April 14, 2009
Reference: Peter Arvin Jabido, NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
REMOVE SISON FROM TERRORIST LIST! RESUME GRP-NDFP PEACE TALKS NOW!
NEW YORK, NY– A human rights advocacy group in New York City is calling for the delisting of Philippine political refugee Jose Maria Sison from the foreign terrorist lists of the US State Department and the European Union (EU). Sison, an author, poet, and founding chairperson of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), has been in self-exile in the Netherlands since 1987. He is also the current Chairperson of the International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS), a global formation of grassroots people’s organizations around the world opposed to the US government’s economic, political, and military intervention worldwide.
“The continued foreign terrorist listing of Professor Jose Maria Sison, the CPP and the New People’s Army (NPA) must end in order for genuine peace in the Philippine to begin,” states Lolan Sevilla of the NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP). “We also cannot tolerate the continued pursuit of the Philippine government to repress Sison’s political and democratic rights.”
For the past two decades, Sison has also served as the Chief Political Consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the CPP’s political wing, which engaged in peace talks with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) since the early 1990’s. The said peace negotiations brought landmark agreements such as the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law or CARHRIHL, which binded both the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the CPP’s armed wing, the NPA to observe International Humanitarian Law while continuing a 40 year-old civil war in the country. Such an agreement and product of the peace negotiations was heralded by many international human rights monitoring bodies as a significant contribution to the advancement of peace and human rights in the Philippines.
With the ascendancy of the Philippine presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2001 and it’s pledge of unconditional support to the Bush administration’s Global War on Terror, the Philippine government prodded both the EU and the US government tag the CPP, NPA, and Sison as foreign terrorists. These listings put the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations on hold indefinitely. Meanwhile, the Arroyo government and the AFP have been condemned by numerous international human rights bodies as perpetrating the worst human rights crisis in Philippine history through their counter-insurgency operation known as Oplan Bantay Laya (Operation Freedom Watch).
A US Senate hearing in Washington DC on February 2007 probed deeper into the link between US military aid and the rise of human rights violations in the Philippines. The Philippines is the largest recipient of US military aid in the Asia-Pacific region. The said hearing and lobby efforts of US churches and Filipino-American groups led to Congress tying a portion of the 2008 US military aid budget to the Philippines to strong human rights recommendations from United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Philip Alston. Since then the Arroyo government has launched Oplan Bantay Laya II, much to the international human rights community’s strong objections.
“The terrorist listings of Sison, the CPP, and NPA and the continuing counter-insurgency of the Arroyo regime are clear indications of the Philippine government’s policy to disregard International Humanitarian Law and murder the innocent. We must not relent in our movement against continuing human rights violations and challenge the Arroyo regime to prove it can promote genuine peace based on justice,” Sevilla continued.
Just recently, Human Rights Watch (HRW) also in New York City issued a statement denouncing and calling for an investigation of death squads in Mindanao in the Southern Philippines. Last year, HRW’s representatives met with NYCHRP to discuss the GRP’s allegations of so-called child recruitment to the NPA. NYCHRP clarified to HRW that such claims were a ploy to cover up the GRP’s killing of innocent children caught in civil strife by accusing them of being armed combatants and carefully placing M-16’s by their fallen bodies.
Since Arroyo’s ascendancy in 2001, approximately 1000 civilians have fallen victim of politically-motivated killings and another 300 more have been abducted. This excludes victims of illegal detainment and torture and the tens of thousands more in countryside who have been targets of militarization, displacement and death squads.
In 2007, alleged murder charges against Sison where filed by the Arroyo government, which prompted Dutch authorities to arrest Sison and jail him. The NDFP office was also raided by Dutch police, as were the homes of NDFP peace panel negotiators. After two weeks, Sison was released and the investigation was dropped last week by a Dutch court due to lack of sufficient evidence. Since then Philippine National Security Advisor Norberto Gonzales has been vocal about the Arroyo government’s intention to pursue Sison’s explusion from the Netherlands.
“We will continue to go after him,” Gonzales threatened in a recent statement.
But even opposition lawmakers in the Philippine Senate, such as Philippine Senator Francis Escudero, are calling on Arroyo to endorse the delisting of Sison immediately.
“Perhaps, the best legacy this administration can hand down to our people is to initiate the resumption of talks with main rebel groups which can lead to an enduring truce that will last until next year’s elections,” Escudero said in a statement.
NYCHRP agrees. “How many more have to die from civil war in the Philippines in order for the Arroyo government to heed the calls of the Filipino people and the international community?” Sevilla continued. “Remove Sison, the CPP and NPA from the terrorist lists now and resume the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations at once.”
NYCHRP also supports the call for increased international solidarity and more independent investigations of the human rights situation in the country. ####
New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines