January 2012, Week 4


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Revolutionary Jose Maria Sison on US Imperialism and a
Way Forward for the Philippines

By Bill Fletcher, Jr
January 22, 2012


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.

You can say bluntly that the Philippines is capitalist
and has long been capitalist since the 19th century if
you mean that the commodity system of production and
exchange through money has come on top of the natural
economy of feudalism when local communities could
subsist on a diversified agriculture and engage mainly
in barter. The specialization in crops for domestic
food(rice and corn) and for export (tobacco, hemp and
sugar) and the import of a certain amount of
manufactures from Europe for consumption pushed the
domestic commodity system of production as well as
integration with global capitalism through colonialism
as a part of the primitive accumulation of capital in
Europe and subsequently under the banner of colonial
free trade.

But it is utterly wrong to say that the Philippines is
industrial capitalist or even semi-industrial
capitalist. The Philippines does not have an industrial
foundation. Its floating kind of industry consists of
imported equipment paid for bythe export of raw
materials and by foreign loans necessitated by the
chronic trade deficits. It is most precise to describe
the Philippine economy as semi-feudal to denote the
persistence of the large vestiges of feudalism in the
form of disguised and undisguised landlord- tenant
relations and usury at the base of the economy, the
peasant class constituting 75 per cent of the
population and the combination of the big compradors
and landlords as the main exploiting classes. The big
compradors are the chief financial and trading agents
of the foreign monopolies and are often big landlords
themselves, especially on land producing crops for

Global capitalism under theneoliberal policy of "free
trade" globalizationhas not changed but has aggravated
and deepened the pre-industrial and underdeveloped
semi-feudal character of the Philippine economy. The
share of manufacturing with the use of imported
equipment and raw materials under the policy of low-
value addedexport-oriented manufacturing in the last
three decades has decreased in comparison to that share
under the previous policy of import substitution. The
illusion of industrial development has been conjured by
excessive foreign borrowing for consumption of
foreignmanufactures, by conspicuous private
construction projects and by the sweat shops that
engage in the fringe-processing ofimported manufactured
components and yield little net export income.

Neither the series of bogus land reform programs since
decades ago nor the neoliberal policy of imperialist
globalization has broken up feudalism completely and
given way to a well-founded industrialization. The
backward agrarian and semi-feudal character of the
Philippine economy is now increasingly exposed by its
depression and ruination due to the decreasing demand
for its type of exports, the closure of many sweatshops
of semi-manufacturing for export, the tighteningof
international credit and the decrease of remittances by
overseas contract workers in the current prolonged
global economic and financial crisis in this 21st
century of desperate, barbaric and imploding global
capitalism. The conditions have become more fertile for
people's war in the Philippines.

In the 1980s,certain elements in the Philippinespushed
the notion that the Philippine economy was no longer
semi-feudal but semi-capitalist or semi-industrial
capitalist in order to glorify the Marcos fascist
dictatorship as having industrialized the Philippines.
This notion also aimed to undercut the Communist
Party's strategic line of protracted people's war
involving the encirclement of the cities from the
countryside by the armed revolutionary movementof the
workers and peasants until such time that they have
accumulated enough politico-military strengthto seize
the cities on a nationwide scale in a strategic

The bureaucratic big compradorFerdinand Marcosconjured
the illusion of industrial development by borrowing
heavily from abroad and by importing consumption goods
and luxuries and construction equipment and structural
steel in order to build roads, bridges, hotels andother
tourist facilities. The profligate spending of foreign
loans only served to maintain the agrarian and pre-
industrial character of the Philippine economy.
Cognizant of the persistent semi-feudal reality, the
New People's Army under CPP leadership has been ableto
wage people's war successfully with the main support of
the peasantry and under the class leadership of the
working class.

2. When one talks of the Philippine working class, what
are the main sectors in which it is found and how is
neo-liberalism affecting it?

