Filipino Revolutionary, Cleared of EU "Terrorist" Charge,
Arrested in Holland
The Case of Jose Maria Sison
By Gary Leupp
4 September 2007
On the morning of August 28, Dutch plainclothes police raided the home of
exiled Filipino revolutionary leader Jose Maria Sison in Utrecht, the Netherlands,
arrested him and charged him with ordering the murder of two persons in the
Philippines in 2003. According to his wife, they broke down the front door without
bothering to ring or knock, bruising her arm as they prevented her from making
a phone call. They carted away computers, documents, CDs, and other files,
remaining until the evening while she was instructed to sit in a corner. Eight
other locations were simultaneously raided.
Sison was not at home the time. Luis Jalandoni, the chief peace negotiator for
the Filipino Maoist rebels in their talks with the Government of the Philippines,
details what happened:
"The Dutch Police called up Prof. Sison to invite him to the police station because
according to them there were new developments on the complaint that Prof. Sison
had filed in 2001. Thinking that it was about the complaint he filed on an assassination
plot that was hatched by the then incumbent [Joseph] Estrada government against
him, Prof. Sison brought with him some documents pertinent to the said complaint.
"But when he arrived at the police station, he was separated from his three companions
that included his lawyer. They learned later that Prof. Sison had been whisked away to
a jail complex in Scheveningen formerly used by the Nazis for detaining Dutch resistance
fighters on the patently spurious charge of ordering the murder of [Arturo] Kintanar and
Sison remains in the National Penitentiary in Scheveningen in The Hague where the
judge before whom he appeared August 31 states he will remain in solitary confinement
for up to 14 days. According to his lawyer, Jan Fermon, the official charge against him is
"incitement to murders" in the Philippines.
Its proximate cause, according to the Philippines mainstream press, was affidavits filed with
the Philippines Department of Justice last year by the wives of Kintanar and Tabara (themselves
former communists expelled from the movement) followed by visits to the Dutch Embassy in
Sison has lived in Holland since 1987. The 68-year-old former professor of English literature and
accomplished poet headed the newly refounded Communist Party of the Philippines from 1968
to 1977. During these years the party's military arm, the New People's Army (NPA), made
extraordinary advances in its People's War to topple the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Ferdinand
Marcos. Captured by Marcos' troops in 1977, Sison spent years in prison, including a year and a
half strapped to a cot, in solitary confinement before he was released in 1986 by President
Corazon Aquino following the "People Power" revolution that drove Marcos and his notorious
wife Imelda out of the country. Since then he has served as chairman of the International
League of Peoples Struggle, and Chief Political Consultant to the National Democratic Front
of the Philippines in its off-again on-again peace talks with the Manila government.
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 lecture 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.
But meanwhile the New People's Army has acquired control of about 8000
villages and perhaps 20% of the Philippines countryside. (It claimed as of 2003 to have 128
guerrillas zones, covering 60% of the villages in the country.) Since 2004, the Armed Forces
of the Philippines have designated the NPA "Number One security threat" to the nation
(i.e., greater than the Muslim secessionist forces or the allegedly al-Qaeda-linked puny bandit
group Abu Sayyaf). The U.S. government, alarmed by communist advances, moved immediately
after 9-11 (which helped justify moves against any kind of "terrorism" anywhere in the world)
to dispatch troops to the Philippines in what was briefly billed as the "second front" in the
"War on Terror." The ostensible target was Abu Sayyaf, although the Filipino Maoists suggested
that U.S. forces (expelled by an act of the Philippines Senate in 1992 but now invited back by
Macapagal-Arroyo) might ultimately be deployed against them.
In August 2002, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell announced with some fanfare that it had
decided to declare Sison a "terrorist." The CPP as well as the NPA were already on the list of
"foreign terrorist organizations" prepared by the State Department and rubber-stamped by
Congress every two years.
To make the list one has to (1) be foreign, (2) engage in terrorist activity, and (3) threaten
the security of U.S. citizens or U.S. "national security."
