dutch government to prosecute Sison.
In New York City, former United States Attorney General and left-wing human rights lawyer Ramsey Clark called for Sison's release and pledged assistance by joining the latter's legal defense team headed by Jan Fermon. Clark doubted Dutch authorities' validity and competency, since the murder charges originated in the Philippines and had already been dismissed by the country's Supreme Court.
Committee DEFEND, an International group stated that the Dutch government tortured Sison at the National Penitentiary in Scheveningen (used by the Nazis in World War II to torture Dutch resistance fighters). His wife, Julie De Lima failed to see him to give medicines and warm clothes on August 30, 2007.  Meanwhile, counsel of Sison Romeo Capulong will question the Dutch government's jurisdiction over the issue and person alleging that the Supreme Court of the Philippines already dismissed the subject cases on July 2.
On September 7, 2007, the Dutch court heard defense arguments for Sison, and stated that it would issue the resolution next week on whether to extend the detention. Supporters outside the Hague District Court chanted slogans while the wife, Julie De Lima stated that they complained to the International Committee of the Red Cross. Luis Jalandoni, chairman of the National Democratic Front accused the government of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende of being "a workhorse" for Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and for the U.S. government.
The National Lawyers Guild (NLG), a progressive bar association in New York headed by Marjorie Cohnhas, denounced the arrest Sison: "it exposes the hand of the Arroyo administration in yet another assault on the rights of the people to dissent and organize." Sison will remain in jail until Thursday, but was provided TV, radio and medication.
Release from detention
Dutch public prosecutor's office's Wim de Bruin stated that Sison was released from jail at 10:45 a.m. on September 13, 2007. The court ruled that there was insufficient evidence to detain him on murder charges, specifically, if Sison "had a conscious and close cooperation with those in the Philippines who carried out the deed."
On September 28, 2007, the Dutch Ambassador to the Philippines, Robert Brinks, announced that 3 Dutch judicial officials and Dutch prosecution lawyer Wim De Bruin will visit the Philippines "later this year" to review the evidence against Jose Maria Sison. The next day Leung Kwok Hung, a Hong Kong politician and member of the April Fifth Action vowed to support Sison. Leung was in Europe at the Inter-Parliamentary Union assembly in Geneva, Switzerland. He sits in the Hong Kong legislature as a member of the Finance and House Committees, and of the Legislative Panels on Constitutional Affairs, Housing, Manpower, Transport, and on Welfare Services.
On October 3, 2007, the Dutch court dismissed the prosecution's appeal against the release Sison, confirming his freedom while the Dutch police continue to investigate: "the prosecution file lacks enough concrete clues that Sison can be directly linked to the assassinations which is needed to prosecute him as a perpetrator". However, the decision does not bar prosecution for murder. But the Dutch Public Prosecutor's Office (per spokesman Wim de Bruin) stated that it did not drop the charges against Sison yet, who remains a suspect. De Bruin said: "No, you have to separate the criminal investigation by the police from the investigation by the examining judge in The Hague. So the judge decided to finish the investigation but the police investigation will be continued and that means that Mr. Sison is still a suspect".
The Dutch court on May 20, 2008, heard Sison's appeal against the Dutch Public Prosecutors Office's request to extend its investigation until December, since the investigators arrived in the Philippines in February and interviewed witnesses. At the trial, however, the new evidence showed that there were indeed attempts to kill him, in 1999 and 2000, while Kintanar's wife, Joy, directly accused Edwin Garcia in the murder of her husband. The Dutch court scheduled the promulgation on the verdict on June 10, 2008.
The Dutch District Court of The Hague on June 5, 2008 decided in camera "that the Public Prosecution Service may continue the prosecution of Jose Maria Sison for involvement in, among other matters, a number of murders committed in the Philippines in 2003 and 2004; that while the prosecution's case file still held insufficient evidence, the investigation was ongoing and should be given time to unfold."
Former Senator Jovito Salonga accused Sison of orchestrating the 1971 Plaza Miranda bombing during the Liberal Party Convention to force Marcos to suspend the writ of habeas corpus and sign Proclamation Number 1081 initiating the advent of Martial Law in the Philippines. This accusation comes from former CPP members such as Victor Corpuz and others. The Philippine National Police (PNP) filed a criminal case against Sison for the Plaza Miranda bombing, but the charges were dismissed for lack of evidence, with the dismissal order citing the complainant's filing criminal charges based on speculation.
On July 4, 2008, Manila's RTC Executive Judge Reynaldo Ros assumed jurisdiction over the 1,551 pages records/cases of multiple murder lawsuit against Sison, Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo and National Democratic Front member Luis Jalandoni after the Supreme Court's Third Division ordered a change of venue from the Hilongos, Leyte RTC Branch 18, for safety reasons. The accused were charged of executing 30 farmers in 1985, in purging military assets within the New People's Army in Southern Leyte. 15 corpses were found in a mass grave in Inopacan, Leyte, in 2006. Meanwhile, it should be remembered that during the time when these alleged killings supposedly took place, Sison and Ocampo had long been placed under maximum detention of the Marcos regime. Sison, Ocampo, and other political detainees were only freed in 1986 after the first EDSA uprising of the same year.
The European Union's second highest court ruled to delist Sison and the Stichting Al-Aqsa group from the EU terror list since the 27-nation bloc failed to respect their right when blacklisted. The Luxembourg-based Court of Justice further reversed a decision by member governments to freeze the assets of Sison and the Netherlands-based Al-Aqsa Foundation, since the EU governments failed to inform them why the assets were frozen. Dekker said that EU lawyers in Brussels can lodge any appeal. EU was also ordered to shoulder all the litigation expenses during the five-year appeal of Sison against the Dutch government and the EU. Sison however, is still part of the European Union's terrorism list according to the Royal Netherlands Embassy in the Philippines (July 13, 2007). In a media released one-page statement, the embassy said that all persons and organizations on the EU terrorism list [and] includes Mr. Sison, the CPP, and the NPA [New People's Army] on the list and maintains the freeze on their assets. National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales explained that the EU's decision is "not enforceable": "The council is higher than the court. There is a provision in the EU Charter that when a court ruling goes against the council's decision, the latter will be upheld. The council has decided he is a terrorist, and because of this his assets should be frozen". Gonzalez said, the Luxembourg-based court did not categorically say Sison's assets should be released, but had merely questioned the process.
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“He (Sison) keeps on saying that the chairman of the Communist Party is Armando Liwanag, and that he’s not Armando Liwanag,” said Gonzales, who added that the Netherlands and other European Union countries had long recognized Sison to be Armando Liwanag, the nom de guerre of the CCP leader.
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Joel Rocamora of the Institute for Popular Democracy said the abolition of capital punishment was unpopular and saw the change in the law as a precursor to getting Dutch authorities to deport the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, Jose Maria Sison. ... before Mr Sison could be returned to the Philippines from exile in the Netherlands, Mr Rocamora said the death penalty first had to be scrapped.
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