José María Sison

Jose Maria Sison
Born (1939-02-08) February 8, 1939 (age 75)
Cabugao, Ilocos Sur, Commonwealth of the Philippines
Residence Utrecht, Netherlands
Nationality Filipino
Other names Joma Sison
Political party Communist Party of the Philippines, New People's Army

Jose Maria Sison (born February 8, 1939, Cabugao, Commonwealth of the Philippines) is a writer and activist who reorganized the Communist Party of the Philippines and added elements of Maoism to its philosophy.

Since August 2002, he has been classified as a "person supporting terrorism" by the United States. The European Union's second highest court ruled to delist him as a "person supporting terrorism" and reversed a decision by member governments to freeze assets.[1][2]

Early years

Jose Maria Sison was born at Cabugao, Ilocos Sur on February 8, 1939. Also a member of a prominent family with the connections to other prominent personalities like the Crisologos, Sison affirmed his background as a member of a landowning family. But during his childhood days, his inclination to the left began by listening to his barber discussing him about the Hukblahap in Ilocos (kwentong barbero), as well as studying in a public school in Ilocos (unlike his relatives) before entering Ateneo de Manila, then in Colegio de San Juan de Letran. A 1959 graduate of the University of the Philippines, Sison studied in Indonesia, before returning to the Philippines to settle as a university professor of literature. Sison also joined the Lavaite Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas as well as one of the founding members of the Socialist Party and Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism. And in 1964, he co-founded the Kabataang Makabayan or Patriotic Youth with Nilo S. Tayag. This organization rallied Filipino youth against the Vietnam war, against the Marcos presidency and corrupt politicians alongside Imperialism, Bureaucrat Capitalism and Feudalism. The organization also spearheaded the studying of Maoism as part of the struggle.

On December 26, 1968, he formed and chaired the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), an organization founded on Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought, stemming from his experience as a youth leader and labor and land reform activist. This is known as the First Great Rectification movement where Sison and other radical youth criticized the existing Party leadership, that was run under the Moscow leaning Lava and its failure. The reestablished CPP set its general political line as two-stage revolution comprising national-democratic as the first stage then proceeding to the socialist revolution. During this period, Sison went by the nom de guerre of Amado Guerrero, meaning "beloved warrior", under which he published the manifesto Philippine Society and Revolution.[3][4] In December 2007 the Communist Party of the Philippines commemorated its 39th anniversary.

Jose Maria Sison was confirmed to have given birth, at Barangay Dulacac at the tri-boundary of Alaminos, Bani and Mabini, Pangasinan, where the CPP "congress of reestablishment" was held on December 26, 1968, exactly at a hut near the house of the Navarettes, the parents-in-law of Arthur Garcia, one of the CPP founders.[5] Sison announced that communist guerillas held "cultural activities" and celebrated the 39th anniversary of the movement.[6]

After this, the old Communist Party sought to eliminate and marginalize Sison. However, the reorganized CPP had a larger base and renewed political line that attracted thousands to join its ranks. On March 29, 1969, the CPP, along with an HMB (Huk) faction led by Bernabe Buscayno, organized the New People's Army (NPA), the guerrilla-military wing of the Party, whose insurgencies around the Philippines, particularly in the northern part of the country, persist to this day. The NPA seeks to wage a peasant-worker revolutionary war in the countryside against landlords and foreign companies by hiding in mountains as strategy for protection.

Sison was arrested during the Marcos dictatorship and was imprisoned for almost 9 years. His experience was described in Prison & Beyond, a book of poetry released in 1986, which won the Southeast Asia WRITE award for the Philippines.

The CPP has stated for 20 years that Sison is no longer involved in operational decisions and serves from Europe in an advisory role. In 1986, after he was freed from prison, Sison embarked on a world tour. In October he accepted the Southeast Asia WRITE award for a book of his poems from the Crown Prince of Thailand in Bangkok. While visiting the Netherlands three months later, he was informed that his passport had been revoked and that charges had been filed against him under the Anti-Subversion Law of the Philippines. Those charges were later dropped, as have subsequent charges filed by authorities in the Philippines.


