Sison: I was Confident of Dismissal of Raps


Prof. Jose Maria Sison, chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and chairperson of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS), was happy when the Dutch Public Prosecution Service decided to dismiss the charges against him for inciting murder in relation to the killings of Romulo Kintanar and Arturo Tabara – former Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) leaders who broke away from the group and became security consultants of the Philippine government. It meant, for him, more time for his work both for the NDFP Peace Panel and the ILPS International Coordinating Committee. He had always been confident, he said, that the charges against him would eventually be dismissed.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Bulatlat

Prof. Jose Maria Sison, chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and chairperson of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS), was happy when the Dutch Public Prosecution Service decided to dismiss the charges against him for inciting murder in relation to the killings of Romulo Kintanar and Arturo Tabara – former Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) leaders who broke away from the group and became security consultants of the Philippine government.

It meant, for him, more time for his work both for the NDFP Peace Panel and the ILPS International Coordinating Committee.

He had always been confident, he said, that the charges against him would eventually be dismissed.

“I was confident because of several reasons,” he said in an e-mail interview with Bulatlat. “First of all, I had nothing to do with the killing of the security consultants and military assets Kintanar and Tabara. Secondly, I had excellent Dutch and Filipino lawyers who undertook my legal defense. Thirdly, I had the abundant support of the people and organized forces worldwide.”

He admitted, though, that fighting this particular battle took some toll on him, especially in terms of the time he could have devoted to his work both as NDFP chief political consultant and ILPS chairperson. He was also “vexed for a long while,” he says, and he suffered moral and material damages. He and his family were financially burdened by the costs of the legal battle.

Professor, writer, revolutionary

Sison – a poet, essayist, and political analyst – taught English and Social Science courses at his alma mater, the University of the Philippines (UP), and the Lyceum of the Philippines in the 1960s, after graduating with honors in 1959.

He founded the progressive organizations Student Cultural Association of the University of the Philippines (SCAUP) and Kabataang Makabayan (KM). He was later also involved in the workers’ and peasant movements through the Lapiang Manggagawa (Workers Party) and the Malayang Samahan ng Magsasaka (MASAKA or Free Association of Peasants). He became secretary-general of the Socialist Party of the Philippines (SPP) and, later, the Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism (MAN).

But he is best known as the founding chairman of the CPP. In 1968 he led a group that broke away from the leadership of the Lava brothers in the old Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP) due to ideological differences, and re-established the party as the CPP.

Under Sison’s leadership, the CPP rapidly gained strength and together with the New People’s Army (NPA), its armed component, which was founded in 1969, it developed into one of the strongest organized forces opposed to the US-Marcos regime during the martial law years.

He was the CPP’s highest-ranking leader from its reestablishment until he was arrested by the Marcos dictatorship in 1977.

Released in 1986 by virtue of then President Corazon Aquino’s general amnesty proclamation for political prisoners, Sison got involved in a number of legal political activities and even delivered a series of lectures at UP.

In 1988, he found himself having to apply for political asylum after the Aquino government cancelled his passport while he was in Europe on a speaking tour. He has since lived in the Netherlands as an asylum seeker.

Terror listing

In 2002, the CPP-NPA was included by the U.S. Department of State in its list of “foreign terrorist organizations”. Sison was also listed as a “foreign terrorist”. The Dutch government listed the CPP-NPA and Sison in its own terror list a day after the US listing.

According to Jan Fermon, one of Sison’s lawyers, the Dutch Foreign Ministry admitted in its website that the inclusion of the CPP-NPA and Sison in its list of terrorists was done to comply with the request of the US government. It likewise stated that 150 Dutch companies have investments in the Philippines and that Holland is one of the major investors now in the country. It added that the only burden in the relationship between Holland and the Philippines is the presence of what they called the communist leadership in Utrecht.

The Netherlands is at present one of the leading US allies in Europe – next only to the United Kingdom.

The Council of the European Union followed suit in listing Sison as a “terrorist” later that year.

On May 29, 2007, the Council of the European Union decided to retain Sison in its “terrorist” list. This decision was annulled by the July 11 verdict of the European Court of First Instance (ECFI).

Insufficient evidence

On Aug. 28 that same year, Sison was arrested by Dutch police in Utrecht for allegedly ordering the murders of Kintanar and Tabara in 2003 and 2004, respectively – an accusation he has denied. His apartment, the homes of a few other NDFP negotiators, and the NDFP International Office were raided and several important items like computers, hard disks, and files related to the NDFP’s peace negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) were taken.

