WritingsinterviewsINTERVIEW WITH JOSE MARIA SISON

INTERVIEW WITH JOSE MARIA SISON

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By Ralf Leonards
Sibylle
28 September 2012

Heroes and Villains: Interview with Joma Sison

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Jose Maria “Joma” Sison is the founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which was re-established in 1968 at the time of the oppressive regime of Ferdinand Marcos, who for the most time of his two-decade long presidency ruled by martial law and embezzled billions of dollars of public funds. In 1969 the CPP organized its military wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), which up until now has been engaged in Asia’s longest ongoing communist insurgency.

In 1977 he was captured by the Marcos regime and detained until 1986, when Marcos was replaced by Corazon Aquino after a popular uprising referred to as the People Power Revolution. In the same year, he embarked on a world lecture tour. While he was in the Netherlands, the Aquino government revoked his passport and filed charges against him under the Anti-Subversion Law of the Philippines. Since then he has lived in Utrecht as a political refugee.

He also co-founded the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF), an umbrella organization of leftist groups, now involved in peace negotiations with the government. Since 2002 the USA has classified him as a “person supporting terrorism”. On September 28 I had the opportunity of conducting an interview with him for Sibylle in Utrecht.

Last week on September 21 was the 40th anniversary of the proclamation of martial law by the former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos. Can you recall your experiences and your role in the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship?

When martial law was declared by Marcos in 1972, I had already gone underground because I was the chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines. I was fighting the Marcos regime as early as 1968 until the time that I was captured in 1977. While under military detention from 1977 to 1986, I was conscious that if I showed defiance, people outside would be inspired. In prison I was subjected for a week to torture by punching and ‘water cure’ – in today´s famous term ‘waterboarding’.

But the longer period of torture was psychological– solitary confinement for more than 5 years. Marcos,you know, was a political animal. I was under difficult conditions of solitary confinement and almost every week he sent a military officer to interview me. Upon my capture I actually engaged Marcos in a conversation for some 30 minutes, it was more of a duel. He said, ¨I would like to have national reconciliation and unity.¨ I answered, if there is a basis for the benefit of the people, why not? As a political animal, he was reserving for himself the space for negotiating but even then I was tortured. Being the only torture victim who had the chance to talk to Marcos before being tortured, I would be able to give crucial testimony in the Human Rights litigation in the US against the Marcos estate.

But Marcos, who was a close friend of Ronald Reagan, was able to go into exile in Hawaii, so he basically got away with everything he did to the Filipino people.

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