Ilena Saturay contributed this interview with Prof. Jose Maria Sison, founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines and current chairperson of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) regarding martial law, the Plaza Miranda bombing and the political ambitions of the dictator’s son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
By ILENA M. SATURAY
UTRECHT, the Netherlands — I have sought out for interview Prof. Jose Maria Sison, founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines and currently chairperson of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle because of a spate of attacks on him and the late Senator Benigno S. Aquino as having been supposedly among others the cause of the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in 1971 and the declaration of martial law in 1972.
The campaign of slander against Sison is well-timed with the well-funded campaign for the election of Bongbong Marcos for vice president and for whitewashing the brutal and bloody violations of human rights and the filthy corruption of the the Marcos dictatorship, which about severe economic and social suffering of the people and which ultimately drove the people to overthrow Marcos in 1986.
1. There is a big expensive campaign in print, broadcast and print media to spread big lies like the following: Marcos was justified in suspending the writ of habeas corpus in 1971 and martial law in 1972, the dictatorship of 1972 to 1986 was a paradise for the Filipino people and the nationwide movement of the people to overthrow the dictatorship consisted of a mere minority of the people. How do you react to this brazen attempt to change the verdict of history?
JMS: The big campaign that you refer to is obviously related to the campaign of Bongbong Marcos to get himself elected as vice president. He can mount such a campaign because he is drawing money from what his father had stolen from the people. He has been a criminal accomplice in keeping this stolen money to live like a prince and to try regaining political power.
Marcos used his own violent fabrications to justify the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in 1971 and the declaration of martial law in 1972. The fascist dictatorship of 14 years was absolutely brutal and corrupt. The human rights violations have been proven in the US federal court system and confirmed by the Philippine Congress. The public constructions made by Marcos were overpriced and riddled by corruption. The economy sank because of excessive foreign debt and corruption.
The broad masses of the people nationwide participated in the overthrow of Marcos and even most of his military and police forces turned against him in 1986. The Marcos family and retinue had to be flown out of the palace by US helicopters.
2. Let me focus on what you say were the Marcos fabrications that he used to justify the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and the declaration of martial law. You must be referring to the grenade throwing at the Plaza Miranda miting de avance of the Liberal Party on August 21, 1971 and the subsequent series of nuisance bombings in 1972. Within hours of the Plaza Miranda incident, Marcos accused you and then Senator Benigno S. Aquino of having plotted it. But when Marcos arrested and detained Aquino in 1972, Bernabe Buscayno in 1976 and you in 1977, he did not charge any of you as responsible for the Plaza Miranda incident. Why?
JMS: You are quite sharp in observing that Marcos did not charge Aquino or me for the Plaza Miranda grenade throwing incident. He knew that he had no evidence for his own lie. Thus, he did not charge us for it before any of his military commissions. Instead, he had Aquino and Buscayno convicted and given the death sentence by a military commission in 1978 on trumped up charges unrelated to the Plaza Miranda incident. The charges of subversion and rebellion filed against me before two military commissions never included the Plaza Miranda in the specifications.
The only instance when I was interrogated about the Plaza Miranda incident was on the evening of my day of arrest, November 10, 1977. It was done by Colonel Saturnino Domingo who asked me questions in a very intimidating and menacing manner at the Constabulary intelligence office. I showed him the mendacity and absurdity of the presumption of his questions. Thereafter, I was no longer asked questions about Plaza Miranda incident even while I was under severe torture and interrogation at the Military Security Unit compound where I was detained.
3. According to a declaration by your counsel Atty. Romeo T. Capulong, you had no criminal liabilities before you left the Philippines in 1986 and Philippine authorities did not make any official complaint that you had something to do with the Plaza Miranda grenade throwing. It was actually later, when you were already on your global university lecture tour from late 1986 to 1988 that accusations against you reemerged from the direction of the CIA and the Philippine military authorities. Why the renewed accusations?
JMS: As documented by Raymond Bonner in his book Waltzing with the Dictator, the CIA made its own investigation and concluded that Marcos had masterminded the Plaza Miranda grenade throwing in order to justify the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and the declaration of martial law. But I think that after the fall of Marcos, the CIA had an ideological purpose in commissioning Gregg Jones to write a book for West View Press (a CIA-funded publishing firm) to blame the Plaza Miranda incident on me in order to discredit the Communist Party of the Philippines and the revolutionary movement.
The highest military officials at the time openly attacked me for my lectures and statements abroad denouncing the US-Aquino regime and demanded that my Philippine passport be cancelled to force my return to the Philippines from late 1986 onwards while I was still in the Asia-Pacific phase of my tour. Then they proceeded to include in their anti-Sison attacks the Plaza Miranda incident. They succeeded in having my passport cancelled in 1988 and filing against me a case of subversion unrelated to the Plaza Miranda incident. By 1989 they succeeded in having the Senate President direct the blue ribbon and justice committees to hold joint committee hearings to investigate the Plaza Miranda incident.