Sison went into exile in the Netherlands after the Marcos regime ended. He had already been released from prison by the government of Corazón Aquino for the sake of "national reconciliation" and for his role in opposing Marcos. The release of Sison was vehemently protested by the military. It is reported that upon his release, Sison and his followers actively sought to discredit the Aquino government in the European media by speaking out on Aquino's human rights violations including the Mendiola Massacre, in which members of the military were accused of firing on unarmed peasants in Manila, killing 17 people.

He is currently Chief Political Consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. Since 1987, Sison has resided in the Netherlands where he is seeking asylum as a political refugee. A 2004 court ruling by the European Union endangers the residency status of Sison in Europe and he is expected to be expelled. He has been charged with orchestrating the 2001 murder of Congressman Rodolfo Aguinaldo in the Philippines.[7] There has even been speculation the revocation of the death penalty in that country was in part to convince the Netherlands he could safely be deported, as he would have been facing the death penalty if convicted.[8]


The International Crime Investigation Team of the Dutch National Criminal Investigation Department arrested Jose Maria Sison in Utrecht on August 28, 2007. Sison was arrested for his involvement from the Netherlands in three assassinations that took place in the Philippines, the murder on Romulo Kintanar in 2003, and the murders of Arturo Tabara and Stephen Ong in 2006. On the day of his arrest, Sison's apartment and eight apartments of his co-workers were searched by the Dutch National Criminal Investigation Department.[9]

Some 100 left-wing activists held a demonstration for the release of Sison, marching towards the Dutch embassy in Manila on August 30, 2007. The demonstration was ended by the police.[10][11]

The trial will not be held in the Philippines, but in the Netherlands, since there is no extradition request and the crimes Jose Maria Sison is accused of were committed in the Netherlands. Jose Maria Sison will appear in court in The Hague on August 31, 2007. Dutch lawyer, Victor Koppe said that Sison will enter a plea of not guilty during his indictment on that day. He could face the maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The only person allowed to see Sison, lawyer Michiel Pestman met with him to prepare for the indictment.[12] Sison (detained at the Scheveningen prison in The Hague) appeared before a court at the Palace of Justice and per decision, will remain in detention for 14 more days. The judgment was made after evidences were presented by the prosecution panel.[13]

On September 1, 2007, National Democratic Front peace panel chair Luis Jalandoni confirmed that the Dutch government was "maltreating" Sison because the Court detained him in solitary confinement for 2 more weeks without access to media, newspapers, television, radio or visitors; it also denied him right to bring prescription medicines to his cell. The judge also scheduled another hearing on September 7 to rule if Sison would be released after 14 days or if his detention would be extended by another 90 days (the resolution can be appealed to the Dutch court of appeals). The place where Sison is to be jailed is the same one used by the late former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic who was held for war crimes and corruption. Meanwhile, protests were held in Indonesia, Hong Kong, Australia, the United States and Canada, and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) feared Sison may be “extra-judicially" transferred to the United States. CPP spokesman Gregorio Rosal said that the U.S. may detain and subject Sison to extraordinary rendition in Guantanamo Bay or some secret facility. U.S. ambassador Kristie Ann Kenney formally announced that the U.S. will extend support to the Dutch government to prosecute Sison.[14]

In New York City, former United States Attorney General and left-wing human rights lawyer Ramsey Clark called for Sison's release and pledged assistance by joining the latter’s legal defense team headed by Jan Fermon. Clark doubted Dutch authorities' validity and competency, since the murder charges originated in the Philippines and had already been dismissed by the country's Supreme Court.[15]

Committee DEFEND, an International group stated that the Dutch government tortured Sison at the National Penitentiary in Scheveningen (used by the Nazis in World War II to torture Dutch resistance fighters). His wife, Julie De Lima failed to see him to give medicines and warm clothes on August 30, 2007. [16] Meanwhile, counsel of Sison Romeo Capulong will question the Dutch government's jurisdiction over the issue and person alleging that the Supreme Court of the Philippines already dismissed the subject cases on July 2.[17]

On September 7, 2007, the Dutch court heard defense arguments for Sison, and stated that it would issue the resolution next week on whether to extend the detention. Supporters outside the Hague District Court chanted slogans while the wife, Julie De Lima stated that they complained to the International Committee of the Red Cross. Luis Jalandoni, chairman of the National Democratic Front accused the government of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende of being "a workhorse" for Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and for the U.S. government.[18]

