Five years ago, the George W. Bush regime of U.S. imperialism, the world's number #1 terrorist, placed Jose Maria Sison on its "terrorist list." Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA), Bush's most loyal puppet in Southeast Asia, wholeheartedly concurred with this listing, despite the fact that the Philippines had no law covering such a designation and that Joema Sison had no criminal charges of any kind pending in the Philippines or anywhere else. The European Union, emphasizing the partnership aspect of its imperialist partnership-rivalry relationship with U.S. imperialism, also placed Joema on its terrorist list. Since he had been living in the Netherlands for more than a decade as a political exile from the Philippines, this last designation had a direct impact on the lives of Joema, his family and friends as well as on the movement organizations in which he has leading responsibility.
Who is Jose Maria Sison and why should we care about his plight?
In many ways, Jose Maria Sison is a real flesh and blood Filipino "Zorro." Born into a wealthy landowner family which had its share of both patriotic heroes who fought for the liberation of their country and puppet-comprador elements who served the Spanish and then the U.S. colonial masters, Joema was a brilliant student who had the opportunity to choose a life-path of elitist privilege in the highest ranks of Filipino society, based on subservience to U.S. imperialism. Instead, he chose the difficult and extremely dangerous path of revolutionary leader of the oppressed and exploited Filipino masses. And, unlike the fictional Mexican character, Zorro, who functioned as an heroic individual in the fight for justice for the masses, Joema Sison recognized early on that it is the working class and the peasant and other patriotic masses among the oppressed who are decisive in making human progress in our time.
On this basis, he mobilized students and intellectuals at his point of political origin, became a trade union functionary in the working class movement and joined the already heavily compromised old Filipino communist party. With his outstanding revolutionary qualities, including his willingness to wage principled struggle against both left and right opportunism, Jose Maria Sison quickly rose through the ranks in all these areas of work.
Accordingly, Joema mastered Marxist theory---especially the teachings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao. He particularly focused on Mao's teachings in the period leading up to the victory of the Chinese national democratic revolution in 1949, as Philippine conditions had so much in common with the pre-revolution Chinese political landscape. Armed with scientific socialism, along with his wife, Julie, a formidable revolutionary in her own right, he undertook to make a comprehensive and concrete analysis of Philippine conditions so as to provide a solid foundation for the new people's movement there.
Summing up the recent experience of the mass movement within the Philippines and drawing strength from the Chinese and Albanian led political struggle against Soviet-led modern revisionism internationally, Joema led in the founding of the new anti-revisionist Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in late 1968, and to the founding of the New Peoples Army (NPA) and the National Democratic Front shortly thereafter. (In 2002, along with Joema as an individual, the CPP and NPA were also placed on the "terrorist" lists of the real global terrorists, that is, the imperialist powers, headed by U.S. imperialism.)
The results were a powerful revolutionary movement that within a few short years threatened to topple the Marcos regime. Ferdinand Marcos resorted to martial law to stay in power. This resulted in further isolation of the Marcos crony regime even from the rest of the Filipino ruling class and led to his ouster in the People Power revolt that swept Cory Aquino into the presidency in early 1986. It also brought Joema out of prison after a decade during most of which Marcos had held him in solitary confinement.
The courageous and dedicated Joema Sison immediately resumed his untiring efforts on behalf of Philippine national liberation and socialism. While on a foreign tour it was decided that it was too dangerous for Joema to return and he went into exile in the Netherlands. There, among other duties, he has served as the chief political consultant to the NDF in its formal though intermittent negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) under a series of U.S. imperialist puppet regimes.