The CPP-NPA leadership in the Philippines has owned up to the killings of both Kintanar and Tabara, citing them for “crimes against the Revolution”.

On Sept. 13, 2007, the District Court of The Hague ordered Sison’s release due to lack of direct and sufficient evidence against him.

On Jan. 18 the next year, however, the Dutch Public Prosecution Service announced that it would continue its investigation of Sison’s alleged involvement in the killings of Kintanar and Tabara.

Last week, the Dutch Public Prosecution Service finally dismissed the charges against him for “insufficient legal and convincing evidence”.

In a press statement released after the dismissal of the charges, Sison called on the Dutch government to prosecute those who were involved in assassination attempts against him from 1999 to 2001. He also said he and his lawyers are considering further legal action against the Dutch government.

His thoughts on this and other related issues and developments are made known in this interview with Bulatlat. Following is the full text of the interview:

How did the charge of inciting murder affect you and your work, both as NDFP chief political consultant and as ILPS chairperson?

It took away time, attention and resources that I should have devoted to my work as NDFP chief political consultant and ILPS chairperson. I was detained for a while and vexed for a long while by the refusal of the prosecutor to heed the decision of the examining judge to terminate the investigation. I had to pay attention to my legal defense and had to have frequent consultations with my Dutch and Filipino lawyers. I was subjected to character assassination. I suffered moral and material damages. My wife Julie had to borrow money to pay for the costs of my legal defense.

What made you confident of the eventual dismissal of the case?

I was confident because of several reasons. First of all, I had nothing to do with the killing of the security consultants and military assets Kintanar and Tabara. Secondly, I had excellent Dutch and Filipino lawyers who undertook my legal defense. Thirdly, I had the abundant support of the people and organized forces worldwide.

There was no real incriminating evidence against me because of my innocence. On the other hand, my Filipino lawyers Attys. Romeo T. Capulong, Rachel F. Pastores and Amylyn Sato of the Public Interest Law Center collected more than enough evidence and witnesses in my legal defense.

Attorney Capulong wrote a memorandum pointing out that the Kintanar and Tabara incidents had been previously used as false specifications in the charge of rebellion against me and 50 others. The Philippine Supreme Court had ordered the dismissal of this charge in June 2007. The records of the police, prosecution and court in the city and region where the incidents occurred never included me as a suspect.

My Dutch lawyers Michiel Pestman as lead, Victor Koppe and Suus Hopman of the Bohler, Franken, Koppe and Wijngaarden law firm are topnotch in Dutch and international criminal law and had the prompt cooperation of my Filipino lawyers. They were also backed by the consultants Prof. Ties Prakken who is an authority on criminal law; Jan Fermon, my lead lawyer in my case against the “terrorist” blacklist; Bernard Tomlow who is the lawyer of the NDFP; and Dundar Gurses of the Schoolplein Advocaten.

I have enjoyed the solidarity and support of the people and organized forces in the Philippines, Netherlands and many other countries. Immediately after my arrest in August 2007, protest actions against Dutch embassies and consulates occurred in more than twenty cities of the world. The International DEFEND Committee, the International League of Peoples’ Struggle and all the progressive organizations of Filipinos in the Philippines and abroad cooperated in bringing about an international campaign to defend and support me.

Do you think the US, Philippine, and Dutch governments knew all along that they did not have a strong case against you, but pushed it anyway as a way of derailing you from your work for the NDFP Peace Panel and the ILPS?

The false charge of inciting murder was devised by the US, Philippine and Dutch governments more in order to fish evidence for the bigger false charge of terrorism against me and others in the NDFP Negotiating Panel than to derail me from my work for the panel and the ILPS. Of course, the false charges of murder and terrorism are both meant to pressure the entire panel towards capitulation in the peace negotiations with the Manila government.

The three governments have repeatedly used false charges against me in order to oppress me. They have a common position of waging a relentless ideological struggle against me. They have used false charges to block my application for political asylum and residence since 1988; to justify my inclusion in the so-called terrorist blacklist since 2002; and to arrest and detain me and conduct the raids in 2007.

They have collaborated in using the false charge of inciting murder as pretext for arresting me, raiding the NDF information office and homes of the members, consultants and staffers and seizing documents and personal properties. These were done as fishing expedition to seek evidence against all of us to back up the bigger false charge of terrorism.