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG), a progressive bar association in New York headed by Marjorie Cohnhas, denounced the arrest Sison: “it exposes the hand of the Arroyo administration in yet another assault on the rights of the people to dissent and organize.”[19] Sison will remain in jail until Thursday, but was provided TV, radio and medication.[20]

On September 12, 2007, lawyers Edre Olalia and Rachel Pastores stated that Sison's lawyers will appeal the Dutch court’s newly promulgated ruling extending Sison's detention for 90 days.[21]

Sison may is liable under violations of articles 47, 48, 140, and 289, Dutch Penal Code but had not been arraigned on any charge.[22] On September 13, 2007, however, National Democratic Front chief peace negotiator Luis Jalandoni, confirmed that Sison’s lawyer Michiel Pestman said that: “It appears that the president of the chamber made the decision and called [Pestman] to say that there’s no extension.”[23] Malacanang's National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales stated that it was surprised by the Dutch government’s decision to release Sison from jail.[24]

Release from detention

Dutch public prosecutor's office's Wim de Bruin stated that Sison was released from jail at 10:45 a.m. on September 13, 2007. The court ruled that there was no sufficient evidence to detain on murder charges, specifically, if Sison "had a conscious and close cooperation with those in the Philippines who carried out the deed."[25][26]

On September 27, 2007, Sison appeared before the Hague Court of Appeal panel of 3 judges on the public prosecutor's appeal against the district court's September 13 judgment of release. The Dutch court will promulgate the verdict on October 3.[27]

On September 28, 2007, the Dutch Ambassador to the Philippines, Robert Brinks announced that 3 Dutch judicial officials and Dutch prosecution lawyer Wim De Bruin will visit the Philippines "later this year" to review the evidence against Jose Maria Sison.[28] The next day Leung Kwok Hung, a Hong Kong politician and member of the April Fifth Action vowed to support Sison. Leung was in Europe at the Inter-Parliamentary Union assembly in Geneva, Switzerland. He sits in the Hong Kong legislature as member of the Finance and House Committees, and of the Legislative Panels on Constitutional Affairs, Housing, Manpower, Transport, and on Welfare Services.[29]

On October 3, 2007, the Dutch court dismissed the prosecution's appeal against the release Sison, making him free during the Dutch police investigation: "the prosecution file lacks enough concrete clues that Sison can be directly linked to the assassinations which is needed to prosecute him as a perpetrator". However, the decision never bar prosecution for murder.[30] But the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office (per spokesman Wim de Bruin) stated that it did not drop the charges against Sison yet, who remains a suspect. De Bruin said: "No, you have to separate the criminal investigation by the police from the investigation by the examining judge in The Hague. So the judge decided to finish the investigation but the police investigation will be continued and that means that Mr. Sison is still a suspect."[31]

The Dutch court on May 20, 2008, heard Sison's appeal against the Dutch Public Prosecutors Office's request to extend its investigation until December, since the investigators arrived in the Philippines in February and interviewed witnesses. At the trial, however, the new evidence showed that there were indeed attempts to kill him, in 1999 and 2000, while Kintanar's wife, Joy, directly accused Edwin Garcia in the murder of her husband.[32] The Dutch court scheduled the promulgation on the verdict on June 10, 2008.[33]

The Dutch District Court of The Hague on June 5, 2008 decided in camera “that the Public Prosecution Service may continue the prosecution of Jose Maria Sison for involvement in, among other matters, a number of murders committed in the Philippines in 2003 and 2004; that while the prosecution's case file still held insufficient evidence, the investigation was ongoing and should be given time to unfold.”[34]


