Interview with Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chief Political Consultant
National Democratic Front of the Philippines
By D. L. Mondelo
10 April 2010
1. Claims are persistent that the Arroyo ruling clique is engineering a failure of elections and will remain in power after the 2010 elections. Do you believe such claims? Why?
JMS: I don’t believe such claims. Arroyo will not dare to stay in power beyond June 2010 without the consent of her imperialist master. I do not think that the US has any special interest in keeping her in power and offending all those presidential candidates who have spent money and effort in the current electoral campaign. Arroyo is not indispensable to the US.
She herself is smart enough to know that she does not have the advantages that Marcos had in 1972 to be able to declare martial law and that if she dared to stay in power beyond June 2010 a broad united front of opposition forces and military factions would sweep her away from power within a short period of time.
It would be greatly advantageous for the people and the revolutionary forces if Arroyo would make the foolish mistake of keeping herself in power beyond June 2010. Such a mistake would further inflame the broad masses of the people to rebel and boost the strategic plan of the revolutionary forces to advance from strategic defensive to strategic stalemate in the people’s war.
2. What is your general view of the character and conduct of the electoral contest in 2010, especially among the four major presidential candidates?
JMS: The general character of the electoral contest is determined by the overwhelming predominance of candidates who are themselves big compradors and landlords and who are political agents of the evil forces of foreign monopoly capitalism, domestic feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism.
The debate among the four major presidential candidates is shallow and superficial. It has not dealt seriously with the basic problems that are the root causes of the oppression and exploitation of the Filipino people. It has trivialized the people’s clamor for change. All the four major candidates are oblivious of the crisis now wracking the world capitalist system and the domestic ruling system due to the US policy dictates of neoliberal globalization and global war of terror.
The two frontrunners, Aquino and Villar, are very simplistic in presenting themselves as the best choice for the electorate. Aquino presents himself as the paragon of clean and honest government in contrast to the corrupt Arroyo regime. Villar presents himself as the example of a poor man who overcomes poverty through sheer personal diligence and perseverance.
3. Between Aquino and Villar, who is likely to win? What are the factors to consider in making estimates?
JMS: Aquino remains No. 1 in the latest polls by the Social Weather Station and Pulse Asia. And Villar has lost substantial points supposedly because of the effectiveness of the Villarroyo line against him. Now, he is trying hard to react by harping on the Gloriaquino line and pointing to the Aquino relatives occupying high positions in the Arroyo regime.
There are several important factors involved in winning the presidential post. These include the personal characteristics of the candidates, the money and political skills for using the media (especially the infomercials), street level propaganda and buying the support of those who deliver votes at the provincial, district and municipal levels.
In the few remaining weeks, all factors will be at play with full intensity. But the most important factor will be the distribution of money to the local leaders who deliver the votes. The source of money usually includes the big comprador-landlord interests and the US and other foreign interests through cutouts among the local big businessmen. The final-month push by Ramos in votebuying in 1992 is a classic example.
4. You seem to dismiss both Aquino and Villar as having the same class characteristics. But which one offers a relatively better program?
JMS: Manny Villar offers the relatively better program, which unfortunately has been underplayed during the campaign. He promises land reform and self-reliant food production, expansion of local manufacturing to generate employment, support for small and middle entrepreneurs, conservation of natural resources, ecological protection, peace negotiations, review of the Visiting Forces Agreement, respect for human rights, indemnification of the victims of human rights violations and independent foreign policy.
Noynoy Aquino and Mar Roxas are rabid exponents of the US-dictated policy of neoliberal globalization, which has put the Philippine economy in severe crisis and is inflicting terrible suffering on the people. In this regard, they are the economic policy soulmates and the real presidential and vice presidential candidates of the ?ree marketeerand?ax gougerArroyo in view of the weakness of the administration presidential candidate Gibo Teodoro.
Like his late mother, Aquino will pay lip service to land reform but will actually prevent it in so many clever ways. In the particular case of Hacienda Luisita, he will insist on the scam or swindle called the stock distribution option in order to prevent land reform. He promises a clean and honest government but the Kamag-Anak, Inc. and other vested interests are financing his campaign and are prepared to collect the spoils of bureaucrat capitalism and subservience to foreign economic interests.
5. Which of the two frontrunners would be more amenable to having serious peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines? Why?
JMS: Both Aquino and Villar promise to have negotiations with the NDFP. The important question is which of them is more amenable to negotiate in accordance with The Hague Joint Declaration and agree with the NDFP on the social, economic and political reforms in order to address the roots of the armed conflict and make a just and lasting peace.
Villar appears to be more amenable because of the program that he has spelled out. There are people around him to advise him to accelerate the peace negotoations. If he becomes president, Aquino would likely continue to get advice from Bobby and Erin Tanada to move on honestly with the peace negotiations.