The Philippine working class is found in such main
sectors as the following: food and beverages, hotels
and restaurants, public utilities (power generation,
water and sewage system), mining and quarrying, metal
fabrication (imported metals), car assembly, ship
assembly, transportation, communications, mass media,
assembly of electronic and electrical products,
chemicals, pharmaceuticals, oil refining, construction,
construction materials (cement and wood), banks and
other financial institutions and public sector services
(education, health, etc.).

In the Philippines, theneoliberal policy has favored
certain enterprisesaway from industrial development and
has expanded employment in such enterprises during boom
periods. The favored enterprises include those in
mining and export-crop plantations, the assembly of
electronic and electrical products, the semi-
manufacturing of garments, shoes and other low-value
added products for re-export,car assembly, construction
of office and residential towers,cement production,
hotels and restaurants, business call centers and
financial services. They are vulnerable to the ups and
downs characteristic of global capitalism under
neoliberal policyand now to the worst crisis since the
Great Depression. Closures and reduction of production
have resulted in a high rate of unemployment and the
further immiseration of the people.

Under the neoliberal policy, the working class has been
subjected to wage freezes and reductions, loss of job
security, flexibilization or casualization (reducing
the number of regular employees and increasing the
number of temporaries or casuals),systematic prevention
or break up of workers' unions and ceaseless attack on
union rights and other democratic rights. The kinds of
enterprises generatedby the neoliberal policy involve
cheap labor and the most tiring and health-damaging
processes and conditions. They also limit the number of
regular employees and expand the ranks of the casuals
subjected to a series of short-term employment
contracts in order to circumvent the law on regular
employment. The scarcity of employment opportunities in
the Philippines has compelled nearly 10 per cent of the
population to seek employment abroad as overseas
contract workers and undocumented workers with
practically no rights. This fact proves the lack of
national industrial development.

3. Would you sum-up the situation in the Philippines,
particularly the state of negotiations between the NDFP
and the government; the situation facing workers and
farmers; the overall economy; and fighting that may be
taking place?

The Philippines is severely stricken by crisis because
of the rotting semi-colonial and semi-feudal ruling
system and the growing impact of the crisis of the US
and global capitalist system. The prices of the raw
materials and semi-manufactures produced for export by
the Philippines are depressed and foreign loans to
cover the trade deficits and debt service are becoming
more onerous than before. There is now less demand for
overseas contract workers and thus their remittances
are decreasing. The global economic and financial
crisis is hitting hard the Philippines. The growing
public deficits (budgetary and trade) and the public
debt are growing and exposing the bankruptcy of the big
comprador-landlord state.

Various forms of popular resistance, includingpeople's
war, are ever growing because of the extreme and ever
worsening conditions of exploitation and oppression of
more than 90 per cent of the people, the toiling masses
of workers and peasants. Like preceding regimes, the
Aquino regime wants to destroy the armed revolutionary
movement. It is implementing the US-designed Oplan
Bayanihan, which is the same dog as Arroyo's Oplan
Bantay Laya but which tries to be different by dressing
up brutal military operations as peace and development
operations and maintaining human rights desks in the
reactionary army and national police for the purpose of
shifting the blame for human rights violations to the
revolutionaries. On the other hand, the New People's
Army led by the Communist Party of the Party is
carrying out a five-year plan to advance from the
strategic defensive to strategic stalemate in the
people's war,increasing the number of guerrilla fronts
from 120 to 180.

While their respectivearmed forces continue to fight,
the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the
National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) are
supposed to engage in peace negotiations in order to
address the roots of the armed conflict by forging
agreements on social, economic and political reforms.
But the GPH has paralyzed the peace negotiationsby
refusing to release a few political prisoners who are
NDFP consultants in the negotiations and thus
violatingthe Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity
Guarantees (JASIG). The GPH is also grossly violating
the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights
and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIL) by
refusing to release more than 350 political prisoners
who are imprisoned on false charges of common crimes.