"Terrorist activity" according to Section 212(a)(3)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of
1952 defines this as "any activity which is unlawful under the laws of the place where it is
committed (or which, if committed in the United States, would be unlawful under the laws of
the United States or any State)" involving hijacking or sabotage of any aircraft, vessel, or vehicle;
kidnapping; violent attacks on "internationally protected" persons; assassination; use of biological,
chemical, or nuclear weapons; use of explosives or firearms "with intent to endanger, directly or
indirectly, the safety of one or more individuals or cause substantial damage to property;" and/or
the threat, attempt or conspiracy to do any of the above, or to incite people to do so, or to
collect information on potential terrorist targets, or to collect funds for terrorist attacks.
By this definition, any violent rebellion against any government---however oppressive and
illegitimate---anywhere is "terrorist," or can be so defined at the whim of a State Department
the entire world associates with lawless violence. (It would have criminalized the American
Revolution, for god's sake, and smeared the Founding Fathers as "terrorists.") But Powell's
explanation for the blacklisting of the CPP and Sison was specifically as follows: "The CPP, a
Maoist group, was founded in 1969 [sic] with the aim of overthrowing the Philippine government
through guerrilla warfare. CPP's military wing, the New People's Army strongly opposes any U.S.
military presence in the Philippines and has killed U.S. citizens there." (These allegedly include a
U.S. Army colonel, a military intelligence agent, two U.S. Air Force airmen, and two Ford
Corporation employees over many years during which the U.S. stationed military forces in the
Philippines and actively aided the Marcos regime and its successors in efforts to crush the
Taking their cue from the U.S. State Department, the Council of the European Union (comprised
of the E.U. foreign ministers) added the CPP and Sison to their own terror lists. On September
10, 2002 Sison was informed that in accordance with the Netherlands' "sanction regulation
against terrorism" his benefits had been terminated and his bank account frozen. He was also
ordered to report weekly to a government office, where he had reported monthly for over
a decade. This despite the fact that there were no pending criminal charges against him
anywhere in the world. The city of Utrecht, in which he resides, offered resumption of his
stipend on "humanitarian" grounds, but only if he implicitly accepted the designation of
"terrorist" applied to himself.
The Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs explained the decision. "The U.S. regards the activities
of the CPP/NPA and Sison as a threat for American citizens and for the national security of
the American foreign policy. The CPP is characterized by a strong anti-American attitude.
The organization is a fervent opponent of the pro-American policy of the current Philippine
government and the presence of American troops in the country. In the 80s and 90s, six
Americans died in NPA attacks." In other words, the U.S. was applying strong pressure on
Amsterdam to demonize and punish Sison for his "attitude," his opposition to the government
of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and his association with an organization accused of killing members
of the U.S. military supporting the Manila regime.
In a stunning setback to U.S. vilification efforts, that decision was annulled by the European
Court of First Instance (ECFI)---the EU's Supreme Court---just a month and a half ago (on
July 12). The Luxemburg-based ECFI concluded that Sison had never undergone any criminal
investigation by any competent judicial authority concerning any terrorist act. It stated that
EU Council decisions regarding Sison up to June 29, 2007 were "violative of the rights of
Professor Sison," and even ordered the EU to shoulder Sison's legal costs.
In a statement issued on July 13, Sison noted that in
"the Philippines, I have been repeatedly cleared of criminal charges. At the fall of the
Marcos fascist regime in 1986, I was cleared of the charges of rebellion and subversion.
In 1992 the charge of subversion that had been trumped up in 1988 was nullified. In
1994 the charge of multiple murder arising from the Plaza Miranda bombing [in 1971,
in which 8 members of the Liberal Party were killed, and which was used by the Marcos
government as the pretext to declare martial law] was dismissed by the Manila prosecutors
as something based on speculation. In 1998 the Philippine secretary of justice issued a
certification that there were no pending criminal charges against me.
