By CONI LEDESMA
Representative, Committee Defend
Presented at the Conference
LAWS, LABELS AND LIBERATION:
The Case of Professor Jose Maria Sison
Universite de Quebec a Montreal
May 29, 2004
Good morning, dear Friends and Comrades.
Committee Defend is honored to participate in this conference.
The talks and discussions have indeed been very interesting and
the exchange of ideas stimulating. This morning I will talk about
Committee Defend, the solidarity movement that was launched when
Professor Sison, the CPP and NPA were put on the terrorist list.
Before I tell you about Committee Defend, I would like to tell
you about Professor Sison. Who he is, and why he is not a terrorist.
Prof. Sison’s, or Joema, as his friends call him, was the
founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines. He
is a staunch anti-imperialist. His classic book Philippine Society
and Revolution has inspired the Filipino people, especially the
youth, to take a second look at the country’s history and
the role of colonizers and imperialists in the shaping and continuing
existence of the semicolonial and semifeudal society of the Philippines.
His lectures and speeches serve as a beacon for the anti-imperialist
movement. His analysis of the world’s politics and economy
drives a sword to the very heart of US monopoly capitalism.
His ideas and principles are very much clearly defined in his
works and writings on history, politics, economy and culture.
His poems are testimony to one’s love of country and people.
He believes in socialism where the exploitation of one class or
of classes by another is eradicated.
He plays an important role in the peace talks between the Government
of the Republic of the Philippines (or GRP), and the National
Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) as the Chief Political
Consultant of the Negotiating Panel of the NDFP.
Since 1988, he has been asking for political asylum in the Netherlands.
Twice, the highest administrative court, the Raad van State, has
declared him a political refugee, but the Ministry of Justice
continues to refuse to grant asylum and to give him a residence
permit in the Netherlands.
In putting Prof. Sison on the terrorist list, the US hopes to
isolate him from the revolutionary movement and at the same time
inject fear on revolutionaries, that if they don't do the bidding
of the US, they too will have their freedom curtailed and will
be put on the terrorist list.
A few days after we learned that Joema Sison, the CPP and NPA
were put on the “terrorist” list, a group of us Filipinos
living in the Netherlands, good friends and kasama of Joema Sison,
discussed how we would oppose the terrorist listing. We called
a meeting of Filipinos, Dutch, Belgians and Turkish friends to
discuss how to organize the campaign against the unjust terrorist
listing. Our aim was to inform the broadest number of people about
the case by organizing forums, demonstrations, pickets, a signature
campaign and other activities to bring attention to the unjustness
of the listing and to get Joema Sison, the CPP and NPA off the
Among our first activities was to start a signature campaign.
Then we organized a forum in Amsterdam. We were surprised at the
number of people who were interested in the case. The hall was
crowded - standing room only - a most unusual occurrence in the
Netherlands for a political activity. The Belgian friends opened
a website, <www.defendsison.be>.
It did not take long before other countries also began organizing
activities against the terrorist listing. Then they began to also
form their own Committee Defend. Within a few months there were
Committees Defend in Hong Kong, the Philippines, the US, Belgium,
Germany, Austria, France, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands
and the United Kingdom.
People from a broad spectrum have given their support to the
campaign. They either believe in the Filipino people’s struggle
for national liberation and democracy, or are angered by the violation
of Prof. Sison’s human rights and the disregard for due
process, or they are just sick and tired of US arrogance and bullying.
The different Committee Defends launched various activities.
These range from demonstrations, pickets and sleep-ins in front
of the US, Dutch and Philippine embassies and consulates and the
office of the European Union, to writing petitions, signature
gathering, letter writing, raising funds for the legal defense,
cultural presentations, information meetings and forums and lobbying
at the European Counsel's office. They publish articles, interviews
and other information. The issue is highlighted in different websites.
Activities were held in countries and cities such as Belgium,
Greece, Norway, Denmark, United Kingdom, Austria, Sweden, Netherlands,
Italy, Germany, Switzerland, France, Turkey, Spain, Philippines,
Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Nepal, India, People’s
Republic of China, Taiwan, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Toronto,
Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Vancouver in Canada and San Francisco,
Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, San Jose, San Bernardino, Oakland,
Oregon and New York in the US.