4. What have been the chief obstacles to a negotiated
settlement between the NDFP and the government?

The Manila government and NDFP have their respective
constitutions, governments and armies. To lay the
ground for peace negotiations, they issued The Hague
Joint Declaration to define the framework for peace
negotiations. They agreed to address the roots of the
armed conflict or the civil war by negotiating and
forging agreements on human rights and international
humanitarian lawand on social, economic and political
reforms. They also agreed that they areguided by the
mutually acceptable principles of national sovereignty,
democracy and social justice and that no precondition
shall be made by any side to negate the inherent
character and purpose of peace negotiations, i.e. no
side can demand the surrender of the other side.

Under the currentAquino regime,his presidential adviser
and his negotiating panel want to undermine and nullify
the aforesaid declaration by asserting that it is a
document of perpetual division. They are practically
demanding the immediate surrender of the revolutionary
movement. They do not respect the agreement on the
sequence, formation and operationalization of the
reciprocal working committees that are to negotiate and
work out the agreements on reforms. The question of
what kind of authority will be formed to implement the
comprehensive agreements on reforms shall be settled
when the time comes for negotiating the political and
constitutional reforms.

The Benigno Aquino III regime hasshown no respect for
and has in fact violated the Joint Agreement on Safety
and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) by refusing to release
some 14 political prisoners who are NDFP negotiating
personnel and are therefore JASIG-protected. It has not
called to account those military and police personnel
who have abducted, tortured and murdered NDFP
consultants who are JASIG-protected. Also, it has
violated the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for
Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law by
condoning violations of human rights of suspected
revolutionaries and sympathizers by the Arroyo regime
and by his own troops and by refusing to release 350
political prisoners who are unjustly imprisoned on
trumped up charges of common crimes.

The regime keeps on demanding ceasefire in order to
distract public attention from the agreement to address
the roots of the civil war though basic reforms. The
NDFP has offered truce and alliance on the basis of a
general declaration on common intent on ten points,
including the assertion of national independence,
empowerment of the working people, land reform and
national industrialization, immediate assistance and
employmentfor theimpoverished and unemployed, promotion
of a patriotic, scientific and popular culture, self-
determination of national minorities and independent
foreign policy for peace and development.

The biggest obstacle to the peace negotiations is US
political and military intervention. The US has upset
the peace negotiations by unjustly designating the CPP,
the NPA and the NDFP chief political consultant as
terrorists. It has dictated upon the Aquino regime to
draw up Oplan Bayanihan under the US Counterinsurgency
Guide, which considers peace negotiations as a mere
psy-war2device for outwitting, isolating and destroying
the revolutionary movement. Oplan Bayanihan is a
campaign plan of military suppression. But it
masquerades as a peace and development plan. It regards
peace negotiations only as a means to enhance the triad
of psy-war, intelligence-gathering and combat
operations. Many people think that the US does not
allow the puppet regime to make the overall agreement
for a just and lasting peace with the NDFP.

5. Are you optimistic that negotiations can result in a
just settlement?

Frankly speaking, I am not optimistic that negotiations
can result in a just settlement. Like its predecessors,
the Aquino regime is too servile to US imperialism and
stands as the current chief representative of the local
exploiting classes, the comprador big bourgeoisie and
landlord class. It has shown no inclination to assert
national independence and undo unequal treaties,
agreements and arrangements that keep the Philippines
semi-colonial. It also has shown no inclination to
realize democracy through significant representation of
workers and peasants in government and through land
reform and national industrialization.

It has become clear that the reactionary government is
not seriously interested in peace negotiations as a way
of addressing the roots of the armed conflict through
agreements on basic reforms. Especially under the
Aquino regime, the negotiators are always trying to lay
aside the substantive agenda and to push the NDFP
towards capitulation and pacification. Failing to
accomplish their vile objective, they paralyze the
peace negotiations by refusing to comply with
obligations under the Joint Agreement on Safety and
Immunity Guarantees.

6. What has been the role of the USA? And,have US
policies towards the Philippines changed under
President Obama? If so, how? What is your overall
assessment of the Obama administration?

