I and other National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants, and other political prisoners here at the Camp Bagong Diwa, join many others in militantly and heartily greeting Comrade Jose Maria “Joema” Sison on his 75th birthday this February 8, and most especially his 55 years of service to the people and the revolutionary movement.
For more than five decades now and running, he has contributed so much of value to the socio-economic, cultural, political and ideological education and struggle this far, not only of the revolutionary forces and people in this country, but also in the world.
His contributions have been and continue to be of great lead and help to a multitude of progressive and revolutionary forces.
They have,in particular, been of great lead and help to me and continue to do so.
In mid-1971, disgusted at finding out after a year of working with its management team, that the only company I had aspired to work for was supposed to serve as the country’s forerunner of national industrialization but had no true intent and no real basis for such, and that the ruling state and system all the more had no real interest in national industrialization, I decided to no longer work for the exploiters, and instead to give my everything, including my full-time to what would really serve for the upliftment of the lives and progress of the people.
I resigned and immediately turned to full- time, intensive research and social investigation by reading written works and interviewing people to rethink and determine where I should devote the whole of myself for the rest of my life.
I immediately concentrated on studying radical revolutionary writings on society in the Philippines and the world, including proposed solutions to the socio-economic-cultural-political problems of the people.
Among the writings I concentrated on and found most accurate and incisive in reflecting reality in the depiction of the country and people, and most insightful and profound in proposing solutions to the deep and long-standing problems of the people and society were Ka Joema’s Struggle for National Democracy and (under the pseudonym of “Amado Guerrero”) Philippine Society and Revolution, as well as the Communist Manifesto and various classical works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Mao Zedong, plus John Eaton’s Political Economy.
I particularly closely concentrated on Ka Joema’s works as I found them most immediately useful for the present situation and struggle of the Filipino people, while at the same time I also devoted much time on the voluminous classical writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Mao and others who made profound analyses of the situation in their respective countries and in the world.
After attending various fora, study circles and going around, interviewing people who had something to do with various social movements in the country (including, activists and rallyists), I was fully convinced that the movement for national democracy is presently the most apt, given the present semicolonial and semifeudal conditions of Philippine society and the present stage of the socio-economic-cultural-political revolution that needs to be completed in the country —as I learned from Ka Joema’s writings. I thus decided to give my time and the full of my life to the present national democratic revolutionary struggle and its revolutionary socialist perspective.
It did not take long before I personally met Ka Joema. There were later times when Ka Joema and I would meet to talk about particular tasks I was then participating in.
I was, however, arrested (for the first time) in early 1974 and released after three years — after the Amnesty International exposed the crimes of torture committed by the Marcos martial law regime against us political prisoners, and we also wrote about and filed legal complaints about those crimes of torture.
By then, Ka Joema had been arrested (in November 1977) in La Union. He underwent brutalities and, throughout his martial law detention, was kept in an isolation cell in Fort Bonifacio and intensively subjected to cruel restrictions. He had to climb the walls of his isolation cell just to be able to talk with other political detainees also kept in neighboring isolation cells to the left and to the right of his own.
More importantly, even under very restrictive conditions of detention, Ka Joema — with the help and partnership of his wife, Ka Juliet, as his note-taker and co-author, continued to put out sharp ideological and political revolutionary writings, that have continued to be of great value and help to the national democratic revolutionary movement and the proletarian revolutionary party in its lead. Most incisive were his criticisms of some confused socio-economic analyses (including the exaggerated estimate of the level of urbanization and industrial development already reached in the country, as against the continuing and even worsening pre-industrial and semifeudal socio-economic state of the country) and, more importantly, his criticisms of some revisionist errors in revolutionary tactics prevailing then, including the premature “Strategic Counter-Offensive” and “Regularization of the New People’s Army”, given that the people’s war was then still at the early sub-stage of the strategic defensive. After his release from prison and initial peace talks were held between the NDFP and the Cory Aquino government, he criticized the NDFP’s handling then of the peace talks and wrote about how it should instead be handled. What he wrote about has been how it has been handled ever since he took over as the NDFP peace panel’s Chief Political Consultant.
The determined pursuit of the rectification campaign throughout the national democratic movement, actual realities and later developments and progress have been proving the correctness of the criticisms initiated by Ka Joema.
Soon after we were released from martial law imprisonment, together with some other leading ex-political prisoners, we held occasional meetings at Ka Joema’s residence in an apartment in La Loma, Quezon City.
In our several meetings there, one of those we agreed upon and worked on was the formation of the Partido ng Bayan (PnB), a precursor of the Makabayan Coalition and its progressive party-list organizations.
Ka Joema was the Chairperson of the PnB Preparatory Committee, but had earlier been committed to and had to leave for a long series of engagements abroad. Rolando “Ka Lando” Olalia,Chairperson of the Kilusang Mayo Uno, was then elected and took over to become the Founding Chairperson. I was then the Secretary-General.
PnB was fast organized nationwide and won some congressional and local seats in the ensuing elections. But all along and afterwards, it terribly suffered extra-judicial killings and other grave human rights violations, including the killing of Ka Lando and the killing and attempted killing of a big number of other PnB leaders, personnel and supporters.
The lives and security of other PnB leaders, personnel and supporters continued to be endangered, and even shifting mobile offices and quarters could no longer be safely maintained.
I had little choice but to go underground, often living with and kept secure by the worker and peasant masses.
In Ka Joema’s case, he was obliged to stay in exile abroad. But the reactionary state and successive reactionary regimes would not let him stay in peace even outside the country. His life and security remained constantly under threat.
The reactionary state has also delved into coming out with numerous concoctions of several criminal charges against Ka Joema. The Arroyo regime’s Inter-Agency Legal Action Group was specifically busy day-in and day-out manufacturing trumped-up criminal charges against Ka Joema and other leaders of the national democratic movement.
With the connivance between U.S. imperialism and successive kowtowing regimes in his home country, Ka Joema has been placed and continues to be maintained in the list of “terrorists” and thus made vulnerable to arrests and harassments.
In late August 2007, the U.S. and its puppet Arroyo regime went to the extent of conniving to make the Dutch police arrest and place him in solitary confinement. Ka Joema’s and the NDFP leadership’s and peace panel’s papers, computer disks and files were confiscated. As the Dutch court found no sufficient basis for his imprisonment, he was released after 16 days, and the files were also returned but important files were damaged.
Even in exile and subjected to threats and harassments, however, Ka Joema remains undeterred from continuing with his work and contributions to the people’s struggles and revolutionary movement in his home country and in the world. His comprehensive grasp of and insights into local and world situation and sharpness in thusly defining revolutionary strategy and tactics have not at all dulled but have even become more advanced and developed with age, the protracted struggle and rich summed-up experiences and revolutionary practice.
Aside from his continuing ideological and political leadership in the revolutionary movement in the homefront and his being chief political consultant of the NDFP and its peace panel, Ka Joema presently chairs the International League of People’s Struggles, an international organization with the objective of promoting peoples struggles and progressive organizations throughout the world.
He has also been very keen on the need to help strengthen fraternal relations among revolutionary parties and to help develop the international communist movement.
All these continuing efforts and work of Ka Joema are evident that prison and exile—itself an extension of prison—are still not enough to shackle revolutionaries like Ka Joema.
His efforts,keenness, work and achievements continue to guide and inspire us, political prisoners. with revolutionary and pro-people aspirations, and a great many more in the revolutionary movement outside of prison.