September 14, 2007

Justice? (2)

Like clockwork, the Dutch panel of three judges handed down the decision to extend the detention of Prof. Jose Ma. Sison, before the two-week deadline had ended. It would have been an admirable display of Dutch efficiency were it not for the fact that it was also a truly worrisome indication of what brand of justice lay in store for Mr. Sison.

While still undergoing investigation on the charge of “incitement to murder” while in exile 7,000 miles away, Mr. Sison has already spent all of 17 days in solitary confinement; allowed only very brief visits by his lawyer but none other, not even his wife nor any member of his immediate family; disallowed visits by his physician of choice; and worse, kept in the dark about the bases for his arrest and continuing detention because of a court gag order on his lawyer. On top of all these he was deprived of newspapers, television and radio for the first week of detention without any justifiable reason except to cause him undue punishment.

Prof. Sison’s friends and supporters were spurred to mount protest actions in front of Dutch and Philippine embassies all over the world, by this cruel and inhuman treatment tantamount to torture, currently reserved by the US for “terror” suspects detained in such notorious US prison facilities as in Guantanamo, Cuba. Therefore there is merit in trying to illumine the reasons for the “terrorist” label on Mr. Sison, considering the way he is being treated by the Dutch government, as if he had already been convicted of the crime of “terrorism”.

A legal study by the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) noted that Mr. Sison had been appearing in Washington’s official reports concerning “global terrorism” more than a decade before 9/11. He is first cited in a 1990 report as a “supporter of the (Philippine) communists.“ In “Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1990”, the US State Department acknowledged its interest in Mr. Sison’s asylum case. In the 1991 report, it expressed concern over his continued presence in the Netherlands, stating that Mr. Sison “is involved in raising money for his movement, mostly from sympathetic European leftist groups”. The bases for such suspicion however were not specified.

In 1996, a new US law, the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), was passed; thus began the blacklisting of “foreign terrorist organizations” or FTOs. AEDPA defined an FTO as “any foreign organization that engages in any terrorist activity where such activity threatens the security of US nationals or the national security of the United States.” “National security” is in turn defined as “the national defense, foreign relations, or economic interests of the United States.” Once an organization is designated an FTO, its funds and assets will be seized and the provision of “material support or resources” by any person becomes a criminal offense.

The vague definition of “terrorism” plus the catch-all definition of “national security” makes the law prone to subjective and self-serving interpretation and abuse in implementation. It is a dangerous law especially in light of President George W. Bush’s either-you-are-with-us-or-against-us view of the world.

The warning of the impending designation of the CPP-NPA-NDFP as an FTO can be traced to House Speaker Jose de Venecia who, on November 22, 2001, made an overseas call to Mr. Sison in Utrecht to tell him so. Mr. De Venecia was then in Mexico with Mrs. Arroyo for the conference of the Christian Democratic International. They met with top officials of the US Defense Department and Department of State. Two days earlier, Mrs. Arroyo was on an official visit to the US where she held a joint conference with Mr. Bush and gave her regime’s unqualified support for the “war against terror”.

Mr. De Venecia said the Philippine government would try to dissuade the US from listing the CPP-NPA-NDFP provided the NDFP agrees to a “Final Peace Agreement” with the GRP within three months. As it turns out, the so-called “Final Peace Agreement” was a surrender agreement tot ally ignoring the need for a just resolution of the underlying socio-economic and political causes of the armed conflict.

Parallel to the threat of an FTO designation were threats of direct military engagement with the NPA by US troops in Philippine territory. In January 2002, US Sen. Stephen Brownback called the Philippines the “second front in the war on terror”; subsequently, Balikatan 02-1 made the Philippines the site of the largest US overseas troop deployment outside of Afghanistan.

On August 2002, US State Secretary Colin Powell came to Manila in what appears to be a visit that sealed the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA). This companion agreement to the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) reintroduces into Philippine law the notorious extraterritorial privileges and virtual basing rights of US military forces and facilities in the Philippines.

On August 9, 2002, Mr. Powell announced the designation of the CPP-NPA as an FTO. Three days after, on August 12, Mr. Sison was tagged as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” (SDGT).

The US “terrorist” tag started a series of similar actions against Mr. Sison by Western governments allied with the US. A day after, the Netherlands government listed the NPA and Prof. Sison as “terrorist”. The United Kingdom, Canada and Australia followed suit. It must be pointed out that all these foreign governments, in their “terrorist” tagging of the NPA, are in fact violating Philippine national sovereignty. For clearly the NPA, an entity that exists and operates exclusively within Philippine territory, is outside the jurisdiction of all these foreign governments. They have no judicial, legislative or even administrative competence to adjudge the NPA as “terrorist”.

Mr. Sison’s inclusion in the EU Council’s “terrorist” listing on October 30, 2002 was accomplished through the combined efforts of the Dutch and Philippine government. Mr. Ople’s press statement welcoming the “diplomatic victory” linked his mission with the “Final Peace Agreement” when it said, “The purpose of this diplomatic initiative was to bring pressure on the Communists …to lay down their arms and transform themselves into a peaceful political party capable of competing in the constitutional arena, in peaceful and democratic elections.”

The subsequent rise in the number of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances involving hundreds of progressive party list leaders and members give the lie to this sugar-coated bullet intended to decimate the Left, whether armed or unarmed, legal or underground, in the Philippine political arena.

Mr. Sison has been fighting back not just politically but even in judicial avenues intrinsically stacked against revolutionaries like him. For him the national liberation movement in the Philippines and his role in it can never be proven “terrorist” for as long as facts and the truth are upheld, due process is observed and the integrity of judicial processes is safeguarded.

Ironically, recent landmark legal victories of Mr. Sison in the Philippine Supreme Court and in the EU Court of First Instance may have forced the hand of the current fascist regimes in the US, the Netherlands and in the Philippines. Worried that these could spell an end to the use of judicial proceedings to neutralize Mr. Sison, these 3 governments have acted in concert to undertake a most vicious and brazen attack on his person, his rights and his liberty.

Using what the PILC calls “legal black magic”, the governments that have considered Mr. Sison an enemy from the very beginning are now the very same ones accusing, punishing and judging him.

All these measures to suppress Prof. Joma Sison in the hope of decapitating the Philippine patriotic and democratic movement will ultimately fail. The spontaneous outburst of protest in major cities worldwide indicates broad support for Mr. Sison and what he stands for. His unjust arrest and inhuman detention will only serve to highlight the justness and humanity of his cause. #


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