2002, seemingly out of nowhere, then US Secretary of State
Colin Powell announced that the USA henceforth considered
the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and their armed
wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), to be terrorist organizations.
Additionally, they labeled a long-time Philippine revolutionary
leader and theorist - Jose Maria Sison - to be a supporter
of terrorism. Sison had been living in exile in the Netherlands.
This labeling, denounced immediately by civil liberties
advocates in the USA, the Philippines and other parts of
the world, has resulted in myriad of legal ramblings and
complications for all those associated with the NDFP and
CPP. What made this announcement by Powell so odd was that
the conflict in the Philippines represented a long-running
- and internationally recognized - civil war and the NDFP
(and Sison) had been engaged in peace negotiations, a process
that was certainly harmed by the Bush administration’s allegations.
These allegations also emerged at a time of increasing usage
by the US government of the label of “terrorist” or “supporter
of terrorism” to describe opponents.
following is drawn from a longer interview with Professor
Sison. This component focuses upon his analysis of the current
situation in the Philippines, negotiations with the Philippine
government and the question of the terrorist label used
by the US government against various forces.
you apply your search engine to research Professor Sison
you will find a considerable number of references, including
his own website which provides
born in 1939, has been a major leader in Philippine radical
politics since the 1960s. He served as the founding chair
of the revamped Communist Party of the Philippines in 1968
and helped in the creation of the New People’s Army the
following year. He was captured by the government forces
of then dictator Ferdinand Marcos at which time he was both
imprisoned and tortured. He gained release in 1986 when
Marcos was overthrown in the famous “People Power” uprising.
He then attempted to assist in negotiations between the
National Democratic Front of the Philippines (the broad
umbrella group coordinating the insurrection in which the
CPP and NPA can be found) and the government of President
Corazon Aquino, but these came to nothing as the government
moved more to the Right and repression was imposed on opponents
of the government. Sison found himself in exile when he
was traveling and his passport was cancelled.
in exile, Sison was tapped to serve as the chief political
consultant to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
As a result he has been very much in touch with the unfolding
of the struggle on that archipelago, a struggle that includes
the armed insurrection led by the CPP/NPA, as well as a
secessionist movement on the southern island of Mindanao
among the largely Muslim Moro people (a movement supported
by the NDFP).
the length of the immediate insurrection, and the long-term
struggle that the Philippine people have conducted to achieve
genuine freedom from US domination - a struggle dating back
to the Spanish-American War - the Philippines rarely receives
much attention except when the US government discusses alleged
Muslim terrorism on Mindanao. For that reason it is useful
for US audiences to understand the point of view of the
insurrectionists irrespective of whether one agrees with
their objectives and/or means.
You have described the Philippines as semi-colonial/semi-feudal.
Please explain what this means in practical terms. We are
in the early years of the 21st century. How could there
be a semi-feudal situation in the Philippines? The Philippines
seems, for all intents and purposes, to be tied into global
can say bluntly that the Philippines is capitalist and has
long been capitalist since the 19th century if you mean
that the commodity system of production and exchange through
money has come on top of the natural economy of feudalism
when local communities could subsist on a diversified agriculture
and engage mainly in barter. The specialization in crops
for domestic food (rice and corn) and for export (tobacco,
hemp and sugar) and the import of a certain amount of manufactures
from Europe for consumption pushed the domestic commodity
system of production as well as integration with global
capitalism through colonialism as a part of the primitive
accumulation of capital in Europe and subsequently under
the banner of colonial free trade.
it is utterly wrong to say that the Philippines is industrial
capitalist or even semi-industrial capitalist. The Philippines
does not have an industrial foundation. Its floating kind
of industry consists of imported equipment paid for by the
export of raw materials and by foreign loans necessitated
by the chronic trade deficits. It is most precise to describe
the Philippine economy as semi-feudal to denote the persistence
of the large vestiges of feudalism in the form of disguised
and undisguised landlord- tenant relations and usury at
the base of the economy, the peasant class constituting
75 per cent of the population and the combination of the
big compradors and landlords as the main exploiting classes.
The big compradors are the chief financial and trading agents
of the foreign monopolies and are often big landlords themselves,
especially on land producing crops for export.
capitalism under the neoliberal policy of "free trade"
globalization has not changed but has aggravated and deepened
the pre-industrial and underdeveloped semi-feudal character
of the Philippine economy. The share of manufacturing with
the use of imported equipment and raw materials under the
policy of low-value added export-oriented manufacturing
in the last three decades has decreased in comparison to
that share under the previous policy of import substitution.
