photo of Jose Maria Sison by Viory Schellekens

On this new column

My return to this news website has given the crucial answer to three tough questions that come to my mind about my secret dream of becoming an investigative journalist: how could I become an investigative journalist in the time when many Filipinos hope that things would become well for this nation in the next six years? How could I become an investigative journalist when the dominant media’s sensationalism trivializes basic issues? How could I investigate present events in the Philippines if I am not aware of what is happening even only in my neighborhood?

I have an ironic but understandable reason for answering my own questions. Many political experts and personalities are being interviewed here, there, and everywhere on every turn regarding standard issues just to fill airtime. It is a fruitful and timely space for a returning writer like me to admit that I often seek the opinions of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison about this nation’s hottest issues at a certain time when I was not a member of any mass organization. The only arguable difference is that Prof. Sison articulates the most comprehensive analysis of the nature of Philippine society’s basic ills and the way to root out these ills. Personal feelings may matter in reporting and explaining the viewpoints of a personality who polarizes many Filipinos, but in journalism, I have to be serious in airing and sharing his outspoken viewpoints for the enlightenment of the general public.

This column’s sole objective is not only to share Prof. Sison’s valuable viewpoints regarding every major development for the enlightenment and awareness not only of mass activists, but also of the Filipino masses. This is also to explain the Filipino nation’s basic issues in a pro-Filipino and pro-people perspective. He is the celebrated and vilified icon of the broad Left movement – celebrated by mass activists, socially-conscious personalities and the ‘unwashed’ masses and vilified by personalities with convenient and vested interests, rabid anti-communists and reactionaries in almost every sector in Philippine society as a “crazy godless communist ideologue”, a “troublemaker” and a “dangerous subversive”.  Coincidentally, he was the political science professor of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte during his student days at the Lyceum of the Philippines University. Another coincidence was that both Duterte and Prof. Sison were members of the nationalist Kabataang Makabayan [Patriotic Youth] to which many young nationalists and martyrs who fought for freedom and democracy belong.

On terror listing and peace talks

We have an interesting discussion on the possible resumption of peace negotiations between the Philippine government under the incoming Duterte presidency and the NDFP. I don’t realize that an alarming development is headlining. The United States of America (US) government recently included him, the CPP and its armed wing New People’s Army (NPA) in its list of terrorist groups and personalities. However, Prof. Sison and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, a broad anti-imperialist and democratic formation, had promptly issued separate but similar statements condemning such renewed inclusion of communist rebels in the terror list as a calculated maneuver in order to undermine the momentum for the formal resumption of peace negotiations. There is a worst-case scenario that the US authorities would spoil his anticipated homecoming by arbitrarily intercepting and arresting him on board because of the absence of any direct flight between Amsterdam and Manila, which would violate his rights as a factually recognized political refugee in accordance with the Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Preliminary talks between the incoming GPH panel and NDFP panel in Oslo, Norway. | Photo by Atty. Edre Olalia

I sought Prof. Sison’s urgent reaction in this sour development. He confidently answered to me that the progress of the peace negotiations depends on the political will of the principals of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the NDFP and of course the entire Filipino people. He even brushed off the inclusion of CPP and NPA in the US government’s terror list as a “mere annoyance” despite the awful fact that his name’s inclusion in the terror list would jeopardize his homecoming and even the peace negotiations.

“Even under the Aquino regime, the GPH assured the NDFP that it does not consider the CPP and NPA terrorist, although it was previously the Arroyo regime that had requested the US government to designate the CPP, NPA and myself as terrorist,” he said.

“As a matter of principle, we must condemn the terrorist listing of the CPP, NPA and myself as terrorist by the US as a big lie and as a gross intrusion in the internal affairs of the Filipino people,” Prof. Sison said.

He branded the US as the “biggest terrorist force in the world historically and currently.”

According to him, “it has absolutely no moral, political, legal and factual standing or ground for designating revolutionary forces as ‘terrorist.’”

“Of course, there are rabid anti-communists who are inspired by terrorist labeling by the US government. They may be in a position to influence parts of the military and police forces to stage sham and real coup attempts. But they are few and have exposed themselves and can be easily preempted or even crushed as traitors if necessary by a combination of patriotic forces in the GPH and the revolutionary forces,” Prof. Sison said in an obvious reference to Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and returning Senator Panfilo Lacson who had expressed security concerns on the president-elect’s previous offer of a coalition government to them after the concluding national and local elections.

Not fearing any sign of resistance from the possibly hostile sections of the military and police forces to the idea of a coalition government with communist rebels, Duterte consented to offer the significant olive branch and four cabinet departments to NDFP-nominated progressive personalities.  Eventually, he named peasant leader Rafael Mariano of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas as Agrarian Reform Secretary, labor leader Joel Maglunsod of Kilusang Mayo Uno as incoming Labor Undersecretary and former University of the Philippines Faculty Regent Prof. Judy Taguiwalo of Alliance of Concerned Teachers as incoming Social Welfare and Development Secretary.

leftist cabinet officials
Progressives appointed to the Cabinet from L-R: Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano as DAR Secretary, Prof. Judy Taguiwalo as DSWD Secretary and Joel Maglunsod as DOLE Undersecretary


Prof. Sison cheerfully welcomed the presence of three progressives in the Duterte cabinet.

“NDFP endorsed them after President Duterte offered four cabinet posts to the CPP and NDFP.  They are a minority in the cabinet but their presence there signifies the willingness of Duterte to take a patriotic and progressive stand and the hope that there can be a government of national unity, peace and development,” he said.

A fair amount of guarded optimism and enthusiasm pushed me to seek his thoughts on the forthcoming preparatory discussions on the agenda for the formal resumption of peace negotiations between the government and the NDFP.

Joint Statement signed by incoming GPH Panel and NDFP Panel last June 15, 2016 in Oslo, Norway. | Photo from incoming OPAPP Chair Jesus Dureza's Facebook post
Joint Statement signed by incoming GPH Panel and NDFP Panel last June 15, 2016 in Oslo, Norway. | Photo from incoming OPAPP Chair Jesus Dureza’s Facebook post

“The NDFP is already making preparations for the resumption of formal talks with the Manila government in July.  For the purpose, teams of the two sides will undertake preliminary talks in Oslo this June.  They will pave the way for the release of all political prisoners and set the agenda for the resumption of formal talks,” Prof. Sison replied.

However, it seems in this moment that holding formal talks in Manila would possibly invite what he says at this crucial time as ‘peace spoilers’ to create a series of scare-mongering incidents that would sabotage the peace negotiations.

He added that the Filipino people would benefit immediately from the release of all the political prisoners, the interim ceasefire and the plan to accelerate the peace negotiations.  According to him, they would reap the greatest benefits from the social, economic and political reforms that shall be agreed upon to address the roots of the civil war and lay the basis for a just and lasting peace.

“As the peace process progresses, the Left and broad masses of the people will be able to discredit and isolate further the terrorist labeling and those rabid anti-communists who follow the baton of US imperialism.  The government of national unity, peace and development and the Filipino people will push aside or knock down any obstacle to the struggle for a just and lasting peace,” Prof. Sison confidently said.

The government of national unity, peace and development and the Filipino people will push aside or knock down any obstacle to the struggle for a just and lasting peace.