October 01, 2009

Sweet victory for Joma

The International Committee to DEFEND Filipino progressives in Europe announced yesterday the second landmark decision of the European Court of First Instance (ECFI) on the terrorist listing of Prof. Jose Ma. Sison, publicly acknowledged leader of the revolutionary movement in the Philippines. The European Court annulled yesterday all decisions and a regulation of the Council of the European Union (EU) that had maintained Prof. Sison in its so-called terrorist blacklist.

It is nothing short of sweet, unadulterated victory for Joma and his family, the world-wide network that championed his rights against the persecutory terrorist listing by the Council of the EU, the governments of the US, the Netherlands and other countries, and all who fight for national freedom and social liberation who have been unjustly and maliciously labeled as “terrorist”.

The ECFI decision’s immediate effect is to unfreeze Mr. Sison’s small personal account that had been misrepresented by the Philippine and Dutch governments as a conduit for international support to the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army that he had founded. It also restores his freedom to engage in financial transactions, something of vital importance living in a society where such dealings are an everyday fact of life. For starters, it will allow him to finally seek employment and earn a gainful living, a basic right denied him by the Dutch government since it refused to grant him asylum.

The Court decision also provides solid backing for Joma’s legal moves to claim back the social payments for living allowance, housing, health insurance and old age pension which have been withdrawn from him by the Dutch government, citing the EU Council’s blacklisting, since 2002.

According to Dutch lead lawyer Jan Fermon, the removal of the Mr. Sison’s name from the blacklist is the essence of the ECFI judgment. The Court found that the Council of the EU had unjustly maintained him in the so-called terrorist blacklist without any concrete evidence for any specific act of terrorism. The ECFI finding that there is no basis whatsoever for freezing Prof. Sison’s accounts on the grounds of terrorism means he can no longer, by any stretch of the imagination, be maintained in the EU’s blacklist either for punitive or preventive reasons.

Specifically, the ECFI rejected the claim of the prosecution that judicial proceedings in the Netherlands, where Mr. Sison had applied for political asylum and a residence permit, were sufficient ground for his terrorist listing. To wit: “The Court finds that the procedures before the Raad van State and the Rechtbank clearly do not involve any ‘conviction’ of Mr. Sison, nor do they amount to decisions to ‘instigat[e] … investigations or prosecut[e] for a terrorist act’. In fact, they were solely concerned with the review of the lawfulness of the decision of the Secretary of State for Justice refusing to grant him refugee status and a residence permit in the Netherlands. “

The latest favourable ruling by the EU Court reinforces, on the basis of facts and substantive issues, its 11 July 2007 annulment of the freezing of Prof. Sison’s funds “on the grounds that that decision had been taken in breach of the rights of defence, the obligation to state reasons and the right to effective judicial protection.” This first landmark ruling was however preempted and effectively circumvented by the Council of EU in June 2007 by giving him an official notification that he was being relisted merely to satisfy the Court’s findings that his right to due process had in fact been violated.

Moreover, the ECFI duly recognized during the oral arguments, the fact that the Dutch prosecution service, since March 2009, had already terminated its investigation into charges that Mr. Sison had ordered the killings of two former NPA commanders, due to lack of evidence. This decision was also in accord with earlier rulings by Dutch judicial authorities that found no probable cause against him and had ordered his release from detention while under investigation in September 2007.

According to DEFEND, “The aforesaid termination of prosecution is relevant to the case before the European court. It shows the lack of concrete evidence for the allegation that Prof. Sison … is culpable for any violent act of the New People's Army, despite the close collaboration of Dutch and Philippine political authorities for several years in trying to criminalize him.” It must be noted that the NPA is considered a “terrorist” organization by the Philippine government despite the lack of any law or court decision to this effect; consequently, in 2002, the EU adopted the same “terrorist’ categorization upon the instigation of US and Philippine authorities.

For seven long years, Joma has been vilified and unjustly punished by his being listed as a “terrorist”. He was prohibited from having legal residence, earning an income, receiving a living allowance, holding a house, having sufficient insurance coverage, receiving old age pension and travelling freely. He survived by virtue of the legal, political and humanitarian support extended by fellow Filipinos and human rights advocates and progressives from over the world who believe that his fight against the “terrorist” listing was a fight across national and ideological boundaries.

By this victory, Prof. Sison and his battery of brilliant, progressive lawyers have shown how it is possible to turn the tables on the seemingly formidable political clout and legal machinery of the EU and The Netherlands, with the instigation and backing of the US, that was deliberately ranged against a revolutionary leader they had singled out for persecution and neutralization.

Joma and his defenders have prevailed by invoking and upholding basic human rights as enshrined even in the liberal bourgeois constitutions and other statutes of the EU and individual countries. It must be pointed out that, historically, these rights were not handed over to the people on a silver platter by the feudal ruling classes but were paid for in blood by the exploited and oppressed. Thus they have become universal rights that the world’s peoples must assert, uphold and defend over and over again.

Joma’s legal victory must be celebrated by all freedom-loving peoples and at the same time be the occasion for renewed efforts to demand that the Dutch government and Council of the EU stop being a party to false charges against him and being complicit with the Philippine and US governments in his political persecution. #


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