The USA has not been helpful to the peace negotiations.
In fact, it has obstructed these. The US designation of
the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People's
Army and myself (the National Democratic Front of the
Philippines' chief political consultant) as terrorists
is meant to intimidate and put pressure on the NDFP in
the peace negotiations. The US Counterinsurgency Guide
actually tells the Philippine reactionary government
that peace negotiations are dispensable but are useful
only for purposes of psy-war to mislead the people,
possibly split the revolutionary forces and make the
reactionary killing machine more efficient. But the US
policy against peace negotiations with the NDFP has
served to make the revolutionary force and people more
vigilant and more resolute in opposing US intervention
in the internal affairs of the Philippines.

From the Bush II to the Obama regime, there has been no
change in US policy towards the Philippines. Obama
continues the policy of serving the interests of the US
imperialists in the economic, political, military and
cultural fields, collaborating with the big compradors
and landlords, manipulating the puppet regime and its
military forces, preventing land reform and national
industrialization, controlling the fundamentals and
direction of the Philippine cultural and educational
system and stationing US troops in the Philippines and
maintaining a permanent relay of US military forces
under the US-RP3Mutual Defense Pact and the Visiting
Forces Agreement. Obama is a good servant of US
imperialism. He used his glibness to make himself look
better than the brazenly brutal Bush. But he is using
the same glibness to cover many acts as bad as or even
worse than those that made Bush infamous.

7. How did the CPP and NPA end up on a list of
terrorist organizations? How did you end up on a list
of supporters of terrorism? What steps are being taken
to remove this label from you, the CPP and the NPA?

During the November 2001 visit of then Philippine
president Gloria M. Arroyo to Washington, she requested
then US President Bush to have the US agencies(State
Department and the Office of Foreign Asset Control of
the Treasury Department)designate the CPP,NPAand myself
as "terrorists". When US state secretary Colin Powell
visited the Philippines in the early days of August
2002, he was reminded of the request and he assured
Arroyo that he would act on itimmediately upon his
return to the US. Indeed,within August 2002 the CPP,
NPA and I were designated as "terrorists."

The Philippine and U.S. governments connived to take
advantage of the terrorism scare that followed 9-11.
They themselves engaged in terrorism by deciding to
undertake harmful actions against the CPP, NPA and
myself. The designationof the CPP and NPAas
"terrorist"is absolutely absurd because they [the
NPA-interviewer] have carried outrevolutionary actions
strictly within the Philippines, have not engaged in
any cross-border attacks against the US and up to now
have not been discovered to keep bank accounts in the
US or anywhere else outside of the Philippines.

In my case, I have been falsely accused of being the
current CPP chairman and being responsible for the
alleged terrorist acts, in fact the revolutionary
actions, of the NPA despite the fact that I have been
out of the Philippines since 1986 when I was released
from nearly a decade of detention under the Marcos
fascist dictatorship. The malicious intention of the US
and Philippine governments is to pressure the
entireNDFP negotiating panel and me as its chief
political consultant. Like the Arroyo regime,the Aquino
regime uses the terrorist designation as a kind of
lever against the NDFP in the peace negotiations.

It is impossible for theCPP, NPA or myselfto begin any
legal process for undoingthe terrorist designation in
the US or in any other country tailing after the US in
the so-called war on terror, without proving first the
legal personality and material interest of the
plaintiff. In my case, I could take legal action
against the Dutch government for putting me in the
terrorist list because I live in The Netherlands. After
my administrative complaint, the Dutch government
repealed its decision to put me in its terrorist list
but took the initiative in having me put in the
terrorist list of the European Union in October 2002. I
went to the European Court of Justice and I succeeded
in having my name removed from the EU terrorist list in
December 2010 after eight years of legal struggle.

8. Do you think that the US media has consciously
mischaracterized the situation in the Philippines by
focusing on groups like Abu Sayyaf4?

Yes, the US media drum up US policy and corporate
interests and consciously misrepresent the Philippine
situation, as in the focusing on the Abu Sayyaf. This
small bandit gang, whose origin can be traced to the
CIA and intelligence operatives of the Philippine army
who organized andused it against the Moro
revolutionaries (MNLF and then MILF),is magnifiedas an
extension of Al Qaeda in order to serve the false claim
of [President] Bushthat the Philippines is the second
front of a global war on terror as well as to
rationalize state terrorism and US military
intervention in the Philippines.

