Interview With Prof. Jose Maria Sison
International League of Peoples’ Struggle
By Enrico Piovesana
20 August 2007
Enrico Piovesana (EP): Prof. Sison, could you please tell us briefly about your personal and political history, from your childhood up to becoming an “International terrorist”?
Professor Jose Maria Sison (JMS): I am not a terrorist. I stand for principles and actions that are for the benefit of the people fighting for national liberation, democracy and socialism. I am a Filipino patriot and a proletarian internationalist, not an “international terrorist” by any suggestion. Communists are not terrorists. European governments are wrong for following the Bush line that communists, progressive mass leaders, national liberation movements and anti-imperialist governments are terrorists. The imperialist powers are engaged in fascisation on a global scale.
By my writings and political acts, I am well-known for opposing policies and actions that harm or work against the interests of the people. I stand up for the rights and interests of the people and support their revolutionary struggles. I have strongly opposed micro-terrorists like Al Qaida and Abu Sayyaf and macro-terrorists like the US and other imperialist powers that kill large numbers of people through the daily violence of exploitation, state terrorism and wars of aggression.
You can get the biographical information about me from the book, At Home in the World: Portrait of a Filipino Revolutionary. At any rate, here are a few facts. I was born on February 8, 1939 in Cabugao, Ilocos Sur, Philippines. I took my grade school in this town and high school in Manila. I took my bachelor and masteral courses at the University of the Philippines and I taught English literature and political science subjects in two universities. I was active in the anti-imperialist and anti-feudal mass movement. I became the chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines from 1968 to 1977. I was arrested, tortured and detained by the Marcos fascist dictatorship from 1977 to 1986.
I was released from military detention after the fall of Marcos in 1986 and rejoined the faculty of the University of the Philippines. I went on a university lecture tour in the Asia-Pacific region and then in Europe from late 1986 onwards. When my Philippine passport was cancelled in 1988, I applied for political asylum in The Netherlands. I am now the chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in peace negotiations with the reactionary Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP). Ironically, it is in connection with the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations that the CPP, New People’s Army NPA) and I have been blacklisted as “terrorists” by the US and other foreign governments upon the lobbying of the GRP in order to pressure the NDFP towards capitulation.
EP: How would you describe the nature of NPA struggle: history, strength, spread, activities, social support, mid-term and long-term goals?
JMS: The Communist Party of the Philippines describes the New People’s Army as the main weapon for protracted people’s war and seizure of political power along the line of the new democratic revolution under the leadership of the working class in the concrete conditions of the Philippines. The NPA was established on March 29, 1969, a few months after the reestablishment of the CPP in 1968. It has carried out fighting, political, productive and cultural tasks for more than 38 years. It is deeply and widely based among the people, mainly the peasantry.
It has more than 120 guerrilla fronts. It operates in 70 of the 81 provinces of the Philippines, 800 out of 1500 Philippine municipalities and in more than 10,000 out of the 42,000 Philippine villages. It has been instrumental in the establishment and development of mass organizations and organs of political power. It has generated and supported social programs and mass campaigns for the benefit of the people in mass education, land reform, production, health, defense, cultural activities and settlement of disputes.
The goals announced by the NPA are to seize political power in order to complete the new democratic revolution and establish a people’s republic and then to become the main component of state power and defender of the people in socialist revolution and construction in the Philippines.
EP: What’s your reply to those who say that nowadays a Maoist guerrilla fighting for a socialist state is anachronistic?
JMS: The NPA cannot be anachronistic by fighting for national liberation and democracy against US imperialism and the local exploiting classes of big compradors and landlords. It is the new democratic force that is striving to defeat such anachronistic monsters as imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism which exploit and oppress the broad masses of the people.
By the time that the NPA succeeds in defeating these anachronistic monsters, then the people shall have accumulated the strength necessary for building socialism under conditions of an imperialism much weakened by accelerated crisis under such policies as “free market” globalization and global war of terror spearheaded by US monopoly capitalism. The world capitalist system has a growing tendency to implode because of the increased number of competing imperialist powers and the growing resistance of the people of the world.
EP: The CPP program states that the future socialist State will have special relations with the People’s Republic of China. Many people say that NPA is even armed by China. Why do you still consider China a revolutionary state, even if it has become a completely capitalist country?
JMS: At the time that the CPP program was formulated in 1968, the People’s Republic of China was still a socialist state and was practically the center of the world proletarian revolution through the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. But since then, especially after 1976, CPP documents and publications have been criticizing the revisionists and capitalist restorationists that have prevailed over the Marxist-Leninists in China. As you say, China has become capitalist and is no longer a revolutionary state. I refer you to CPP documents and publications criticizing and condemning “free market” globalization in sharp contrast to China’s conformity to this policy pushed by the US and other imperialist powers.
EP: Could you explain what the ‘Oplan Bantay Laya’ is and its effects on civilians and political activists?
JMS: Oplan Bantay Laya is a “national internal security plan” patterned after Oplan Phoenix of the US in Vietnam during the late 1960s. It seeks to destroy the political infrastructure and the guerrilla fronts of the armed revolutionary movement. It is instigated by the US in the context of its policy of global war of terror. The US has described the Philippines as the second front of such global war. It has introduced thousands of US military troops in the Philippines and increased military supplies to its Filipino puppets to push them on a counterrevolutionary rampage in the name of anti-terrorism.