The illusion of industrial development has been conjured
by excessive foreign borrowing for consumption of foreign
manufactures, by conspicuous private construction projects
and by the sweat shops that engage in the fringe-processing
of imported manufactured components and yield little net
the series of bogus land reform programs since decades ago
nor the neoliberal policy of imperialist globalization has
broken up feudalism completely and given way to a well-founded
industrialization. The backward agrarian and semi-feudal
character of the Philippine economy is now increasingly
exposed by its depression and ruination due to the decreasing
demand for its type of exports, the closure of many sweatshops
of semi-manufacturing for export, the tightening of international
credit and the decrease of remittances by overseas contract
workers in the current prolonged global economic and financial
crisis in this 21st century of desperate, barbaric and imploding
global capitalism. The conditions have become more fertile
for people's war in the Philippines.
the 1980s,certain elements in the Philippines pushed the
notion that the Philippine economy was no longer semi-feudal
but semi-capitalist or semi-industrial capitalist in order
to glorify the Marcos fascist dictatorship as having industrialized
the Philippines. This notion also aimed to undercut the
Communist Party's strategic line of protracted people’s
war involving the encirclement of the cities from the countryside
by the armed revolutionary movement of the workers and peasants
until such time that they have accumulated enough politico-military
strength to seize the cities on a nationwide scale in a
bureaucratic big comprador Ferdinand Marcos conjured the
illusion of industrial development by borrowing heavily
from abroad and by importing consumption goods and luxuries
and construction equipment and structural steel in order
to build roads, bridges, hotels and other tourist facilities.
The profligate spending of foreign loans only served to
maintain the agrarian and pre-industrial character of the
Philippine economy. Cognizant of the persistent semi-feudal
reality, the New People's Army under CPP leadership has
been able to wage people's war successfully with the main
support of the peasantry and under the class leadership
of the working class.
When one talks of the Philippine working class, what are
the main sectors in which it is found and how is neo-liberalism
Philippine working class is found in such main sectors as
the following: food and beverages, hotels and restaurants,
public utilities (power generation, water and sewage system),
mining and quarrying, metal fabrication (imported metals),
car assembly, ship assembly, transportation, communications,
mass media, assembly of electronic and electrical products,
chemicals, pharmaceuticals, oil refining, construction,
construction materials (cement and wood), banks and other
financial institutions and public sector services (education,
the Philippines, the neoliberal policy has favored certain
enterprises away from industrial development and has expanded
employment in such enterprises during boom periods. The
favored enterprises include those in mining and export-crop
plantations, the assembly of electronic and electrical products,
the semi-manufacturing of garments, shoes and other low-value
added products for re-export, car assembly, construction
of office and residential towers, cement production, hotels
and restaurants, business call centers and financial services.
They are vulnerable to the ups and downs characteristic
of global capitalism under neoliberal policy and now to
the worst crisis since the Great Depression. Closures and
reduction of production have resulted in a high rate of
unemployment and the further immiseration of the people.
the neoliberal policy, the working class has been subjected
to wage freezes and reductions, loss of job security, flexibilization
or casualization (reducing the number of regular employees
and increasing the number of temporaries or casuals), systematic
prevention or break up of workers' unions and ceaseless
attack on union rights and other democratic rights. The
kinds of enterprises generated by the neoliberal policy
involve cheap labor and the most tiring and health-damaging
processes and conditions. They also limit the number of
regular employees and expand the ranks of the casuals subjected
to a series of short-term employment contracts in order
to circumvent the law on regular employment. The scarcity
of employment opportunities in the Philippines has compelled
nearly 10 per cent of the population to seek employment
abroad as overseas contract workers and undocumented workers
with practically no rights. This fact proves the lack of
national industrial development.
Would you sum-up the situation in the Philippines, particularly
the state of negotiations between the NDFP and the government;
the situation facing workers and farmers; the overall economy;
and fighting that may be taking place?
Philippines is severely stricken by crisis because of the
rotting semi-colonial and semi-feudal ruling system and
the growing impact of the crisis of the US and global capitalist
system. The prices of the raw materials and semi-manufactures
produced for export by the Philippines are depressed and
foreign loans to cover the trade deficits and debt service
are becoming more onerous than before. There is now less
demand for overseas contract workers and thus their remittances
are decreasing. The global economic and financial crisis
is hitting hard the Philippines. The growing public deficits
(budgetary and trade) and the public debt are growing and
exposing the bankruptcy of the big comprador-landlord state.
forms of popular resistance, including people’s war, are
ever growing because of the extreme and ever worsening conditions
of exploitation and oppression of more than 90 per cent
of the people, the toiling masses of workers and peasants.