On September 18, 2001, exactly one week after the September 11th incidents in the USA, as the General Consultant to the International League of Peoples Struggle (ILPS), an international anti-imperialist united front organization with which Northstar Compass has been affiliated, Joema Sison wrote movingly: "The US has practiced the evil of terrorism for so long and this is now recoiling upon the US itself… At any rate, no amount of terrorism perpetrated by the US imperialists can justify any avowed anti-US force in perpetrating terrorism against the American people…Terrorism from any quarter is reprehensible and must be combated and eradicated. The people will ultimately defeat US imperialism as it increasingly uses terrorism. The few avowedly anti-US elements that use terrorism will only destroy themselves on the road of nihilism. Only the revolutionary mass movement can defeat US imperialism and the local reactionaries and sweep away terrorism from any direction." ("Sympathy for the Victims and Condemnation of Terrorism")
As Sison biographer and personal friend, Ninotchka Rosca, has observed: "In the midst of whatever adversity, Jose Sison constantly gives Filipinos a reason to affirm and celebrate themselves as a people. The governments of Europe, the United States, Canada, and the Philippines keep trying to bury Jose Maria Sison and only succeed in having songs sung in his praise."
Thus, in 2002, when Joema was first placed on the terrorist list, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark praised Joema as follows: "Those of us who are working to stop the unbridled aggression against the world that has been unleashed by the Bush White House should make every effort to defend Professor Jose Maria Sison, and to support the Filipino people as they struggle to defend sovereignty and build peace." Likewise, then Philippine Vice President, Teofisto Guingona, in direct contradiction to President Macapagal-Arroyo, defended Sison as a great Filipino patriot!
At its Second International Assembly in 2004, the ILPS elected Joema as its Chairman, a post he continues to hold. In this capacity, he has helped point the way forward for workers and oppressed peoples in many places: from Katrina survivors and immigrant workers in the USA to Iraqi Resistance fighters against the US imperialist occupiers of their country.
More recently, Joema Sison experienced two major legal victories, in June and July of this year when the European Court of First Instance annulled the decision of the Council of the European Union that had originally placed him on the EU terrorist list and the Supreme Court of the Philippines dismissed the two recent criminal charges against him (and about fifty other Filipino progressives) and nullified all purported evidence against him from 1968 to 2006. These actions took place in an environment in which the GMA Regime in the Philippines as well as its Bush Regime sponsor in the USA were increasingly isolated and exposed as terrorists in their own right.
Seemingly, in order to stop this progressive momentum, almost immediately after these courtroom victories, Joema Sison was abruptly arrested on August 28th and held incommunicado in the Hague. The limitations of legalism were brought home to Sison and his comrades when, simultaneous with his arrest, his apartment was forcibly invaded with his wife inside and his family's computers and other property were seized. And more than a half dozen other premises occupied by his Filipino colleagues in the Netherlands, including the NDF Office, were broken into by Dutch authorities in concert with the GMA and Bush regimes.
Fortunately, there was a mass response in the Philippines, in the Netherlands, and in many other countries around the world protesting this blatantly extralegal conduct. On September 13th the District Court of the Hague released Jose Maria Sison on the basis of insufficient evidence against him. The Dutch Court of Appeals, on October 3rd, not only upheld the District Court's ruling but found that there is no direct evidence linking him to the alleged crimes at all and even questioned the veracity of (and the political bias behind) the witness testimony against him. As Sison himself has pointed out, "The Court of Appeals has clarified that for anyone to play a prominent role on behalf of any revolutionary political party or movement in general… is no proof of criminal wrongdoing."
Nevertheless, the Dutch prosecutors have not dropped the charges yet; nor has the European Union Council taken Sison's name off of its most recent terrorist list. To the forces of reaction---the imperialists and their comprador puppets --- Jose Maria Sison is the worst kind of terrorist. For he threatens their paradise on earth based on exploitation, oppression and plunder of the overwhelming majority of mankind.
For us, for the billions of toiling masses of humanity, Jose Maria Sison is the best kind of hero. He tirelessly and eloquently represents the just aspirations of the Filipino people for a full and equal role among nations; he also fights relentlessly in the interest of the working class and the oppressed everywhere and for the elimination of the system of exploitation of man by man from the face of the earth. He remains one of the modest giants of our movement for global justice and for peace --- for socialism and communism. We need to vigorously defend and to cherish Jose Maria Sison. For defense of Jose Maria Sison is defense of us all!