4. How did the joint hearings of the blue ribbon and justice committees proceed? What were the results? And what did your military accusers do subsequently?
JMS: My military detractors wanted to demonize me with the use of the Senate hearings in 1989 and 1990. They presented so many witnesses who gave purely hearsay and speculative testimonies that were of course uncorroborated by other witnesses and documentary evidence. Atty. Romeo T. Capulong defended me competently and debunked all the false testimonies. The blue ribbon and justice committees did not make any conclusion adverse to me.
Before August 21, 1991 the Philippine National Police- Criminal Investigation Service filed a complaint (I.S. No. 91|-24834) against me and others to the office of the Manila city prosecutor for multiple murder in the Plaza Miranda incident. They beat the twenty-year deadline for the filing of single or multiple murder charge. They submitted everything that they thought could prove their case. And of course my counsel Atty. Capulong and the Public Interest Law Center submitted everything to debunk the outright lies and hearsay against me.
5. What happened to the complaint after your military detractors filed it?
JMS: The office of the Manila city prosecutor approved for issuance on August 24,1994 the resolution dated March 2, 1994 that described the complaint as based on sheer speculations and dismissed the complaint against me and other respondents for lack of evidence. I am giving you a copy of the resolution. You may reproduce it and attach it to this interview. The said resolution sums up and closes the case. The Manila prosecutor’s office had the most complete and best possible view of the submissions of the complainants and the respondents.
To further buttress the resolution, I am giving to you the certification issued by the Department of Justice through its Secretary Silvestre Bello III on April 20, 1998. This certification confirms the dismissal by the Manila city prosecutor’s office of the case filed against me and others in connection with the Plaza Miranda incident. It also confirms the dismissal or nullification of the subversion complaint filed against me (Criminal Case No. 74896) before Regional Trial Court of Pasig due to the repeal of the Anti-Subversion Law by Republic Act 7636 on September 22, 1992. I am giving you a copy of the certification for reproduction and attachment to this interview.
6. From time to time, you are still subjected to attacks in connection with the Plaza Miranda incident. What do you think of such attacks? How do they carry out the attacks? What is the purpose of your attackers? Are they not concerned that you can go after them in court?
JMS: Those attacks are pure rubbish. They usually recycle false testimonies against me and conjectures from previous publications against me. They never present my side in full even if the case file is available and the submissions and counter-submissions are accessible.
The opposing sides are well covered by the submissions and counter-submissions to the Manila city prosecutor’s office. Since such submissions were done in 1991, nothing new in the case has ever come up. Thus, I usually do not answer attacks. I answer these only when I am interviewed or whenever I think that a non-answer might be interpreted as acquiescence to the lie of the attacker.
Those who attack me have varying motives. The ideologically motivated attack me as the personification of the entire revolutionary movement. They calculate that by doing so they have a short cut for discrediting the entire movement. There are also some attackers who turned renegades or traitors to the revolutionary movement and try to justify their renegacy or betrayal by vilifying me and the entire movement. There are also mere crooks. They attack me in order to a make some bucks. They do so now as paid agents of Bongbong Marcos.
All of my attackers seem to feel confident that they can freely libel and slander me because I am out of the Philippines. They know that I will not bother to file a case of libel or slander over a case that is already closed in my favor. Anyway, what I simply need to do is to show to the public the resolution of the Manila city prosecutor’s office dismissing the complaint against me for the Plaza Miranda incident. I always laugh at the commentators and columnists who play calumnists for a price.
7. I ask one final question in this interview. Aside from the attack that you and the late Senator Aquino had something to with the Plaza Miranda incident, there are attacks to the effect the two of you were co-founders of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army and that you and the Aquino family have been collaborating until at least in the early months of the Corazon Aquino regime. These attacks make it appear that you and other people can choose only between the Marcoses and Aquinos. What do you think of these two families or dynasties whose chief representatives have occupied the presidency the longest in the Philippines?
JMS: Ninoy Aquino could not have been a communist or founder of the CPP. He was well known as a CIA asset from the time he was a war correspondent in Korea. He was the political representative of the comprador big bourgeoisie and the landlord class. He made himself popular by harping only on issues of corruption and civil liberties. He never opposed the ruling system of big compradors and landlords.
Both the Marcos and Aquino families are fundamentally the same. They are major specimens and representatives of such reptiles as the big comprador-landlords and bureaucrat capitalists who exploit and oppress the Filipino people and who in turn are under the baton of US imperialism. The Filipino people are not limited to choosing between oligarchs, the Aquino and Marcos families, or between the political candidates that these families fund and support. The revolutionary movement of the people is growing in strength and advancing precisely because the people detest and wish to get rid of these oppressive and exploitative dynasties.