As a consequence, the Dutch government and the Council of the European Union are maliciously claiming that the Dutch district and appellate courts that released me from pre-trial detention in the case of inciting murder have practically judged me as a “terrorist” by declaring that there are “indications” that I play a “prominent role” in the Communist Party of the Philippines which heads or is linked to the New People’s Army.

The non sequitur use of a passing statement in a court judgment in my favor on a charge of inciting murder is actually carried by the latest arguments of the Council of the European Union against my application for the removal of my name from the terrorist blacklist before the European Court of First Instance in Luxembourg.

How many assassination attempts were perpetrated against you from 1999 to 2001, and who perpetrated these?

JMS: In the period of 1999 to 2001, certain national police officials and their assets like Romulo Kintanar sent assassination teams twice to the Netherlands and made two or three attempts to assassinate me. Even the Dutch police team investigating the charge against me turned up some of the witnesses and documentary evidence validating my previous complaints against the assassination attempts.

But the Dutch Public Prosecution Service has failed to prosecute those involved in the assassination attempts against me on Dutch soil. Thus, I have filed before the Dutch appellate court a complaint against the Dutch prosecution service since June 2008. If my complaint does not prosper in the Netherlands, I will have to pursue the case up to the level of the European Court on Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Does the dismissal of the charge of inciting murder make you more optimistic about having your name stricken off the Council of the European Union’s “terrorist list”?

On April 30, 2009, there will be the final oral hearing before the European Court of First Instance in Luxembourg concerning my complaint against the Council of the European Union for continuing to put my name in the so-called terrorist blacklist. In view of the dismissal of the charge of inciting murder, I am optimistic that the European court will grant my demand for the removal of my name from the blacklist.

As I have earlier pointed out in this interview, the Dutch government and the Council of the European are trying to misappropriate and misuse the passing statement of the Dutch district and appellate courts that there are “indications” that I play a “prominent” role in the CPP which heads the NPA. But it is obvious from said court decisions and the dismissal of the charge of inciting murder that there is no conclusive proof that I am Armando Liwanag and that I am culpable for the actions of the NPA in the killing of the two military agents Kintanar and Tabara or any other incident.

On the basis of things taken during the raids of August 2007, there may be indications galore that I have some kind of connection to the CPP and other allied organizations of the NDFP, including the NPA. But that is entirely because of the circumstance that I am the chief political consultant of the NDFP panel negotiating peace with the Manila government. I receive and study documents of the NDFP and its allied organizations for the purpose of peace negotiations and not for the purpose of waging war or anything that may be deemed as “terrorism.”

If from my arrest and the raids of August 2007 evidence was discovered that I had committed the crime of terrorism or some other serious crime, then the Dutch prosecution would have filed the appropriate charge against me. Under Dutch law, one may be accused of a certain crime and may be subsequently charged for another crime or other crimes in the course of investigation. But the pure and simple fact is that the Dutch prosecution service dismissed the murder charge and found no cause and no evidence for another charge.

Aside from legal moves against the Dutch government, are you and Attorney Pestman also considering legal moves against the Philippine government?

Attorney Pestman and I have not yet considered any legal move against the Manila government. I can raise the matter to him when I see him next. And I can communicate with Atty. Romeo T. Capulong. In the meantime, I am pleased that Bayan (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, New Patriotic Alliance) and other groups in the Philippines are calling the National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales to task and want him to account for the misappropriation of public funds in fabricating false charges, false witnesses and false evidence against me.

The Arroyo regime has become utterly notorious throughout the world for using false charges to demonize its opponents and set them up either for arrest and detention or for abduction, torture and murder by death squads. The UN Alston report has exposed these grave human rights violations and has recommended the dissolution of the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG). But still the human right violations are being committed with impunity. And IALAG persists.

The Arroyo regime fed the Dutch foreign and justice ministries and the Dutch police and prosecution with the false charge, false witnesses and false testimonies against me. But the Dutch Public Prosecution Service has shamelessly proclaimed to the whole world in a press release that it cannot pursue the charge of inciting murder against me supposedly because it has run into a wall of fear preventing witnesses to testify against me.

That is a big lie. The wall of fear is definitely due to the brutal Arroyo regime and not due to me. No less than the Dutch Appellate Court declared in its judgment on my case in 2007 that there is a political context of unreliable witnesses against me and that it is doubtful whether I the defendant can get my own witnesses and cross-examine the witnesses against me in the Philippines. (Bulatlat.com)

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