The US Chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, also known as BAYAN USA held a solemn tribute to the life and work of Sison entitled Pamana Ng Panahon (Legacy of a Generation)- by launching the 5th edition of the historical text entitled Philippine Society and Revolution (PSR) penned by a younger Sison back in 1970 under the pen name Amado Guerrero.
The event was also co-organized by the Anakbayan Filipino Youth Collective of New York and New Jersey, an overseas chapter of the national youth mass organization of the same name in the Philippines.
Sison is a former radical student leader-turned-founding Chairperson of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and now Chief Political Consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF). Despite an ongoing international vilification campaign by the US government and European Union insisting that Sison remains in the leadership of the underground CPP, an international campaign held around the world to defend his democratic rights as a recognized political refugee counters he is no longer in the Party's leadership. Lately, Sison has been maximizing his political leadership as the current Chair of the International League of People's Struggle (ILPS) a global league of anti-imperialist people's organizations around the world.
After having his Philippine passport cancelled while on a speaking tour in Europe over 20 years ago, Sison has been living in Utrecht, Netherlands, while seeking political asylum. After the Bush administration declared the Philippines the so-called Second Front to the War on Terror, Sison, along with the CPP and New People's Army was listed as a foreign terrorist by the US State Department in 2001. Sison was also a political prisoner under the US Marcos dictatorship for over 8 years.
Despite his official status by the European Union as a political refugee, Sison's rights have been stripped by the insistence of the US government, including a complete freezing of his assets and the right to travel and the right to work. Numerous physical attempts on his life have been well-documented since his listing as a foreign terroorist as well as countless attempts at character assasination.
"I should be with you in person tonight. But the Bush global war of terror, which has put me in the so-called terrorist blacklist, makes it impossible for me to take any flight to New York. At any rate, I am with you in spirit and electronically. I welcome all of you.." Sison stated candidly in his opening message to the audience. Sison himself was virtually present at the event care of skype video conferencing, which allowed the famous leader to interact with the audience simultaneous to the program's run with his video image enlarged and projected in front of the audience on a wide screen.
Given the six hour time difference between New York and Utrecht, audience members maximized the window of time to ask Sison pointed questions about the prospects for socialism in Latin America, the state of socialism in China, the Katrina disaster, the struggle for immigrant rights in the US, and the US housing bubble.
The program also included performances by allies who publicly defended Sison's right to political asylum such as Asian-American musician Fred Ho, who offered a baritone saxophone rendition of BAYAN KO (My Country), perhaps the most recognizable patriotic folk song of the Philippines written at during the American occupation of the Philippines in the 1920's and the nation's unofficial national anthem, and a reading of Sison's famous poem "The Guerilla is like a Poet" a lyrical ode to the need for armed revolution against tyranny in the Philippines in both Filipino and English by members of the NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines and Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FIRE), both member organizations of BAYAN USA.
Others paying tribute to Sison included Lyn Meza of the International League of Peoples Struggle US Cooridinating Committee, Kamau Karl Franklin of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Sharon Eolis of the International Action Center, and trade unionist Larry Adams of New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW).
Former Filipino "First Quarter Storm" student activist turned New Yorker Ramon Mappala also offered a personal tribute to Sison with an account of his days as a member of the Kabataang Makabayan (KM), a militant youth organization that was eventually forced to go underground with the declaration of Martial Law in 1972. Sison also served as KM's founding Chair at a time of intense US-initiated conflict in the Asia-Pacific region with the Vietnam War.
"We are thrilled to bring to the world a glimpse of the man this government has wrongfully labeled a terrorist. Terrorists are not popular or supported by the people. But tonight it is clear Jose Maria Sison's life has won the hearts and minds of the Filipino people and strong support from all those who yearn for freedom from US war and aggression around the world.. He is not a terrorist, but a genuine freedom-fighter, because he has dedicated his life to the democratic cause of oppressed peoples," stated Berna Ellorin, secretary-general of BAYAN USA and the event's emcee.
An infamous karaoke fiend, Sison offered an acapella rendition of Besame Mucho in Spanish and Filipino at the program's end, followed by enthusiastic community singing of the International in Filipino.
Sison was listed back in 1986 as one of the world's 200 most imporant Marxists by the London Bibligraphical dictionary of Marxism since the publishing of the Communist Manfesto in 1848.
A recent interview with Sison conducted by Pacifica Radio's Michael Slate can be accessed at http://126.96.36.199/parchive/mp3/kpfk_070605_170300bts_michael.mp3
The organizers agreed to continue the tribute by organizing future interactive forums in NYC with Sison. As part of the overall DEFEND Joma campaign to have him delisted as an FTO and defend his democratic rights as a political refugee a second forum is tentatively scheduled in NYC for Sunday, July 29th.
For more information, contact the NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines at nychrp @ yahoo.com
References: Berna Ellorin, Secretary-General, BAYAN USA, email: firstname.lastname@example.org ;
Michelle Saulon, Anakbayan New York/New Jersey, email: email@example.com