Revolutionary Jose Maria Sison on US Imperialism and a Way Forward for the Philippines
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
In 2002, seemingly out of nowhere, then US Secretary of State Colin Powell announced that the USA henceforth considered the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and their armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), to be terrorist organizations. Additionally, they labeled a long-time Philippine revolutionary leader and theorist—Jose Maria Sison—to be a supporter of terrorism. Sison had been living in exile in the Netherlands. This labeling, denounced immediately by civil liberties advocates in the USA, the Philippines and other parts of the world, has resulted in myriad of legal ramblings and complications for all those associated with the NDFP and CPP. What made this announcement by Powell so odd was that the conflict in the Philippines represented a long-running—and internationally recognized—civil war and the NDFP (and Sison) had been engaged in peace negotiations, a process that was certainly harmed by the Bush administration’s allegations. These allegations also emerged at a time of increasing usage by the US government of the label of “terrorist” or “supporter of terrorism” to describe opponents.
The following is drawn from a longer interview with Professor Sison. This component focuses upon his analysis of the current situation in the Philippines, negotiations with the Philippine government and the question of the terrorist label used by the US government against various forces.
If you apply your search engine to research Professor Sison you will find a considerable number of references, including his own website which provides biographical background (see: www.josemariasison.org). Sison, born in 1939, has been a major leader in Philippine radical politics since the 1960s. He served as the founding chair of the revamped Communist Party of the Philippines in 1968 and helped in the creation of the New People’s Army the following year. He was captured by the government forces of then dictator Ferdinand Marcos at which time he was both imprisoned and tortured. He gained release in 1986 when Marcos was overthrown in the famous “People Power” uprising. He then attempted to assist in negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (the broad umbrella group coordinating the insurrection in which the CPP and NPA can be found) and the government of President Corazon Aquino, but these came to nothing as the government moved more to the Right and repression was imposed on opponents of the government. Sison found himself in exile when he was traveling and his passport was cancelled.
Though in exile, Sison was tapped to serve as the chief political consultant to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. As a result he has been very much in touch with the unfolding of the struggle on that archipelago, a struggle that includes the armed insurrection led by the CPP/NPA, as well as a secessionist movement on the southern island of Mindanao among the largely Muslim Moro people (a movement supported by the NDFP).
Despite the length of the immediate insurrection, and the long-term struggle that the Philippine people have conducted to achieve genuine freedom from US domination—a struggle dating back to the Spanish-American War—the Philippines rarely receives much attention except when the US government discusses alleged Muslim terrorism on Mindanao. For that reason it is useful for US audiences to understand the point of view of the insurrectionists irrespective of whether one agrees with their objectives and/or means.
1. You have described the Philippines as semi-colonial/semi-feudal. Please explain what this means in practical terms. We are in the early years of the 21st century. How could there be a semi-feudal situation in the Philippines? The Philippines seems, for all intents and purposes, to be tied into global capitalism.