Like preceding regimes, the Aquino regime wants to destroy
the armed revolutionary movement. It is implementing the
US-designed Oplan Bayanihan, which is the same dog as Arroyo's
Oplan Bantay Laya but which tries to be different by dressing
up brutal military operations as peace and development operations
and maintaining human rights desks in the reactionary army
and national police for the purpose of shifting the blame
for human rights violations to the revolutionaries. On the
other hand, the New People's Army led by the Communist Party
of the Party is carrying out a five-year plan to advance
from the strategic defensive to strategic stalemate in the
people's war, increasing the number of guerrilla fronts
from 120 to 180.
their respective armed forces continue to fight, the Government
of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front
of the Philippines (NDFP) are supposed to engage in peace
negotiations in order to address the roots of the armed
conflict by forging agreements on social, economic and political
reforms. But the GPH has paralyzed the peace negotiations
by refusing to release a few political prisoners who are
NDFP consultants in the negotiations and thus violating
the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).
The GPH is also grossly violating the Comprehensive Agreement
on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian
Law (CARHRIL) by refusing to release more than 350 political
prisoners who are imprisoned on false charges of common
What have been the chief obstacles to a negotiated settlement
between the NDFP and the government?
Manila government and NDFP have their respective constitutions,
governments and armies. To lay the ground for peace negotiations,
they issued The Hague Joint Declaration to define the framework
for peace negotiations. They agreed to address the roots
of the armed conflict or the civil war by negotiating and
forging agreements on human rights and international humanitarian
law and on social, economic and political reforms. They
also agreed that they are guided by the mutually acceptable
principles of national sovereignty, democracy and social
justice and that no precondition shall be made by any side
to negate the inherent character and purpose of peace negotiations,
i.e. no side can demand the surrender of the other side.
the current Aquino régime, his presidential adviser and
his negotiating panel want to undermine and nullify the
aforesaid declaration by asserting that it is a document
of perpetual division. They are practically demanding the
immediate surrender of the revolutionary movement. They
do not respect the agreement on the sequence, formation
and operationalization of the reciprocal working committees
that are to negotiate and work out the agreements on reforms.
The question of what kind of authority will be formed to
implement the comprehensive agreements on reforms shall
be settled when the time comes for negotiating the political
and constitutional reforms.
Benigno Aquino III regime has shown no respect for and has
in fact violated the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity
Guarantees (JASIG) by refusing to release some 14 political
prisoners who are NDFP negotiating personnel and are therefore
JASIG-protected. It has not called to account those military
and police personnel who have abducted, tortured and murdered
NDFP consultants who are JASIG-protected. Also, it has violated
the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights
and International Humanitarian Law by condoning violations
of human rights of suspected revolutionaries and sympathizers
by the Arroyo regime and by his own troops and by refusing
to release 350 political prisoners who are unjustly imprisoned
on trumped up charges of common crimes.
regime keeps on demanding ceasefire in order to distract
public attention from the agreement to address the roots
of the civil war though basic reforms. The NDFP has offered
truce and alliance on the basis of a general declaration
on common intent on ten points, including the assertion
of national independence, empowerment of the working people,
land reform and national industrialization, immediate assistance
and employment for the impoverished and unemployed, promotion
of a patriotic, scientific and popular culture, self-determination
of national minorities and independent foreign policy for
peace and development.
biggest obstacle to the peace negotiations is US political
and military intervention. The US has upset the peace negotiations
by unjustly designating the CPP, the NPA and the NDFP chief
political consultant as terrorists. It has dictated upon
the Aquino regime to draw up Oplan Bayanihan under the US
Counterinsurgency Guide, which considers peace negotiations
as a mere psy-war2device for outwitting, isolating
and destroying the revolutionary movement. Oplan Bayanihan
is a campaign plan of military suppression. But it masquerades
as a peace and development plan. It regards peace negotiations
only as a means to enhance the triad of psy-war, intelligence-gathering
and combat operations. Many people think that the US does
not allow the puppet regime to make the overall agreement
for a just and lasting peace with the NDFP.
