Jose Maria Sison may be a “terrorist” for others. But he is a “beloved hero” for many of his fellow Filipino migrants across the globe. Overseas Filipino organizations and supporters have been staging protest actions in their respective host countries to demand the release of Sison.
BY AUBREY SC MAKILAN
Vol. VII, No. 30, September 2-8, 2007
Jose Maria Sison may be a “terrorist” for others. But he is a “beloved hero” for many of his fellow Filipino migrants across the globe.
Overseas Filipino organizations and supporters have been staging protest actions in their respective host countries to demand the release of Sison. Sison is chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) negotiating panel in the peace talks and the current chairperson of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS).
Since Sison’s arrest on Aug. 28, Filipino migrant groups have launched “emergency pickets” abroad, said Migrante International chair Connie Bragas-Regalado.
Filipino groups under the network of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance)-USA rallied before Dutch Consulates in Los Angeles, New York, and Washington. Bayan-USA is an alliance of over 12 Filipino organizations in the U.S.
Carrying Sison’s enlarged photos bearing the words “Defend Filipino Progressives,” protesters shouted “Free JOMA Now!” and “Dutch government – shame on you!”
Berna Ellorin of Bayan-USA said that his arrest “clearly violates provisions set by the United Nations on the rights of recognized political refugees, which Professor Sison is.”
“We are here because Professor Sison is a beloved hero not just for the Filipino people, but for all who work for peace based on justice,” she said.
Bayan-USA deputy secretary-general and Anakbayan-Los Angeles member Kuusela Hilo reminded the public that this is not an isolated incident but “part of the ongoing attacks against those who seek to expose the true injustices perpetuated by the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s administration backed by the U.S.-Bush regime.”
Also joining the protests were representatives from the International Action Center, ANSWER Coalition, Revolutionary Communist Party USA, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Center for Constitutional Rights, Troops Out Now Coalition, Students for a Democratic Society, Pakistan-USA Freedom Forum, Al-Awda, Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV), and Revolution Books. A large bus of Veterans for Peace activists en route to Washington DC attempted to block traffic near the rally but was stopped by the police.
Even former U.S. Attorney-General and world-renowned international human rights lawyer Ramsey Clark expressed disapproval and deep concern over the recent arrest of Sison.
“Everyone who is concerned about peace and freedom has to be greatly distressed over the arrest of Joma Sison,” Clark said in a meeting with the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP) in his Manhattan home.
“Sison is a great spirit that the world needs to know about, a great voice that the world needs to hear. The demonization (of him) will destroy us if we permit it to continue,” he said.
Clark also pledged to assist Sison by offering to join Sison’s international defense team of lawyers headed by Jan Fermon.
His works have drawn inspiration to activists in Canada. They have also demanded Sison’s release from detention by the Dutch government.
Activists in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver picketed Dutch consular offices in their respective cities saying Sison’s arrest was meant to “quell the growing peoples’ movement in the Philippines and its growing international support.”
Rights group Philippines-Canada Task Force on Human Rights (PCTFHR) handed out a protest statement to the Vice-Consul of The Netherlands in Toronto. Copies of which, were distributed by members of SIKLAB Ontario, Ugnayan Ontario and the Philippine Women Centre of Ontario.
In Montreal, rallyists presented a condemnation letter to the Consul General of the Netherlands in this city and held a brief dialogue with the official concerning the violations against Sison’s rights.
Meanwhile, about fifty petition letters were given to the office of the Consulate General of the Netherlands in Vancouver. PCTFHR members have asked the Dutch office for a dialogue to which Vice Consul Vencent Vemeer have agreed to. The official however, was not at the office to face the rallyists.
Joanne Vasquez, chair of the Philippine Women Centre of Quebec, said “PCTFHR member organizations across Canada will continue to unite in advancing its militant fight against imperialism.”
“While the attack on Professor Sison is an attack on the anti-imperialist movement, the growing support and solidarity movement for the Philippines is a testament that the anti-imperialist movement is intensifying worldwide,” she said.
In Amsterdam, activists held a commemoration for the victims of enforced disappearances in the Philippines and a protest picket to call for the immediate release of Sison. Sison is currently detained at the National Penitentiary in Scheveningen in The Hague.
The commemoration/protest picket was a virtual reunion of solidarity activists in the Netherlands who came en masse, after learning of Sison’s arrest and the ransacking of several houses of Filipinos in Utrecht.
Among those who attended were representatives of the Dutch-section of the International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS), Dutch-Philippine Solidarity Movement (NFS), the Dutch political party NCPN, Rode Morgen, International Committee Against Disappearances (ICAD), the International Committee Defend, Solidarity Indonesia, Solidarity Bangladesh and Solidarity Turkey, and many Filipinos living in Amsterdam.
In Hong Kong, the HK Committee to Defend the Rights of Professor Sison and other Filipino Progressives in Europe (HK DEFEND) led the protest action of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and local supporters at the Consulate General of the Netherlands.
“The arrest of Prof. Jose Maria Sison, harassment of Filipino progressives in the Netherlands and the ransacking of their houses and the international office of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) are dastardly actions worthy of the strongest condemnation of civil libertarians, advocates of the rights overseas Filipinos, and peace activists,” said Eman Villanueva, co-convenor of the HK DEFEND.
He added that aside from Sison’s release, all confiscated properties must also be returned to him and to the NDFP.
In Taiwan, members of Migrante International-Taiwan chapter, Labor Rights Association and Taiwan Committee for Philippine Concerns (TCPC) held a rally on September 2 at the Dutch Trade Office in Taipei.
The groups said that the arrest diverts the attention of the public in the Philippines and abroad regarding the gross human rights violations of the Philippine government. Some members of the TCPC have joined fact finding missions in the Philippines against human rights violations.
In Korea, members of migrants and peace movements in Korea stage a picket at the Dutch Embassy to campaign for Sison’s release. Among the protesters were members of the Katipunan ng mga Samahan ng Migranteng Manggagawa sa Korea (Kasammako or Alliance of Filipino Migrants Association in Korea).
Aside from protest actions, Sison’s supporters also flooded Dutch Consulates’ fax lines with their statements calling for his immediate release. In Australia, Migrante International handed its letter of protest addressed to Dr Jan Peter Balkenende, The Netherlands Prime Minister, to the Dutch Consul General there.
Bragas-Regalado said that more actions are on the way in addition to the many other protests led by the ILPS, Defend the Rights of Prof. Sison Committees and other solidarity formations around the world.
“Professor Sison and the other progressive Filipinos who are being politically persecuted by the Dutch-Philippine-U.S. triad are legitimate political refugees and in some cases, even Dutch citizens. The brutal arrest and raids conducted are brazen violations of their rights and relevant UN conventions on political refugees,” she said. (Bulatlat.com)/ With reports from Jhong dela Cruz