Interview with Prof. Jose Maria Sison on His 1986 Release and Current Political Prisoners
By Cyril Bonabente and Isa Lorenzo
U.P. Journalism Club, University of the Philippines
28 February 2005
1. When the Aquino administration began releasing political prisoners in 1986, your name was among the list of those slated to be freed. However, you were not included in the first batch of prisoners who were released. Why do you think your release was delayed?
Answer: The Aquino administration started to release political prisoners a few days after it came to power. This was in accordance with the commitment of Aquino as early as 1984 to release them in the spirit of building a broad united front against the Marcos fascist dictatorship. Indeed, I was supposed to be among the first to be released.
But my release was delayed for about a week. I was among the last four political detainees to be released on March 5, 1986. My release was opposed by the US government. Objections were also expressed by then defense secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and AFP chief of staff Gen. Fidel Ramos within the committee in charge of the releases.
2. How did the government agree to finally release you?
Answer: Within the committee in charge of releases, Enrile and Ramos were outnumbered by executive secretary Joker Arroyo, Rene Sarmiento and Jovito Salonga who were in favor of my release. My release was in accordance with the binding character and effect of the proclamation of then President Aquino nullifying the proclamation of Marcos to allow the violation of the civil and political liberties of people like her late husband Benigno Aquino and me and to permit our subjection to trial by military commissions and indefinite detention.
But the circumstances under the new reactionary regime would have been twisted against me by the US and most rabid puppets, if not for the vigilance and militancy of the people and mass organizations. These demanded my immediate release and protested against the delay of my release. They held mass actions everyday to demand my release. The Free Jose Maria Sison and Task Force Detainees were coordinating the mass actions. Personages like Juan T. David, Aurora Aquino, Sen. Lorenzo M. Tanada and Jose W. Diokno were also supportive of me and exercised positive influence on the new regime.
3. We have had the privilege of talking to several political prisoners in the New Bilibid Prison, including Donato Continente, who was accused of killing an American colonel and has been jailed for 16 years, Joven Velasco, a member of the NPA who was incarcerated at the age of 17, Ricardo Solangon, who was the vice-chairperson of Karapatan-Occidental Mindoro when he was jailed, and Ramilo Orgasan, a farmer mistaken for a member of the NPA. Although the DOJ has issued release orders for them, they have yet to be freed. In your opinion, why has the release of these men, as well as other political prisoners, been delayed?
Answer: In the specific case of Donato Continente, the US government is overly active in dictating on the puppet Manila-based government to imprison him indefinitely even in violation of the letter and spirit of the law and human rights standards. Everyone knows that Continente was tortured and falsely charged and convicted for the killing of Col. Rowe. But the US simply wants to make him a symbol of what the US power can do against anyone suspected of assaulting a US military officer.
In the case of all the political prisoners that you have mentioned, there are two points that are well demonstrated. First, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo does not honor her own word and signature ordering the release of said political prisoners in 2001. Second, she follows the basest and meanest wishes of her imperialist master and the most rabid imperialist agents like the militarists Generals Angelo Reyes and Eduardo Ermita and clerico-fascists like national security Norberto Gonzales and OPAPP secretary Teresita Q. Deles.
All of them think that they can hold the political prisoners as hostages in exchange for the capitulation and pacification of the revolutionary forces and people. They have practically sabotaged the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations and are in effect telling the people and the revolutionary forces that essentially and mainly the way out of the oppression of the political prisoners and the entire nation is carrying out the national democratic revolution through people's war. ###