The signature campaign launched in different cities and countries
continues today. We started the signature campaign in August 2002.
By December 10, 2002, we had collected 20,000 signatures, which
we delivered to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Netherlands.
By April 2003, we had delivered more than 50,000 signatures to
the European Council in Brussels. Today, we have collected more
than 80,000 signatures, worldwide. We are holding on to these
signatures and will submit them when the hearing at the Luxembourg
court takes place. By then we hope to have more than 100,000 signatures
Numbers may not say it all. In the different cities and countries,
creative ways were used to collect the signatures. Anti-war demonstrations
in different countries were good occasions to collect signatures.
A sympathizer from the Socialist Party in the Netherlands used
their Party Congress to collect the signatures of their Party
Chairperson, as well as prominent members of their Party. In the
Philippines, meetings and conferences are used to collect signatures.
In demonstrations we began to distinguish ourselves by wearing
the "Joema Jackets".
The Belgians were the ones who designed these. They took large
orange garbage bags, cut holes for the heads and arms and pasted
a picture of Joema in front. When there are many of you walking
around with the Joema Jackets, you will attract attention. If
you want to see how these jackets look like, you can look them
up at the Defendsison website.
Twenty-two members of the European Parliament from nine countries
signed a letter addressed to Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende
of the Netherlands expressing deep concern for the deprivation
of housing, medical insurance, food allowance and other basic
necessities for the Sison family, and the freezing of his bank
So far, 27 members of the Swedish Parliament, 10 members of the
Dutch Parliament and four members of the Danish Parliament have
also signed similar petitions.
Top government officials and well-known personalities in the
Philippines have also given their support for the campaign. The
outgoing vice-president of the Philippines Teofisto Guingona and
Senator Loren Legarda are among those who have made known their
support for the campaign. Several members of the Senate and House
of Representatives of the Philippines have done likewise.
Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark of the United States is
also supporting the campaign for Prof. Sison.
Several international conferences have also expressed their support
for Prof. Sison and condemned his inclusion in the “terrorist”
listing. The delegates to the International Ecumenical Conference
held in Manila in 2003, marched to the US embassy in Manila to
protest the listing of Prof. Sison, the CPP and the NPA. They
also demanded that the US stop sabotaging the peace negotiations
between the NDFP and the GRP.
At a workshop in the international conference held in Thessaloniki,
Greece, in Mumbai, India and at a European lawyers’ conference
in Brussels, the case of Prof. Sison was among the main topics
A very important development is the signing in Oslo, Norway of
two agreements between the National Democratic Front and the Government
of the Republic of the Philippines to take effective measures
to remove Prof. Sison from the so-called terrorist listing. The
Royal Government of Norway, as Third Party Facilitator, has also
taken steps towards the delisting of Prof. Sison.
I would also like to relate how creative the campaigners are
to inform the public why Prof. Sison can’t be consider a
terrorist. In the Philippines they launched cultural presentations.
Through songs, poetry reading and interpretative dances, they
narrated the 45 years of service of Prof. Sison to the Filipino
people. Similar performances will be held in the Netherlands and
Belgium and we hope also in Canada.
Placing Joema Sison, the CPP and NPA on the terrorist list is
unjust. It is supposed to isolate Joema, the CPP and NPA from
the support of the people. The contrary has happened. Through
the Committee Defends in different countries, the Philipppine
struggle has become better known and has received wider support
than before. Today, more people know about Joema Sison, his life
But he still remains on the terrorist list. And Committee Defends
all over the world will continue to work and campaign until he
is taken off the list.
Now, let me give you a challenge. Let me suggest that you make
the campaign to get Joema Sison, the CPP and NPA off the terrorist
list a major nationwide campaign. Undertake as many activities
as you can, meet and discuss the issue with as many parliamentarians,
jurists, and political parties as you can. Let Canada be the first
country to get Joema Sison off the terrorist list!
Thank you and as we say in the Philippines, Mabuhay tayong lahat! #