Interview with Prof. Jose Maria Sison:
On His Current Status, People's War, and Peace Negotiations
by Roselle Valerio
June 27, 2008
Prof. Jose Maria Sison at his office.
Thank you for agreeing to this interview. I intend to ask you questions about your legal and political situation, the people's war in the Philippines and the peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).
Persecution of Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Q1: In what capacity do you answer my questions?
JMS: As a Filipino and as a member of humankind. As a student and teacher of political science. As the chief political consultant of the NDFP in peace negotiations with the GRP.
Q2: What about as the founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) or as the current chairman of the Central Committee of the CPP?
JMS: As founding chairperson of the CPP. That is a historical fact. I may be able to cite pertinent events in CPP history to shed light on current circumstances. The circumstances are clear that I cannot speak as the current chairman of the CPP Central Committee. My curriculum vitae is publicly available in the website of the International Network of Philippine Studies.
Q3: You were a target of the charge of subversion as the alleged CPP chairman in September 1988. A month after, this charge pushed you to seek political asylum in the Netherlands. Subsequently, the Philippine military authorities poured out more charges against you to oppose your asylum application. What became of those charges?
JMS: The subversion charge and other allegations against me were supplied by the Philippine government to the Dutch government upon the direction of the US government. Indeed, they were used to counter my application for asylum and residence even as the Raad van State, the highest Dutch administrative, court ruled in 1992 and 1995 that I am a political refugee in accordance with the Refugee Convention. In an online bulletin the US State Department acknowledged that it used the Philippine government to intervene in my asylum case. And the Dutch government also openly declared that it was denying me asylum supposedly to maintain the credibility of its relations with allied governments.
All the false charges against me were politically-motivated and were used for psychological warfare in the mass media. The charge of subversion was the only one that was filed before a court in the Philippines. It was dismissed by the court in 1992 after the repeal of the oppressive Anti-Subversion Law. In principle, the CPP was supposed to have become legal in the Philippines. The charge of multiple murders in connection with the 1971 Plaza Miranda grenade attacks on the opposition party was finally dismissed by the prosecutors of Manila in 1994. In April 1998 the Philippine secretary of justice certified that there was no pending criminal case against me.
But the Dutch government had used the false charges to block my legal admission to the Netherlands as a refugee. It had given credence to all the false charges supplied by the Philippine government since the late 1980s. It also made its own false claim that I had contacts with so-called terrorist groups. It used the lie to buttress its argument that it denied me asylum supposedly in order to maintain the "credibility" of the Dutch state to its US and other allies. It never started any criminal investigation of its own false charge against me in the 1990s. The Dutch intelligence fabricated the charge against me and never acknowledged my meetings with Philippine government officials, bishops, academics, parliamentarians, labor leaders, and all other kinds of respectable people from various countries.
Q4: It seemed like the Philippine authorities did not bother you any more with false charges from 1998 until sometime under the Arroyo regime. If I remember correctly, then President Ramos and Speaker de Venecia were urging you to visit the Philippines. Did the Philippine authorities ever stop exerting pressures or making threats against you? Please elaborate on the charges filed against you before prosecutors and courts during the time of Arroyo.
JMS: The Philippine authorities never stopped throwing false charges against me in the mass media, from the time of Aquino up to that of Arroyo. Indeed, no formal charge was made against me before any court from late 1992 until 2006. But in 1999 Philippine authorities made a decision to have me assassinated in the Netherlands. I became aware of this in October 2000 after two failed attempts had already been made against me.
Since the second half of 2001, the Arroyo regime escalated false charges of rebellion and common crimes against me in military press releases and in complaints to prosecutors. In November 2001, Arroyo herself requested the US government to put me on its so-called terrorist list. Subsequently, the US government put me on this list on 12 August 2002. Other governments followed suit upon signals from the US government and the open lobbying of the Philippine government.
Each time that the NPA undertakes tactical offensives, I become the target of false charges in the press. The military and police investigators also include my name in formal complaints submitted to prosecutors. These have been done most systematically against me under Oplan Bantay Laya, especially since 2005 under the auspices of the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG) directed by the national security adviser on behalf of Arroyo and her cabinet cluster on internal security.
