could be no different from any other foreign-based Filipinos.
Browsing through dailies every morning after breakfast,
taking time off to write, going to office after lunch,
watching TV after dinner, sleeping late at night after
being subjected to late night interviews by media practitioners
from his homeland. But then, he’s no ordinary mortal.
He is an intellectual, a ideologue, and more importantly,
the most prominent figure in the Philippine Revolutionary
Movement. He is Jose Maria Sison, and now, he is being....
Jose Maria Sison, a Filipino, chief political consultant
of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)
in the on-and-off peace talks negotiation with the Philippines
government, made international headline. The US Treasury
Department included him, along with the CPP-NPA, in its
“terrorist” list last Aug. 12, 2002.
After the US “terrorist”
tag, life has never been the same for the Sisons. The
next day, apparently because of US prodding, the Dutch
government issued “Sanctions Ruling on Terrorism
2002 III.” On Aug. 15, the Dutch Finance Ministry
froze the joint bank account of the Sison couple. The
account contains 1,000 euros (around 50,000 pesos). On
Sept. 10, 2002, the Dutch Social Welfare Agency removed
Sison’s state subsidies on food, housing, health
insurance and other basic necessities.
On Oct. 30, 2002, the European
Union also declared the CPP-NPA and Jose Maria Sison terrorists.
If political columns and gossips
are to be believed, Prof. Jose Maria Sison is enjoying
a good life abroad. That he is a night owl who likes to
disco and sing a lot. Many, especially friends and those
who knew Sison personally, resent this depiction of him.
Sure he sings, his friends say,
his favorite changing Frank Sinatra’s “My
Way” to “I did it, Mao’s Way.”
Sure he dances, he shuffles. But they said, more than
all this, Ka JoeMa, (Prof. Sison’s more popular
name) is a principled man and a revolutionary.
Sison has spent 14 years living
in exile in Utrecht, the Netherlands. According to him,
his being abroad is not a personal choice. He was forced
by circumstance because then Philippine president Cory
Aquino cancelled his passport while he was doing lectures
in the Netherlands in 1988.
A political exile, Sison has since
then, join other Utrecht-based Filipinos in bringing the
plight of the Filipinos and their struggle to the consciousness
of the international community. Most recently, he served
as the general consultant of the International League
of People’s Struggles (ILPS). The said organization
is comprised of more than a hundred people’s organizations
that act as coordinating centers for all anti-imperialist
and democratic struggles worldwide.
There is no denying that Sison
is a political figure. All the Philippine presidents since
Marcos has recognized him as a leading and respected figure
of the Left if not the revolutionary movement. President
Corazon Aquino through emissaries sent feelers to the
Utrecht-based Sison and company for a peace negotiations
but this did not push through. During the term of President
Fidel Ramos, the GRP panel officially recognized Sison
as chief political consultant of the NDF. The Peace Talks
efforts of the NDFP and the GRP resulted to the drafting
of the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International
Humanitarian Law. Deposed President Joseph Estrada signed
the agreement but did not honor it later.
Even those aspiring for top political
position go to the Netherlands hopeful to get the swing
votes of the Left. House Speaker Jose de Venecia has his
picture taken with Joema at the Netherlands during the
height of the 1998 presidential election. Senator Loren
Legarda communicates and coordinated with Sison and company
especially during the release of the prisoner of war,
Since being based abroad, JoeMa’s
opinion on many problems and issues at home has been consistently
sought by leading newspapers, TV and networks. The banters
between Estrada and Joema keep everyone in stitches laughing.
Estrada described Joema ugly while Joema gamely responded
by calling him El Loco because of his intellectual capacity
and Rambutete because of his war-freak solution to the
Sison (5th from right) with Dutch friends
the ‘Terrorist’ tag - Simple lifestyle and
Contrary to what have been written
about Sison’s lifestyle, he and the rest of the
NDF personalities based in Utrecht live a simple life.
With Europe’s high standard of living, one has to
earn really big to survive there.
Political refugees and asylum
seekers like Sison subsist on state subsidies that are
below the minimum wage. By Dutch society standard, Sison
and the rest of the political refugees are part of lower-income
grouping with incomes and conditions below even that of
the average Dutch worker. With only some 200 Euros, nothing
much is left of Joema’s subsidy after spending it
on the basics: food, rent and transportation.
A typical day for Joema starts
with reading newspapers to update himself with recent
events and developments.
He goes to the NDFP office to attend his workload as its
chief consultant. Meetings, speaking engagements or lecturing
also forms part of his daily routine. If time permits,
he sometimes play basketball with Louie Jalandoni and
other Filipino exiles.
Transportation alone eats up most
of his 200 Euros-a-month subsidy (an average train ride
normally costs some 11 Euros). For 14 years, the Sison
couple was not allowed to work and practice their professions.
They receive measly amount of social welfare benefits.
They have no savings. They have no pension. They live
in a small one-room affair abode. Friends who have visited
them describe their place as so cramp that all available
space have to be maximized to make way for the receiving
area, kitchen and other parts of their home.
Their situation is no different
from other overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). Like them,
he also experience hardship and homesickness. The only
big difference is that after working so hard and saving
enough money, the OFWs can go back home and feel the warm
embrace of their family and friends. Almost always cash-strapped,
Sison and the rest think of the homeland but it is not
that easy to go back home. Of course, they can go back
to the country, but not without any risk to their safety
and their lives.