Are you optimistic that negotiations can result in a just
speaking, I am not optimistic that negotiations can result
in a just settlement. Like its predecessors, the Aquino
regime is too servile to US imperialism and stands as the
current chief representative of the local exploiting classes,
the comprador big bourgeoisie and landlord class. It has
shown no inclination to assert national independence and
undo unequal treaties, agreements and arrangements that
keep the Philippines semi-colonial. It also has shown no
inclination to realize democracy through significant representation
of workers and peasants in government and through land reform
and national industrialization.
has become clear that the reactionary government is not
seriously interested in peace negotiations as a way of addressing
the roots of the armed conflict through agreements on basic
reforms. Especially under the Aquino regime, the negotiators
are always trying to lay aside the substantive agenda and
to push the NDFP towards capitulation and pacification.
Failing to accomplish their vile objective, they paralyze
the peace negotiations by refusing to comply with obligations
under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.
What has been the role of the USA? And, have US policies
towards the Philippines changed under President Obama? If
so, how? What is your overall assessment of the Obama administration?
USA has not been helpful to the peace negotiations. In fact,
it has obstructed these. The US designation of the Communist
Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and myself (the
National Democratic Front of the Philippines’ chief political
consultant) as terrorists is meant to intimidate and put
pressure on the NDFP in the peace negotiations. The US Counterinsurgency
Guide actually tells the Philippine reactionary government
that peace negotiations are dispensable but are useful only
for purposes of psy-war to mislead the people, possibly
split the revolutionary forces and make the reactionary
killing machine more efficient. But the US policy against
peace negotiations with the NDFP has served to make the
revolutionary force and people more vigilant and more resolute
in opposing US intervention in the internal affairs of the
the Bush II to the Obama regime, there has been no change
in US policy towards the Philippines. Obama continues the
policy of serving the interests of the US imperialists in
the economic, political, military and cultural fields, collaborating
with the big compradors and landlords, manipulating the
puppet regime and its military forces, preventing land reform
and national industrialization, controlling the fundamentals
and direction of the Philippine cultural and educational
system and stationing US troops in the Philippines and maintaining
a permanent relay of US military forces under the US-RP3Mutual
Defense Pact and the Visiting Forces Agreement. Obama is
a good servant of US imperialism. He used his glibness to
make himself look better than the brazenly brutal Bush.
But he is using the same glibness to cover many acts as
bad as or even worse than those that made Bush infamous.
How did the CPP and NPA end up on a list of terrorist organizations?
How did you end up on a list of supporters of terrorism?
What steps are being taken to remove this label from you,
the CPP and the NPA?
the November 2001 visit of then Philippine president Gloria
M. Arroyo to Washington, she requested then US President
Bush to have the US agencies(State Department and the Office
of Foreign Asset Control of the Treasury Department)designate
the CPP, NPA and myself as "terrorists". When
US state secretary Colin Powell visited the Philippines
in the early days of August 2002, he was reminded of the
request and he assured Arroyo that he would act on it immediately
upon his return to the US. Indeed, within August 2002 the
CPP, NPA and I were designated as "terrorists."
Philippine and U.S. governments connived to take advantage
of the terrorism scare that followed 9-11. They themselves
engaged in terrorism by deciding to undertake harmful actions
against the CPP, NPA and myself. The designation of the
CPP and NPA as "terrorist" is absolutely absurd
because they [the NPA - interviewer] have carried out revolutionary
actions strictly within the Philippines, have not engaged
in any cross-border attacks against the US and up to now
have not been discovered to keep bank accounts in the US
or anywhere else outside of the Philippines.
my case, I have been falsely accused of being the current
CPP chairman and being responsible for the alleged terrorist
acts, in fact the revolutionary actions, of the NPA despite
the fact that I have been out of the Philippines since 1986
when I was released from nearly a decade of detention under
the Marcos fascist dictatorship. The malicious intention
of the US and Philippine governments is to pressure the
entire NDFP negotiating panel and me as its chief political
consultant. Like the Arroyo regime, the Aquino regime uses
the terrorist designation as a kind of lever against the
NDFP in the peace negotiations.
is impossible for the CPP, NPA or myself to begin any legal
process for undoing the terrorist designation in the US
or in any other country tailing after the US in the so-called
war on terror, without proving first the legal personality
and material interest of the plaintiff. In my case, I could
take legal action against the Dutch government for putting
me in the terrorist list because I live in The Netherlands.