The IALAG is the agency denounced by UN special rapporteur for trumping up charges to stigmatize opposition leaders as "enemies of the state" and to cause their detention. The IALAG is also used for covering up such human rights violations as extrajudicial killings and disappearances.
Q5: What else have the Philippine authorities under the Arroyo regime done against you?
No less than the national security adviser called for my assassination in a full cabinet meeting. The Philippine authorities headed by foreign secretary Alberto Romulo agreed with the Dutch authorities headed by Dutch justice minister Piet Hein Donner on 26 January 2005 to trump up criminal charges of murder by which I could be charged, arrested, and detained and by which the legal protection I have from Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights could be circumvented.
The two government sides agreed to accuse me for the 2003 and 2004 killings of two military assets, Romulo Kintanar and Arturo Tabara. Thus, the Dutch police started in 2006 to collect testimonies from false witnesses provided by the Philippine authorities. At the same time, in violation of my right against double jeopardy, the Philippine government included these killings as specifications in the formal charge of rebellion filed against me and 50 other opposition personalities before the Makati court in late February 2006.
In July 2007 the Philippine Supreme Court ordered the dismissal of the charge, nullified the supposed evidence and berated the prosecution for engaging in politically-motivated charges and prostituting its office. The Philippine authorities did not inform the Dutch authorities about the content of the February 2006 charge of rebellion and the July 2007 Supreme Court decision. They made fools out of the Dutch authorities who proceeded to arrest and detain me on 28 August 2007,
Q6: How did you manage to get out of detention? What are the factors involved?
JMS: The first factor involved is the truth that I had nothing to do with the killing of Kintanar and Tabara and that the Dutch prosecution could not provide any direct evidence against me. The second factor is that my lawyers are highly competent and the courts that we have gone through can easily see the lack of prima facie evidence against me. The third factor is the widespread militant support that I have received from the people in the Philippines and in various countries. People in more than 20 countries demonstrated against Dutch embassies and consulates to demand my release and denounce the injustice done against me.
Prof. Jose Maria Sison carrying his personal belongings in a plastic sack upon his release from The Hague penitentiary on 13 September 2007 in the Netherlands
The District Court of The Hague decided on 13 September 2007 to release me for lack of evidence. In response to the appeal of the prosecution, the Court of Appeal decided on 3 October 2007 to uphold the earlier court decision on the lack of prima facie evidence and went further by pointing to the political context in which the charge is obviously politically motivated, the witnesses against me are unreliable, and it is doubtful whether I can exercise my right to cross-examine witnesses. The examining judge who had allowed my arrest and the raids on 28 August 2007 terminated the preliminary investigation on 21 November 2007.
Q7: People cannot understand why after all the court decisions in your favor, the District Court of The Hague decided on 5 June 2008 to allow the prosecution to continue investigating you and possibly to indict you at some later date. Were the previous court decisions worthless? What is really the status of your case?
JMS: In its 5 June 2008 decision the District Court of The Hague upheld the previous court decisions and declared on its own that so far (as of 20 May2008) there is no incriminating evidence against me. But it wrongly claimed that I had given up my demand to end the investigation and close the case against me by demanding that I be declared out of prosecution and an investigation be thoroughly conducted against those involved in assassination attempts against me in 2000 and 2001 and thereafter. In fact, my counsel Michiel Pestman pointed out to the court that the prosecution had previously wanted to extend the investigation only up to mid-June 2008.
The court also wrongly gave credence to the claims of the prosecution that out of 6.3 million items seized in the 28 August 2007 raids it still had to examine 1.3 million items and that the previous examining judge had allowed it to examine more witnesses. In fact, the examining judge closed the investigation because of the court decisions and the failure of the prosecution to come up with incriminating evidence. Normally, the case against me would have been dropped entirely. But certain political factors are at work.
Under the Dutch legal system, the prosecution is allowed to ask for an extension of investigation together with the police and even without the examining judge. It is given the benefit of a doubt that it might still be able to turn up incriminating evidence, after which it can go to court to ask for another examining judge and I am also supposed to get the chance to cross-examine the witnesses against me before both the defense and prosecution go to court for trial.