  • Former Senator Jovito Salonga accused Sison of orchestrating the 1971 Plaza Miranda bombing during the Liberal Party Convention to force Marcos to suspend the writ of habeas corpus and sign Proclamation Number 1081 initiating the advent of Martial Law in the Philippines. This accusation comes from former CPP members such as Victor Corpuz and others. The Philippine National Police (PNP) filed a criminal case against Sison for the Plaza Miranda bombing, but the charges were dismissed for utter lack of evidence, with the dismissal order citing the complainant's filing criminal charges based on speculation.
  • In the mid to late 1980s, certain CPP-NPA elements such as Víctor Corpuz, Popoy Lagman, Romulo Kintanar and Hector Mabilangan sought quick military victory against the Philippine government as mass protest against Marcos erupted in urban areas. With military victory for the CPP slower than expected, hysteria about DPAs (Deep Penetration Agents) was widespread. A purge initiated to root out DPAs resulted in the killing of thousands of people, including loyal and effective cadres of the Communist Party. Evidence of the bloody purge is beginning to surface with the discovery of Ricardo Reyes, Romulo Kintanar had direct supervision of the implementation of the aforementioned purge campaigns, has yet to come forward to detail its own culpability and admit responsibility.
  • On July 4, 2008, Manila's RTC Executive Judge Reynaldo Ros assumed jurisdiction over the 1,551 pages records/cases of multiple murder lawsuit against Sison, Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo and National Democratic Front member Luis Jalandoni after the Supreme Court's Third Division ordered a change of venue from the Hilongos, Leyte RTC Branch 18, for safety reasons. The accused were charged of executing 30 farmers in 1985, in purging military assets within the New People’s Army in Southern Leyte. 15 corpses were found in a mass grave in Inopacan, Leyte, in 2006.[35][36] Meanwhile, it should be remembered that during the time when these so-called killings supposedly took place, Sison and Ocampo had long been placed under maximum detention of the Marcos dictatorial regime. Sison, Ocampo, and other political detainees were only freed in 1986 after the first EDSA uprising of the same year.
  • He is reported to have overseen the trial of Popoy Lagman, Romulo Kintanar, Héctor Mabilangan and members of the CPP. These individuals were tried by a “people's court” composed mainly of peasants who were alleged victims of human rights violations and the families of the victims of the purging caused during these individuals command.
  • The Philippine Military lately informed newspapers and released pictures of the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines dancing with Ara Mina in a sexy outfit and a young European girl and states the leader's life is different from those struggling in the hills. Asked to comment, Jose Ma. Sison said he was invited to a Christmas party by the local Filipino community. He also responded in a statement to the Daily Inquirer that to counter being labeled a "terrorist" by the EU and Philippine government, he is also trying to show his social side.
  • The European Union's second highest court ruled to delist Sison and the Stichting Al-Aqsa group from the EU terror list since the 27-nation bloc failed to respect their right when blacklisted. The Luxembourg-based Court of Justice further reversed a decision by member governments to freeze the assets of Sison and the Netherlands-based Al-Aqsa Foundation, since the EU governments failed to inform them why the assets were frozen. Dekker said that EU lawyers in Brussels can lodge any appeal.[1][2] EU was also ordered to shoulder all the litigation expenses during the five-year appeal of Sison against the Dutch government and the EU.[37] Sison however, is still part of the European Union’s terrorism list according to the Royal Netherlands Embassy in the Philippines (July 13, 2007). In a media released one-page statement, the embassy said that all persons and organizations on the EU terrorism list [and] includes Mr. Sison, the CPP, and the NPA [New People’s Army] on the list and maintains the freeze on their assets.[38] National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales explained that the EU's decision is "not enforceable": “The council is higher than the court. There is a provision in the EU Charter that when a court ruling goes against the council’s decision, the latter will be upheld. The council has decided he is a terrorist, and because of this his assets should be frozen”. Gonzalez said, the Luxembourg-based court did not categorically say Sison’s assets should be released, but had merely questioned the process.[39]


"The people of the world, including progressive American forces, should forewarn the American people not to be carried away by Jingoism, war hysteria and the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim drumbeat." - Jose Maria Sison At Home in the World: Portrait of a Revolutionary (co-authored by Ninotchka Rosca)


  • 2003. US Terrorism and War in the Philippines. Netherlands, Papieren Tijger
  • 1998. Philippine Economy and Politics. Co-authored by Julieta de Lima. Philippines, Aklat ng Bayan, Inc.
  • 1989. The Philippine Revolution : The Leader's View. With Rainer Werning. New York : Crane Russak.
  • 1984. Prison and Beyond: Selected Poems, 1958-1983. Quezon City: Free Jose Maria Sison Committee.
  • 1971. Philippine Society and Revolution. As Amado Guerrero. Manila: Pulang Tala.
  • 1967. Struggle for National Democracy. Quezon City, Progressive Publications

References and further reading

External links

  • Philippine Daily Inquirer)
  • The Case of Jose Maria Sison
  • A talk from Jan Fermon, lawyer for Jose Maria Sison
  • comments from Jan Fermon and others on UK/EU Terror Laws

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