But there are many elements in the Aquino camp who are rabid anti-communists and pseudo-progressives who will advise Aquino to pretend being for peace negotiations as a way of deceiving the people and sharpening the sword of reaction in a renewed futile attempt to destroy the revolutionary movement.
6. What would you tell the new president as encouragement to engage in peace negotiations? Where and how should the peace negotiations be held. What degree of progress in the peace negotiations would allow you to return for a visit or permanent stay in the Philippines?
JMS: I would remind the new president that the socio-economic and political crisis is worsening, that the people and the revolutionary forces are already in the process of raising the level of the people’s war and that it is worth trying to agree on social, economic and political reforms in order to make a just and lasting peace in accordance with The Hague Joint Declaration and the subsequent agreements.
The peace negotiations should continue to be held in a foreign neutral venue, with the help of the Norwegian government as third party facilitator. It is extremely complicated, costly and risky to hold peace negotiations in the Philippines. You can imagine the largescale mobilization of security forces on both the sides of the GRP and NDFP every time that there are talks. It would take too much time for GRP and NDFP to formally agree on the scope of their respective territories as well as the neutral or buffer zones. The NDFP side would also have to take into account the dangers of GPS surveillance and the related electronic weapons.
I would certainly go back to the Philippines to live the rest of my life if there would be a just and lasting peace as a result of the peace negotiations. But I think that as soon as a comprehensive agreement on social and economic reforms can be signed by the principals of the GRP and NDFP I would consider going to the Philippines at least for a short visit.
7. Are the revolutionary forces helping in any way any of the electoral coalitions, parties and candidates? Is it true, as charged by the military, that the revolutionary forces are supporting any candidate so long as he or she pays for the permit to campaign or permit to win?
JMS: As chief political consultant of the NDFP in peace negotiations with the GRP, I am not in a position to know in sufficient detail about the concrete relations of the revolutionary forces with electoral coalitions, parties and candidates for presidential, legislative and local executive positions.
I presume that as a matter of principle the revolutionary forces do not endorse or support the ruling system and its electoral system in particular. However, in line with the policy of the broad united front, the revolutionary forces may have appropriate relations with their allies who are engaged in the electoral contest.
As to be expected, the military officials of the ruling system would hurl all kinds of allegations and invectives against the revolutionary forces. But I would presume that certain allies would extend various kinds of donations and support to the revolutionary forces in order to help them undertake programs, projects and activities that are of social benefit to the people.
8. In your view, is it alright for Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza to be in the NP senatorial slate and to be with Bongbong Marcos? What are the chances of Satur and Liza?
JMS: It is of public knowledge that Satur and Liza are on the NP senatorial slate on the basis of a bilateral alliance between Makabayan and the NP. Makabayan has considered the NP as a worthy ally because of its acceptable program, which is patriotic and progressive.
However, after the NP-Makabayan alliance was established, the NP included Bongbong Marcos as a candidate in its senatorial slate. We know from press reports that Satur and Liza protested and threatened to withdraw from the NP senatorial slate. And that they were satisfied only after Villar publicly clarified that they were not compromised as guest candidates in the senatorial slate by the inclusion of Bongbong as another guest candidate and that the program of the NP remains firm on respect for human rights and indemnification of the victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime.
The latest poll surveys done by SWS and Pulse Asia do not rank Satur and Liza above Nos. 26 to 29. I hope that their rating will improve in the remaining weeks.
9. What are the chances of the progressive party list groups?
JMS: The latest poll survey of Pulse Asia shows that they are doing well. Gabriela and Bayan Muna are at the top, each assured of three members of Congress. Anakpawis is assured of two and can aim for one more. Kabataan is also assured of one and can aim for one more. There are other progressive party list groups. My estimate is that there will be a significant increase of members of Congress who come from the progressive list groups.
10. Will the 2010 elections produce a new type of leadership to veer the ruling system away from its worst features? Will there be any significant change in the socio-economic and political system for the better as a result of the elections? How will the revolutionary movement respond to the crisis situation and to whatever kind of leadership will arise in the ruling system?
JMS: Without a sufficiently strong progressive mass movement, there can be no certainty that the the 2010 elections will produce a new type of leadership to veer the ruling system away from its worst features and cause a significant change for the better. The kind of debate carried out by the four major presidential candidates in the electoral campaign shows that there is little or nothing to expect from the next president. Within its first six months or first year, the new regime will be tested whether it is interested in serious peace negotiations or not.
Without a strong mass movement to advance their national and democratic interests, the Filipino people will continue to be oppressed and exploited with impunity by the foreign monopolies, the big compradors-landlords and the corrupt bureaucrats. The socio-economic and political crisis of the ruling system will continue to worsen. The ruling clique and the ruling classes of big compradors and landlords will become more incapable than ever of ruling the old way.
The revolutionary forces and people will certainly demand revolutionary change. It is timely for the CPP to have issued the call for advancing the people’s war, from the strategic defensive to the strategic stalemate during the forty-first anniversaries of the CPP and the NPA.