Revolutionary Joma Sison answers questions about his rumored homecoming and the Aquino govt’s distractions while promised reforms crawl or turn comatose.
Interview with Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chairperson, International League of Peoples’ Struggle
NDFP Chief Political Consultant
By DL Mondelo
1. Is the report that you are returning to the Philippines soon to take a cabinet position in the Aquino government and that the New People’s Army is going to be integrated with the Armed Forces of the Philippines true? Do you know the source of the report?
JMS: The report is false. It comes from the direction of a group of military officers and politicians loyal to the past Arroyo regime and coordinated by former defense secretary Norberto Gonzales, the butcher general Palparan and Alcover of ANAD. They are engaged in a psywar intrigue related to the sharpening contradictions between the pro-Aquino and pro-Arroyo reactionaries within the military and entire ruling system.
They think Aquino would be discredited if reported as giving to me a cabinet position.
Even if the presidency of the puppet republic was offered to me, I will not accept it because I do not wish to become the chief puppet of the US and chief representative of the exploiting classes of big compradors and landlords, like Aquino.
2. At any rate, what is the status of the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations? Will the negotiating panels of the two sides resume formal talks soon?
JMS: In principle, the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations are still on because no side has yet terminated the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), despite the blatant attempts of the GPH side to undermine and render it useless. It is still unclear whether the GPH will comply with the JASIG and release the JASIG-protected consultants of the NDFP. Thus, it is still unclear when the formal talks of the negotiating panels shall be held.
3. The armed conflict between the GPH and NDFP is intensifying, with the armed forces of the GPH carrying out Oplan Bayanihan and the NPA striving to advance the people’s war from strategic defensive to strategic stalemate? How does the armed conflict affect the peace negotiations?
JMS: Because of the armed conflict, there are peace negotiations. The GPH finds the need for peace negotiations so long as it is failing to suppress the people and the revolutionaries with the current Oplan Bayanihan and so long as the New People’s Army is successful in carrying out an extensive and intensive guerrilla warfare and creating an ever widening and deepening mass base.
4. Is the Aquino regime serious about running after Arroyo and her top colleagues for plunder? Are you satisfied with the pace at which Aquino has been running after them?
JMS: Compared with the speed of Arroyo in jailing Estrada for plunder, Aquino is a sluggard in making Arroyo accountable for plunder. He has jailed her on the charge of electoral sabotage and has reduced the plunder charges to graft charges after gaining control over the office of the Ombudsman. It remains to be seen whether he will push a plunder charge as a result of Senate findings.
5. So far the Aquino regime has not run after Arroyo and her military cohorts for the gross and systematic violations of human rights under the Arroyo regime, except for the dramatic although belated and token action against Palparan. What may be the reason for the delay or inaction of Aquino in filing cases against Arroyo for human rights violations?
JMS: Indeed, Aquino has been too slow or even comatose about Arroyo’s huge responsibility for gross and systematic violations of human rights. Many people think that he is afraid of the military or he himself wants to use the military for human rights violations under Oplan Bayanihan the same way that Arroyo used the military under Oplan Bantay Laya. The action so far taken against Palparan is quite belated and tokenistic in view of the so many human rights violations committed under the Arroyo regime and the growing violations under the current regime.
6. The Aquino regime continues to keep the more than 350 political prisoners. Does it mean that Aquino agrees with Arroyo in detaining them on charges of common crimes? Is he not condoning Arroyo’s crimes and he himself is now doing what Arroyo has done?
JMS: So far Aquino has not proven himself any different from Arroyo when it comes to human rights violations. Even the Human Rights Watch has pointed to this glaring fact. Like Arroyo, Aquino is culpable for the gross and systematic violation of human rights by continuing to detain the hundreds of political prisoners and by allowing the military to violate human rights, including abductions, torture, extrajudicial killings and the detention of people on trumped up charges of common crimes.
7.So far the NDFP negotiating panel has been known to be demanding for the release of a few individuals protected by the JASIG. Instead of this, should the panel demand for the release of all political prisoners in accordance with CARHRIHL?
