Interview with Prof. Jose Maria Sison,  NDFP Chief Political Consultant

By Kevin Mizon
The Guidon
Ateneo de Manila University
20 August 2011

1. The second agenda in the peace process is the CASER. What are the exact, specific socio-economic reforms that CPP-NPA-NDF is heavily pushing for?

Answer: The socio-economic reforms include mainly upholding economic sovereignty and conserving the national patrimony, land reform and national industrialization, defending the rights of workers, promoting the people’s livelihood, cancellation of odious debts, respecting the right of ancestral domain of indigenous peoples and equitable economic and trade relations with all foreign countries for the purpose of development.

2. The third agenda is the CAPCR. What are the exact, specific political and constitutional reforms that the CPP-NPA-NDF is heavily pushing for?

Answer: The political and constitutional reforms include upholding national sovereignty and abrogation of unequal treaties, agreements and arrangements, empowerment of the working people, gender equality, respect for the right of self-determination of the indigenous peoples, a patriotic, democratic and people-oriented system of education and culture, elimination of corruption, overhaul of the electoral system, revamp of the judicial system and independent foreign policy for development and world peace.

3. Once these reforms have been institutionalized, how different will Philippine society be? How drastic and different will the consequences and implications be?

Answer: If the aforementioned reforms are adopted and implemented, the Philippines will be greatly and substantially different from what it is now,

The implications and consequences will be drastically different in favor of the broad masses of the people. The long-frustrated aspirations of the people for national independence, democracy, social justice and all-round development shall be advanced.

4. As a general question, what are the different scenarios of the CPP/NPA/NDF’s future? First, if the current round of negotiations finishes successfully in the three-year timeline? Next, if it doesn’t?

Answer: If the peace negotiations are successfully completed in three year’s time or sometime after, then the CPP, NPA and NDFP abide by the mutual agreements with GPH and there shall be just and lasting peace on a good foundation. If the GPH tries to impose capitulation and violation of principles on the aforesaid revolutionary forces, then the armed conflict shall continue and shall probably escalate to a new and higher level.

5. How viable is the armed struggle right now? Detractors of the CPP-NPA-NDF believe that your army’s physical strength isn’t enough in overthrowing the government.

Answer: Since the Second Great Rectification Movement in the 1990s, which repudiated and rectified major errors in the 1980s, the CPP, NPA and NDFP have become not just viable but far stronger than before.

Of course, the armed strength of the NPA is not yet enough to overthrow the entire ruling system. But the NPA and other revolutionary forces are now carrying out a plan to advance from strategic defensive to strategic stalemate.

The broad united front of revolutionary forces and legal opposition forces has high potential of overthrowing at any time a particular administration that is too repressive or too corrupt and thus hated by the people, like the regimes of Marcos and Estrada.

6. Sir, you have called parties working for radical reforms (such as Akbayan) as counterrevolutionaries. That in your side, there exists a false dichotomy between reforms and revolution. Any thoughts on this, sir?

Answer: I do not remember having said or written publicly that the Akbayan is counterrevolutionary. But of course I am aware that CPP publications and statements of known progressives have criticized the Akbayan as pseudo-revolutionary, reformist and even counterrevolutionary.

There is a difference between reformism and reforms that are necessary and useful for the people, such as those reforms demanded by the NDFP in peace negotiations with the GPH. Reformism is the systematic pretense for reforms or use of some reforms to block fundamental or revolutionary social change. In that sense, reformism is counterrevolutionary.

7. In the over 40 rounds of peace talks conducted and in the numerous interruptions, where would you say was the GPH’s at fault? Alternately, where would you say the CPP-NPA-NDF was at fault?

Answer: Since formal opening of GRP-NDFP peace negotiations in Brussels in June 1995, sixteen years ago, the GRP (now called the GPH) has been responsible for interruptions amounting to 14 years under GRP declarations of suspension, collapse and JASIG termination, aggravating GRP violations of agreements.

If one misconstrues the ceasefire agreement in 1986-87 as the beginning of peace negotiations, the GRP has been responsible for interruptions amounting to some 22 years out of 24 years. Remember that Cory Aquino unsheathed the sword of war in 1987 and swung her sword in vain for so many years against the NPA.

The NDFP has never made any declaration of suspension, collapse and JASIG termination to interrupt the peace negotiations. Only twice has it declared postponement of the formal talks of the panels. The first one was in August 2004 when it asked for postponement of formal talks to allow the GRP the time to fulfill its obligation to release JASIG-protected persons. The second one was in June 2011 when it called for postponement once more to allow the GPH the time to release JASIG-protected persons.

8. There is the study of a certain Japanese sociologist. He makes this provocative observation that revolutions lasting for more than one generation (20 years) tended to degenerate, not just in the actual military victories of the revolutionary group, but in the quality of its operations and its own cadres and fighters. That this holds true for the NPA, who has committed their own human rights violations, destruction of civilian infrastructures in the guise of a noble revolution, collecting revolutionary taxes – very anti-poor and trapo. Any response to this?