The prosecution announced in court that its decision could be expected before December 1, 2008. It also hinted that it is considering to shift the charge of murder under Dutch criminal law to a charge of war crimes under the Geneva Convention and crimes against humanity under the International Crimes Act because supposedly it is easier to prove command responsibility than direct personal responsibility in a murder charge.
Q8: You mention political considerations in the continuance of the investigation against you by the prosecution. What are these?
In the first place, the charge of inducing the murder of military assets in the Philippines is without factual and legal basis but is politically motivated and is the result of a political deal between Philippine and Dutch authorities. It would also be a political decision for the Dutch authorities to shift from a charge of inducing murder to one of war crimes or crimes against humanity. They will have to recognize the political authority of the revolutionary forces as basis for demanding command responsibility. This is contrary to the constant position of the Philippine authorities that the revolutionary forces are merely their domestic police problem.
But I think that the clearest and strongest consideration of the Dutch authorities in making the false criminal charge of inducing murder is to have the pretext to arrest me and raid the offices of the NDF Information Bureau and the NDFP Negotiating Panel and the homes of the panel members, consultants, and staffers. Some of the papers and digital files seized from the raids have been used as basis for statements in the Dutch court decisions to the effect that I and other NDFP personnel in the Netherlands play a "prominent role" in the CPP and the NPA. Such materials are in the possession of those raided because they are needed in the peace negotiations of the NDFP with the Philippine government.
These court decisions are favorable to me in so far as these established the lack of prima facie evidence and effected my release from detention relative to the murder charge. But they are now being used by the Council of the European Union to provide a false judicial basis for the serialized perpetuation of my name in the so-called terrorist list of the European Union. I am certain that the US, Dutch, and Philippine governments are in cahoots in trumping up the false charge of terrorism and using it in the US-instigated global war of terror and state terrorism. These three governments had also worked together before to oppose my application for asylum.
Q9 Are you going to appeal the June 5 decision of the District Court of The Hague? Why did you demand that the investigation against you be ended and redirected against those involved in the assassination attempts against you? What are you doing regarding this?
JMS: My lawyer and I are studying the possibility of appealing the June 5 decision of the District Court of The Hague. We are also observing how the prosecution is proceeding.
We demanded that the prosecution make a thorough investigation and undertake a prosecution of those involved in the assassination attempts against me. The Dutch prosecution and police themselves have made significant findings in 2007 and 2008 about these assassination attempts. These are in the BORSSOM file and include the testimonies of Jose Ramos, Gloria Jopson-Kintanar, and Ruel Murakami and some documentary evidence.
But the prosecution made a decision not to prosecute those involved in the assassination attempts, supposedly because they have voluntarily withdrawn from these. It claims that there is no more crime to prosecute despite the criminal attempts on my person and life on Dutch territory. Thus I filed before the Dutch Court of Appeal on 12 June 2008 a complaint against the prosecution for failing to prosecute a criminal act.
Q10 Why are the Dutch authorities so relentless in using false charges to oppress you, deny you asylum and residence, stigmatize you as a terrorist, ban you from work, deprive you of the essential means of human existence and arrest and detain you?
JMS: The long-running reason is to discredit, isolate, and run me down or to discourage me from exercising my freedom of thought and expression against US and Dutch imperialism and their puppets in the Philippines. The more recent reasons are connected with the US-instigated global war of terror and the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. Regarding these, the Philippine authorities and their imperialist masters have interrelated objectives.
Under the pretext of looking for evidence against me on the charge of inciting murder, the raids were conducted on the NDFP office and homes of the NDFP panel members, consultants, and staffers as a larger fishing expedition in connection with the false charge of terrorism involved in my case against the Council of the European Union before the European Court in Luxembourg.
The US, Dutch, European, and Philippine authorities are also collaborating to pressure the NDFP to capitulate to the GRP. They have made many declarations that the CPP, the NPA, and myself would be removed from the so-called terrorist list as soon as the NDFP capitulated to the GRP.
Roselle Valerio is editor of Liberation International. Read Parts II and III of the interview.