Oplan Bantay Laya has brought about the extrajudicial killing, forced disappearance and torture of more than a thousand progressive legal activists, including leaders of progressive mass organizations, journalists, lawyers, religious leaders and other activists who advocate human rights, social justice and just peace. It has also brought about the brutal displacement of more than one million people mainly in the countryside, in addition to a previous level of two million internal refugees. The forced displacement of the people is calculated to divest them of their land and to deliver this to foreign mining, agribusiness and recreation companies.
Oplan Bantay Laya aims to destroy the armed revolution and legal opposition and to intimidate the people. But it has failed to destroy a single guerrilla front of the NPA. It has only served to fuel the flames of the armed revolution. The gross and systematic violations of the human rights of the progressive legal activists have outraged the Filipino people and the people of the world. The progressive legal mass movement has risen up to a new level against the escalating acts of violence against the people by the US and the local reactionaries. Even international human rights organizations and human rights agencies of the UN have pointed to the criminal responsibility of the Filipino puppet rulers headed by Arroyo.
EP: The situation will get worse from now on with the new anti-terror law: the Human Security Act enforced on July 15?
JMS: Indeed, the human rights situation will get worse with the anti-terror-law, which is deceptively called Human Security Act of 2007. The definitions of “terrorism” and “conspiracy to commit terrorism” are vague and overly broad. It becomes very easy for the Arroyo regime to take punitive actions against any individual,, any organization and any party in the opposition. The punitive actions include limitless surveillance, warrantless arrests, indefinite detention without bail, proscription as “terrorists” and seizure of properties and financial assets.
EP: Do you think that under Arroyo’s leadership, Philippines is going backward to the Marcos dictatorship era?
JMS: In many respects and to a great extent, the Arroyo regime is already very much on the fascist road of the Marcos dictatorship. Especially with the HSA of 2007, the Arroyo regime has gotten a license for martial rule without having to declare martial law and comply with requirements set by the anti-fascist provisions of the 1987 constitution
EP: What is the role of US military in supporting Philippines troops? Only training and logistical support or something more?
JMS: The role of the US military in supporting Philippine troops is not limited to weapons training and logistical support. It is to indoctrinate the puppet officers and troops and enhance their subservience, mercenary character and puppetry to US political and military plans in East Asia and the world at large, It is to gain intelligence from the puppet forces against the Filipino people as well as to provide intelligence to the puppet forces in order to condition their thinking and operations. It is to lay anew and develop the infrastructure for direct US military presence and operations in the Philippines and for US military intervention and aggression in Southeast Asia, East Asia and farther afield.
EP: Official figures put at 40 thousand the death toll of the ‘People War’. Do you confirm this number? Is it true that the conflict is now in an escalating phase?
JMS: It is wrong for anyone to ascribe the death toll of 40,000 or whatever number to the people’s war .. We must make clear that this number refers to the people killed by the military, police and paramilitary forces of the reactionary government in the course of anti-NPA campaigns of suppression as early as during the time of the Marcos fascist dictatorship. Since after the fall of the Marcos regime, the number would have significantly increased to 60,000 with the count of victims in the brutal campaigns of anti-communist military suppression under the regimes of Aquino, Ramos, Estrada and Arroyo.
Being the army of the people, the NPA strictly directs its fire against the military, police and paramilitary forces of the oppressive regime. There is an estimate that since 1969 the NPA has killed more than 30,000 enemy troops and wounded many more and the reactionary military and police have killed around 10,000 Red fighters and more than 50,000 civilians. These figures exclude the casualties in the fighting between the reactionary armed forces and the Moro liberation forces.
EP: What about the peace negotiations started in Brussels in 1995?
JMS: The peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) have made some progress in the form of agreements within the framework of The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992. The most significant of the agreements is the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, which is the first item in the substantive agenda of the peace negotiations.
But under various pretexts, the GRP has blocked the further advance of the peace negotiations by repeated attempts to require the NDFP to capitulate and by repeated declarations of prolonged recesses, suspension of talks and even the termination of the negotiations. The peace negotiations become paralyzed every time the GRP demands the surrender of the revolutionary forces and stops the negotiations as a process for addressing the roots of the armed conflict and agreeing on social, economic and political reforms for the benefit of the people.
EP: What do you think about the other Philippine armed conflict: the one between goverment and Moro Islamic Liberation Front? And what is your opinion about the Abu Sayyaf Group?
JMS: The Moro people have the right to national self-determination, democracy, development and peaceful enjoyment of their ancestral domain. They have the right to secede from an oppressive state and to demand regional autonomy in a nonoppressive state. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is waging a just revolutionary armed struggle along the line of upholding, protecting and promoting the national and democratic rights and interests of the Moro people.
The Abu Sayyaf is different . It was originally organized by the CIA and Philippine military intelligence in 1991 in order to make trouble on the flanks of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). But when the MNLF capitulated to the GRP in 1996, the Abu Sayyaf appeared to run out of control of the CIA and Philippine reactionary military. Now, it is being used by the US as pretext for the continuing presence of US military forces in Mindanao and the entire Philippines.###