After my administrative complaint, the Dutch government
repealed its decision to put me in its terrorist list but
took the initiative in having me put in the terrorist list
of the European Union in October 2002. I went to the European
Court of Justice and I succeeded in having my name removed
from the EU terrorist list in December 2010 after eight
years of legal struggle.
Do you think that the US media has consciously mischaracterized
the situation in the Philippines by focusing on groups like
the US media drum up US policy and corporate interests and
consciously misrepresent the Philippine situation, as in
the focusing on the Abu Sayyaf. This small bandit gang,
whose origin can be traced to the CIA and intelligence operatives
of the Philippine army who organized and used it against
the Moro revolutionaries (MNLF and then MILF),is magnified
as an extension of Al Qaeda in order to serve the false
claim of [President] Bush that the Philippines is the second
front of a global war on terror as well as to rationalize
state terrorism and US military intervention in the Philippines.
the mass media, the US has spread the scare about terrorism
in order to justify a whole range of actions: the curtailment
of democratic rights in the US and on a global scale, the
stepping up of war production to please the military-industrial
complex and the unleashing of wars of aggression.
Has the "terrorism" designation made it difficult
for NDFP supporters in the Philippines and in other parts
of the world? If so, how? Have civilian political activists
faced increased government-inspired violence as a result
of this terrorism designation?
"terrorism" designation is an incitation to hatred
and violence and various forms of discrimination and harassment
against known or suspected NDFP supporters in the Philippines
and other parts of the world. Although the NDFP is not designated
as terrorist, everyone knows that the CPP and NPA are the
most important components of the NDFP. In the Philippines,
the incitation to hatred and violence is quite deadly because
the military, police and their death squads are emboldened
to go on terrorist-hunting and are assured that they can
abduct, torture and kill people with impunity…
Dutch authorities have advised the Norwegian government
not to give any assistance to the NDFP negotiating panel
for maintaining office and staff in The Netherlands on the
claim that such assistance would be for building the infrastructure
of "terrorists". They have also raided the NDFP
office and houses of NDFP panelists and consultants and
seized documents and equipment needed in the peace negotiations.
Periodically the US media discuss alleged Muslim fundamentalist
terrorism in the Philippines. What is the situation? In
Mindanao there have been efforts at autonomy and self-determination.
What has been the stand of the NDFP on these efforts? What
is your take on allegations of Muslim terrorism?
NDFP supports the Moro people's struggle for self-determination,
including the right to secede from an oppressive state or
opt for regional autonomy in a non-oppressive political
system. The Moro people have long been oppressed by the
Manila government and by local reactionary agents. They
are not free in their own homeland and are victims of Christian
chauvinism and discrimination. They have been deprived of
their ancestral domain. They have been robbed of agricultural
land as well as forest, mineral and marine resources.
Moro people have all the right to fight for national and
social liberation. The NDFP has therefore found common ground
for alliance with the Moro National Liberation Front(MNLF)
and subsequently with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front
(MILF) after the MNLF capitulated to the Ramos regime in
1996. By fighting well against their common enemy, the NDFP
and the MILF gain better conditions for growing in strength
and advancing in their respective struggles.
US government and the US media exaggerate the threat of
Muslim fundamentalist terrorism because they wish to promote
the entry of US corporations for the purpose of plundering
the rich natural resources of Mindanao, especially oil,
gold and deuterium. They also wish to justify the current
stationing of US military forces and eventually the basing
of larger US military forces for the purpose of strategic
control over Islamic countries in Southeast Asia and strategic
countervailing of China and the Democratic People’s Republic
of Korea [North Korea] in Northeast Asia.
Al Qaeda, Abu Sayyaf was originally a creature of CIA and
the intelligence agency of the Armed Forces of the Philippines
to counteract the MNLF. It has become a bandit gang since
the capitulation of MNLF. It has also been convenient for
the US and Manila government to depict the Abu Sayyaf as
a Muslim fundamentalist group and as an extension of the
Al Qaeda, since 2001 when Bush declared Moro land as the
second front in the so-called global war on terror. There
are indications that the US and Philippine governments continue
to arm and finance the Abu Sayyaf in order to block the
advance of the MILF in Sulu and to provide the pretext for
US military intervention in the Philippines.
commentary was originally published on Alternet.org.
Editorial Board member, Bill Fletcher,
Jr., is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president
of TransAfricaForum and co-author of
Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path
toward Social Justice (University of California Press), which examines the crisis of organized
labor in the USA. Click here
to contact Mr. Fletcher.