In a special gathering of friends
and relatives of the Utrecht-based Filipinos who are being
tagged as “terrorists,” Romeo Capulong, former
legal counsel of the NDFP negotiating panel said how he
observed the simplicity in the lifestyle of JoeMa and
the rest. Since they really do not own and have much,
he had never seen the NDFP panel pick up the bill during
meetings with the government panel. He added that they
even take with them any uneaten food.
on borrowed money, surviving through the help of friends
It was not simply dramatics
that the progressive and militant youth organization,
Anakbayan, launched a “Piso For JoeMa” (A
Peso for JoeMa) and solicited donations (canned goods,
toiletries etc.) for the Sison family.
They launched the drive after
the state subsidies of Prof. Sison were cut off on September
Since the Dutch Social Welfare
Agency terminated his subsidies, Prof. Sison and his
wife, Julie, have to borrow money from friends to pay
their bill and basic needs for food and other basic
things. Friends and relatives have poured in their support,
contributing financially to tide them over.
The international community,
particularly the Dutch and the Belgian people have also
thrown in their support. Sison’s Belgian friends
and comrades have pledged to foot some of their bills.
In a recent TV interview in
Channel 2, Sison, in his usual jolly but witty mood
indignantly deny the terrorist tag. He said that the
actions taken against him are serious reminders of how
cruel and malicious the US imperialist’s War Against
Terror is. According to him, all the things that are
taken from him by the Dutch government are at the level
of subsistence and have absolutely nothing to do with
The worst is yet to come
The worst is yet to come for
Sison especially that the US and the Arroyo government
are hell-bent on pushing for his detention and extradition
to the United States.
His biggest problem to date
is how to raise finances for his legal defense to legally
prevent US plans for his preventive detention and extradition.
Court cases are being prepared in defense of Sison’s
civil rights against the “terrorist” listing
and withdrawal of benefits at the Dutch national level.
Joema’s daily schedules
basically remain the same but with additional load on
a legal battle against the terrorist tag raised against
him. Much of his time is spent on consultation with
lawyers Jan Hermon, Hans Langenberg and Dundar Gurses,
who have volunteered their expertise in helping him
challenge the terrorist listing. He has also busied
himself making rounds of public speaking before Flipino
communities and foreign support groups.
Through it all, Sison has proudly
stood his ground. For him, the biggest terrorist is
the US imperialist — trampling upon the national
sovereignty and independence of countries.
If Sison is a ‘terrorist’,
why are support pouring in?
It is ironic that the very one
who tagged Sison as a “terrorist” is the
one who is in a tight fix and greatly criticized. Tens
of thousands are demonstrating on the streets all over
the world calling the Bush administration a warmonger.
Prominent personalities like Barbra Streisand, Jimmy
Carter, Tim Robbins and many more have stood up against
the Bush administration’s plan to declare war
on Iraq. Wouldn’t the “terrorist”
tag put the Arroyo government in a dilemma? Simply put,
the Arroyo government and those before her have been
negotiating with “terrorists” all long?
Legal luminaries and some congressmen are cautioning
the government not to go easy with the terrorist tag.
Many lawyers are of the opinion that there should be
clear distinction between terrorist acts and “acts
or omissions committed for political purposes in the
context of an “armed conflict.” Civil libertarians
on the other hand are worried about the possible repercussion
of the “terrorist” tag. Would the labeling
of the CPP-NPA and Sison set a precedent? Could it be
that today it is the CPP-NPA, tomorrow any legitimate
On the other hand, Sison enjoys
the support and sympathy of groups and organizations
not only in the Philippines but also in other countries.
Even members of the Dutch parliament are questioning
the “terrorist” tag and the actions imposed
by the Dutch government on Sison.
Maybe the term terrorist has
a new meaning now.
Ter-ror-ist (ter-er-ist),: n. any country, group or
individual that dares to struggle for social liberation
in order to attain genuine peace, equality and prosperity
to all mankind.
the political figure
who is Jose Maria Sison? And why are the US and the Arroyo
governments after his head?
• Born on Feb. 8, 1939
in Cabugao, Ilocos Sur. He took up English Literature
and graduated cum laude at the University of the Philippines
• Founder of the Kabataang
Makabayan, where he served as its national chairman
from 1964 to 1968.
• Tagged by the military
as the founder and chairman (1968- 1977) of the Communist
Party of the Philippines (CPP).
• Wrote the books Struggle
for National Democracy (1967), Philippine Society and
Revolution (1970) and Prison and Beyond: Selected Poems
• Arrested on Nov. 10,
1977 and detained in solitary
confinement from 1977 to 1986.
• Chief political consultant,
National Democratic Front (NDF) of the Philippines.
• Presently, the general
consultant of the International League of People’s
A month after the Marcos regime
was successfuly toppled by a People’s Power Revolution
in February 1986, Prof. Jose Maria Sison, one of the longest
held political prisoners, was ordered released by President
Sison went back to teaching at
the Asian Center of Graduate Studies of UP. He also lectured
on Philippine Crisis and Revolution in 1986.
In 1987, Sison went abroad to
lecture. He was in the Netherlands when the Philippine
military charged him with subversion. President Aquino
consequently cancelled his passport in 1988.
Many believed that Sison could
have been one of the many left-leaning personalities assassinated
along with Kilusang Mayo Uno and Partido ng Bayan chairman
Rolando Olalia and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary-general
Leandro Alejandro during that turbulent period had he
been in the country at that time.
Forced by circumstance, Sison
applied for political asylum in the Netherlands in October
1988. He was recognized a political refugee by the UN
High Commissioner for Refugees in 1991. The Raad van State,
the highest Dutch court, affirmed his status as a political
refugee in 1992. The Dutch government’s recognition
came next in 1995. In 1997 the Law Unity Chamber recognized
Sison’s status as as political refugee.