"In 2003, the Arroyo regime started to fabricate charges of rebellion and common crimes
against me. But in a recent decision in early this month, the Philippine Supreme Court has
rendered null and void the identical false allegations of rebellion against more than 50
accused, including the Batasan 6, some NDFP [National Democratic Front of the Philippines]
legal consultants and myself."
These legal defeats of the Philippines government headed by the grotesquely corrupt
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and of the U.S.-orchestrated attack on Sison in Europe
form the backdrop of this latest move against the Maoist leader. This time he's accused
of responsibility for the killings of Tabara and Kintanar, two former Maoists (expelled from
the CPP in the early 1990s) killed in 2003 and 2004 by the NPA in actions for which the
guerrillas indeed take responsibility. They were proponents of a strategy of urban guerrilla
warfare, especially in Davao City, using NPA "Sparrows" to attack military and police
personnel during the 1980s. The urban guerrilla strategy was predictably condemned
in the harshest terms by the Filipino and western governments at the time, and it is
curious to see them bemoaning the fate of the deceased whom they would surely at
the time have denounced as terrorists. All the more curious because the CPP seem to
agree with that assessment.
Gregorio Rosal, spokesperson for the Communist Party of the Philippines, stated in a
five-page statement to the Philippines media in 2004 that the NPA metes out the death
penalty "only on those found guilty beyond reasonable doubt" of having committed heinous
crimes. He said that a People's Court had tried Kintanar in 1993 and declared him guilty
of several crimes and listed them as follows:
1. Masterminding, launching and propagating gangster operations, including kidnap-for-ransom,
bank holdups, and dollar-counterfeiting operations while still in the CPP. He cited as examples
the kidnapping of Japanese businessman Noboyuki Wakaoji in 1986 and Bombo Radyo-Philippines
owner Roger Florete in 1989 where Kinatanar and his men allegedly earned $10 million and
P15 million in ransom, respectively.
2. Stealing massive amounts of funds from the Party.
3. Instigating factionalism and attempts to destroy the revolutionary movement.
The CPP has further charged that Kintanar was an "intelligence agent of the [Manila]
government's military and police since 1992," and was a "project officer in an assassination
plot against Prof. Jose Maria Sison in the Netherlands" in 2000 (to which Jalandoni alludes
above, and to which Sison has brought Dutch authorities' attention).
Tabara, according to the Maoists, was apprehended by CPP officials in a parking lot on
Sept. 26, 2004. He pulled a gun when they attempted to arrest him for murdering an
elderly peasant leader and they shot him to death. This happened in a society in which
the regime in power employs death squads. The human rights group Karapatan states
that more than 800 left-wing activists have been extra-judicially killed since 2001. The
Bush administration makes no fuss about that, or the fact that there were 1200 people
on death row in the Philippines in June 2006 when the Philippines Congress passed a law
banning the death penalty. The official justice system in the Philippines is widely perceived
as fraudulent. But the U.S. and its allies validate it while treating the people's courts as
illegitimate and tools of terrorists answering to Sison in his Utrecht exile.
This is the context of Sison's arrest. It is not about some "murders" in the Philippines.
It's about cracking down on the People's War in the Philippines, which has made some
major strides in the last few years. It's about U.S. pressure on Europe to kowtow to its
broad concept of "terrorism" and to exhaust the potential of the paranoia it's whipped
up to demonize any "anti-American" target anywhere. I suggested as early as June 2002
that there would be "red targets in the Terror War" and Sison has been for some time a
His arrest in Holland, surely with the encouragement of the Bush administration, is not just
an attack on a distinguished leader but a warning to all who sympathize with the global
revolutionary left and its armed struggles. Meanwhile the "terrorist" designation can be
flexibly applied to anyone Washington wants to set up. The State Department is reportedly
about to declare Iran's Revolutionary Guards---a whole branch of a country's military---a "terrorist
organization." This is a huge leap from targeting violent non-state organizations with the label.