Through the mass media, the US has spread the scare
about terrorism in order to justify a whole range of
actions: the curtailment of democratic rights in the US
and on a global scale, the stepping up of war
production to please the military-industrial complex
and the unleashing of wars of aggression

9. Has the "terrorism" designation made it difficult
for NDFP supporters in the Philippines and in other
parts of the world? If so, how? Have civilian political
activists faced increased government-inspired violence
as a result of this terrorism designation?

The "terrorism" designation is an incitation to hatred
and violence and various forms of discrimination and
harassment against known or suspected NDFP supporters
in the Philippines and other parts of the world.
Although the NDFP is not designated as terrorist,
everyone knows that the CPP and NPA are the most
important components of the NDFP. In the Philippines,
the incitation to hatred and violence is quite deadly
because the military, police and their death squads are
emboldened to go on terrorist-hunting and are assured
that they can abduct, torture and kill people with

The Dutch authorities have advised the Norwegian
government not to give any assistance to the NDFP
negotiating panel for maintaining office and staff in
The Netherlands on the claim that such assistance would
be for building the infrastructure of "terrorists".
They have also raided the NDFP office and houses of
NDFP panelists and consultants and seized documents and
equipmentneeded in the peace negotiations.

10. Periodically the US media discuss alleged Muslim
fundamentalist terrorism in the Philippines. What is
the situation? In Mindanao there have been efforts at
autonomy and self-determination. What has been the
stand of the NDFP on these efforts? What is your take
on allegations of Muslim terrorism?

The NDFP supports the Moro people's struggle for self-
determination, including the right to secede from an
oppressive state or opt for regional autonomy in a non-
oppressive political system. The Moro people have long
been oppressed by the Manila governmentand by local
reactionary agents. Theyare not free in their own
homeland and are victims of Christian chauvinism and
discrimination. They have beendeprived of their
ancestral domain. They have been robbed of agricultural
land as well as forest, mineral and marine resources.

The Moro people have all the right to fight for
national and social liberation. The NDFP has therefore
found common ground for alliance with the Moro National
Liberation Front(MNLF) and subsequently with the Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) after the MNLF
capitulated to the Ramos regime in 1996. By fighting
well against their common enemy, the NDFP and the MILF
gain better conditions for growing in strength and
advancing in their respective struggles.

The US government and the US media exaggerate the
threat of Muslim fundamentalist terrorism because they
wish to promote the entry of US corporations for the
purpose of plundering the rich natural resources of
Mindanao, especially oil, gold and deuterium. They also
wish to justify the current stationing of US military
forces and eventually the basing of larger US military
forces for the purpose of strategic control over
Islamic countries in Southeast Asia and strategic
countervailing of China and the Democratic People's
Republic of Korea [North Korea] in Northeast Asia.

Like Al Qaeda, Abu Sayyaf was originally a creature of
CIA and the intelligence agency of the Armed Forces of
the Philippines to counteract the MNLF. It has become a
bandit gang since the capitulation of MNLF. It has also
been convenient for the US and Manila government to
depict the Abu Sayyaf as a Muslim fundamentalist group
and as an extension of the Al Qaeda, since 2001 when
Bush declared Moro land as the second front in the so-
called global war on terror. There are indications that
the US and Philippine governments continue to arm and
finance the Abu Sayyaf in order to block the advance of
the MILF in Sulu and to provide the pretext for US
military intervention in the Philippines.


Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a long-time racial justice, labor
and international writer and activist. He is a Senior
Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies,
editorial board member of BlackCommentator.com, and a
Visiting Scholar with the City University of New York
Graduate Center. For a lengthy biography of Jose Maria
Sison, one source can be found in a biographical sketch
at: http://www.josemariasison.org/?p=2560.

c 2012 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.


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