JMS: The NDFP Negotiating Panel has demanded for the release of the imprisoned consultants by invoking the JASIG because this is the bilateral agreement that is most pertinent to them and that should expedite their release. At the same time, the NDFP panel is demanding for the release of the more than 350 political prisoners in accordance with CARHRIHL. This also covers the JASIG-protected consultants.
8. Aquino and his followers claim that they must do everything to remove Corona from the Supreme Court because he is blocking moves to holding Gloria M. Arroyo and her cohorts to account for their crimes. Is this the only purpose of Aquino in causing the impeachment of Corona and pushing for his possible conviction by the Senate?
JMS: Indeed, there are purposes other than the very popular one of clearing the way for the eventual punishment of Arroyo and her aaccomplices. But I think that the most urgent purpose of Aquino is to shake down the Supreme Court and make sure that they get a huge amount of unjust compensation for giving up Hacienda Luisita, at least 5 billion pesos. The question of compensation is still a subject of contention before the Supreme Court.
One more important purpose of Aquino is to seek control over the Supreme Court and increase his power over the entire reactionary government.
The anti-Arroyo purpose is not the most compelling purpose for Aquino because until now he has not pushed the cases of plunder and human rights violations against Arroyo. Two cases of plunder have been reduced to plain cases of graft and corruption. We still have to see what would be done with the plunder case recommended by the Senate.
9. Aquino seems to enjoy the support of the mass media and is gaining more popularity as he attacks Corona. Is this some kind of a show to distract attention from the growing economic and social problems?
JMS: Yes, the Corona trial in the Senate is a big propaganda show that has the effect of boosting Aquino’s popularity. The show is indeed to draw attention away from the big economic and social problems and to obscure Aquino’s failure to adopt policies for solving these problems.
But the broad masses of the people have already begun to complain strongly against the ever rising prices of fuel and basic goods and services.
It is still possible for the protest mass actions to grow until these can totally discredit the current incompetent and corrupt puppet regime. It is also possible for the prosecutors to fail in getting the conviction of Corona because the articles of impeachment were haphazardly prepared under the orders of a president enraged by the Supreme Court decision on Hacienda Luisita and because the prosecutors are already being widely criticized for engaging in a fishing expedition and in excelling at trial by publicity.
10. With the progressive Makabayan congressmen going along with the Aquino coalition against Arroyo and against Corona, are they not concerned that Aquino is further boosting his popularity and eventually turn this against the revolutionary movement. But of course, the other possibility is that Aquino cannot become any more popular because incompetence and corruption will soon discredit his rule?
JMS: It is easy to understand that Makabayan congressmen and the people are very willing to initiate as well as join any action to run after Arroyo and her mates for their crimes. Aquino cannot be allowed to monopolize the credit for running after them and yet fall short of the just expectations of the people. But I think that the progressive congressmen are careful to distinguish themselves from Aquino and remain vigilant and are critical of Aquino’s pro-imperialist and big comprador-landlord agenda.
11. What are the forces of the Left doing to prevent Aquino from using the anti-Arroyo and anti-Corona theatrics to consolidate his power and then push even harder his anti-national and anti-democratic policies against the people?
JMS: The patriotic and progressive forces and people continue to demand that Arroyo and her accomplices be punished for plunder and human rights violations and criticize Aquino for having failed to fulfill his election promise of punishing the plunderers and human rights violators.
At the same time, they are intensifying their efforts to arouse, organize and mobilize the people against the pro-imperialist and reactionary policies and acts of the Aquino regime, including the continuance of the neoliberal economic policy, aggravation of underdevelopment, exploitation and poverty, rampant corruption, Oplan Bantay Laya and escalating US military intervention.
12. How much attention should be given to the economic and social problems which are expected to hit the Philippines hard this year?
JMS: We should pay close to the economic and social problems. Even the World Bank has stated in a recent report that the economic and financial crisis will hit the Philippines hard this year. We should encourage and join the masses of working people in rising up against the rotten ruling system and fighting for national and social liberation against the imperialists and the local exploiting classes of big compradors and landlords like Aquino.