Answer: That Japanese sociologist you refer to is obviously ignorant of Philippine history. Since the first of the more than 200 armed uprisings under the Spanish colonial regime, the Filipinos have waged wider and better armed resistance culminating in the Philippine revolution of 1896 onwards. The current new democratic revolution through people’s war is in basic respects wider, deeper and better than the Philippine revolution of 1896 and the armed revolution that extended from the anti-Japan struggle in World War II.

The NPA is so far the biggest and strongest armed force of the revolutionary mass movement in Philippine history. It is led by the CPP which practises criticism and self-criticism on a daily basis and knows how to carry out a rectification movement as an educational mass endeavor to repudiate and rectify errors and set forth the new tasks for advancing the revolutionary struggle to a new and higher level.

I have no time or space here to answer such vicious claims as that the NPA is anti-poor and trapo. My suggestion is that those who make such claims go for social investigation in the guerrilla fronts of the NPA,

9. The Oplan Bayanihan is a widely debated issue as a sugarcoated counterinsurgency program. (It’s arguably highly similar to Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya) Does it mitigate or does it exacerbate? Any personal response to this program of the current Aquino administration?

Answer: Oplan Bayanihan is the same dog as Oplan Bantay Laya. The only difference is that Oplan Bayanihan is even more deceptive as it becomes more brutal. It misrepresents its military campaigns of suppression as peace and development operations and its human rights violations as defense of human rights and human security. It is guided by US advisors who believe that more effective psywar results in more effective intelligence and military operations.

The Aquino regime is continuing basically the same policies of the Arroyo regime. It is also the same dog of the US and the local big compradors and landlords. It tries to present itself as better than the previous regime through sheer propaganda and it insults the people by trying to buwang-wang them through gimmicks. Aquino seems to be oblivious of the fact that there is now an unprecedentedly severe global and Philippine economic and social crisis which demands basic reforms.

There is now a growing estimate by the revolutionary forces that the Aquino regime is not sincerely and seriously interested in the peace negotiations with the NDFP and is about to stop its masquerade about peace negotiations. Since the beginning, the OPAPP and the GPH negotiating panel have been obsessed with seeking to disembowel and negate The Hague Joint Declaration, the JASIG and CARHRIHL and not to pursue the negotiations on CASER.

10. Ateneans have been highly involved in the past, especially in the chaotic decades of the 70’s and 80’s. What do you think of this Ateneo? What are your thoughts on Atenean activists, such as Edgar Jopson and Emmanuel Lacaba, who joined the armed struggle and even died for the movement?

Answer: I have the highest respect and admiration for Edgar Jopson and Emmanuel Lacaba as Filipino patriots, proletarian revolutionaries and freedom fighters. I knew them personally and worked with them. They served the people and contributed greatly to the development of the new democratic revolution through hard work, militant struggle and their martyrdom.

There are many others from the Ateneo that have served the Filipino people like Edgar Jopson and Emmanuel Lacaba. They are products of that side of the Ateneo which inculcates social conscience and a strong sense of patriotism and social justice. Let us have more of such Ateneans. Not the type that is self-indulgent and bound by the dictates of foreign monopoly interests and the local exploiting classes,

11. The current Ateneo is identified as an “elite institution” but whose main educational framework spring from Liberation Theology. How about a critique to the Ateneo today? Also, on the Atenean revolutionaries involved with the party before, but have withdrawn support now?

Answer: The current students of the Ateneo can better describe and critique the Ateneo of today. At any rate, I agree that the Ateneo is an elite institution even as there are elements that are progressive rather than reactionary. Most of the Ateneo students come from well-to-do families. It is understandable that their main tendency is to stay in comfort within the ruling system even if oppressive and exploitative.

I do not think that this interview is the place for me to criticize anyone from the Ateneo who was supposedly revolutionary before but withdrew subsequently from the revolutionary movement. I can only say in general that any person has contradictory sides. One side can prevail at one time and another side at another time, depending on the will, the tests and circumstances of the person concerned.

12. In a nutshell, where do you think should Ateneo put itself in the ongoing people’s war?

Answer: I personally knew one Jesuit priest at the Ateneo who belonged to the Christians for National Liberation and supported the people’s war for national liberation and democracy. But I think that the Ateneo as an institution is in opposition to the ongoing people’s war. At any rate, it has been sober and decorous in dealing with the issue and seems to acknowledge the social roots of the armed conflict.

Ateneo is not known to be strident, vicious or inquisitorial against faculty members and students who might be suspected by military authorities as sympathetic or even part of the revolutionary movement. You have to correct me if my observation from afar is wrong.

When I was at the Ateneo in the fifties, one teacher of mine scorned the communist Casto Alejandrino and the anti-imperialist Claro Mayo Recto, both Ateneo alumni, and another teacher was proud of them in the classroom. When we took the papal social encyclicals in class, my Jesuit teachers focused on the theme of social justice and refrained from talking like rabid anti-communists. They also recognized the root causes of the armed conflict that had raged in the Philippines since the 1930s. ###

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