Reportedly the Europeans regard this step as provocative and worrisome. (It paves the way,
among other things, for U.S. forces to treat the Revolutionary Guards as "illegal combatants"
not covered by the Geneva Conventions, hence subject to torture in the event of war with
Iran.) But it's the natural culmination of the Bush/Cheney fear-mongering, blackballing strategy.
What's next? Declaring the Cuban militia "terrorist"? The whole Venezuelan or Russian or
Chinese Army? One recalls the medieval Church declaring this or that "anathema" or heretical,
marked by Satanism or witchcraft. Such verdicts were intended to spell death for those so
marked, and to intimidate and silence any inclined to defend them if they stubbornly resisted
the legitimacy of the judge. Sometimes they were applied to whole nations. One would think
such pontifical arrogance had died centuries ago. But here we have it again in the thuggish U.S.
administration trying yet failing to secure the world's obedience using tactics resembling both
those of the Inquisition and those of the terror-inflicting fascists in the 1930s.
As Maoists movements press on, especially in South Asia, Marxists of all stripes may increasingly
come into Washington's crosshairs, alongside those that it chooses to term "Islamist terrorists."
The U.S. government continues to categorize the Nepali Maoists as terrorists, even though
they have laid aside their arms for the time being and assumed posts in the new Nepali government.
It must note with alarm news of a Maoist People's War unfolding in the small but strategically
located country of Bhutan.
While it coddles the Cuban anti-Castro terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, supports Jundallah (God's
Brigade) in attacks on Iran, and continues a long tradition of support for other pro-U.S. terrorists
including the notorious Contras of Nicaragua, Washington zeroes in revolutionaries like Sison,
enraged that they with their undying rebellious spirit still exist in this world it feels it owns, in
which it demands the right to monopolize terror.
* * *
Several Filipino Congressmen have rallied to Sison's defense. Rep. Satur Ocampo of the Bayan
Muna Party (himself arrested on bogus, decades-old murder charges in March but then released)
has suggested that the Arroyo government wants to sabotage the peace talks. His colleague
from the same party, Rep. Teddy Casiņo, agreed. The arrest "will result in an all-out war and
lead to the end of peace negotiations," he declares. Ocampo charges that the Dutch and
Philippine governments are "conniving" against Sison, and that "[t]here seems to be an
irregularity in the arrest, although I'm not familiar with their procedures. But it looks like
from our practice here, it only means they are looking for evidence when they also raided
his office and confiscated all the materials there." Rep. Crispin Beltran said the Dutch
government erroneously arrested Sison on "preposterous" charges designed "to sabotage
the chances of peace talks and attack the NDF."
Meanwhile Dutch and Filipino supporters are organizing a petition campaign. Hastily arranged
demonstrations have occurred in the Philippines, Netherlands, U.S. (New York and L.A.)
and Hong Kong. Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark has offered his services as an
attorney, describing Sison as "a gentle person... and inspiring leader" and "great man."
"Everyone who is concerned about peace and freedom has to be greatly distressed over
the arrest of Joma Sison," he told members of the New York Committee for Human Rights
in the Philippines last week. "Sison is a great spirit that the world needs to know about, a
great voice that the world needs to hear. The demonization will destroy us if we permit it
It's heartening that a former U.S. attorney general, predecessor to the unsavory likes of
John Mitchell, Edwin Meese, John Ashcroft, and Alberto Gonzales, can still say such things
openly in these proto-fascist times. It suggests that the lawlessness infecting our own legal
system (especially since 9-11, and justified by carefully fanned "terrorism" fears)---a bullying
lawlessness that infects allies' legal systems and the operations of a compromised UN---is not
unchallengeable or needs to intimidate all who feel disgusted by the demonization and lies.
Clark (79) who once served President Lyndon Johnson at the height of the Vietnam War
somehow evolved into a trenchant critic of imperialism. That gives his word all the more
weight for anyone concerned about peace and freedom and inclined to listen.
Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative
Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa
Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial
Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is also a contributor
to CounterPunch's merciless chronicle of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia,
He can be reached at: email@example.com