Interview with Prof. Jose Maria Sison
By Davao Today
Turning 75 this February 8, Professor Jose Maria Sison, chief consultant of the National Democratic Front on the peace negotiations, answer questions from Davao Today on current issues ranging from peace talks to the possibility of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte running as president.
Davao Today (DT): How does it feel to have lived three quarters of a century, especially with regard to how Philippine history has turned out since your move to re-establish the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in 1968?
Prof. Jose Maria Sison (JMS): I feel happy for having lived long enough to see how the CPP has grown nationwide and struck deep roots among the toiling masses of workers and peasants. The CPP has 150,000 members. It leads the thousands of Red fighters in the New People’s Army and the millions of people in mass organizations. It is at the helm of the people’s democratic government in 115 guerrilla fronts which cover large portions of 71 provinces.
DT: Do you have a secret to longevity?
JMS: My key to longevity: Fighting spirit in the service of the people and a sense of humor to provide relief for the hard work.
DT: Speaking of longevity, how do you look at President Benigno Aquino III, can he survive all these controversies?
JMS: Definitely, the controversies have exposed the fact that Aquino is running a treasonous, exploitative, corrupt, cruel and mendacious regime. The propaganda that his regime is clean and honest and is good at delivering services is practically dead. Thus, the broad masses of the people and the patriotic and progressive forces are now trying to oust Aquino from power. They will become strong through the struggle, whether they succeed or not in overthrowing Aquino before the end of his term in 2016.
DT: On the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), what is the impact of this Bangsamoro Framework Agreement, and how different is this with the Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 peace accord signed by the government and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Chair Nur Misuari? Follow up : What is your assessment of the Bansamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF)?
JMS: There are uncertainties surrounding the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement , the annexes and the Bangsamoro basic law. Constitutional issues will be raised in Congress and the Supreme Court against certain provisions. The MILF will have to consider how far it can submit itself to the state based in Manila and how other forces of the Bangsamoro like the MNLF and the BIFF will react. The BIFF is now trying to seize the political and military initiative in areas known to be MILF home ground.
The first provision of the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 stipulated that the Moro question was to be resolved within the framework of Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity and the last provision stipulated that all agreements were subject to the constitutional processes of the Manila government. The MILF arose in opposition to such provisions. Now the BIFF is rebelling against the MILF for the same reasons that the MILF rebelled against the MNLF.
The MILF was previously critical of the 1996 peace accord between MNLF and the Manila government. Now, the MILF expresses the view that it can validate and take on board such accord in a new comprehensive peace agreement. But speaking on behalf of MNLF, Nur Misuari has denounced the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement as contrary to the peace accord of 1996.
DT: How attainable is peace? What are the prospects of GPH-NDF peace negotiations?
JMS: Peace is not attainable in the Bangsamoro areas so long as there is no satisfaction of the Moro people’s demand for respect of the right to self-determination, ancestral domain and their democratic aspirations and so long as the US and other foreign plunderers and the local big compradors and landlords continue to exploit and oppress the Moro people.
The Aquino regime and its US imperialist masters are extremely vicious against the revolutionary forces and people represented by the NDFP. They think that Oplan Bayanihan can destroy or cripple the revolutionary movement. The Aquino regime has attacked The Hague Joint Declaration as a document of perpetual division and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) as inoperative and it has wantonly violated the Comprehensive Agreement of Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). Since April 2013, it has publicly terminated the JASIG and the peace negotiations without giving the required notice of termination to the the NDFP.
The Aquino regime is responsible for blocking the peace negotiations. It has not shown any interest in its resumption. To keep alive the hope for peace negotiations, the NDFP has expressed its willingness to negotiate with the next regime.
DT: In relation to that, the CPP has declared that revolutionary forces are poised to leap to a higher level of struggle or what it terms as strategic stalemate. How viable is this call?
JMS: The call is viable. It is highly probable that within the next few years the CPP membership would rise from 150.000 to 250,000, the number of Red fighters of the New People’s Army from around 10,000 to 25,000, the guerrilla fronts from 120 to 200 and the mass movement and the people’s democratic government (local organs of political power) would involve many millions more of the people. The revolutionary forces and people of Mindanao are outstanding and are showing the way to grow in strength and to advance.
The worsening crisis of the world capitalist system and the domestic ruling system is favorable for the advance of the people’s war from strategic defensive to strategic stalemate.
DT: What’s your assessment of Davao City Mayor Duterte? Do you see him as a possible presidential candidate come 2016? Rights advocates, including agencies under the GPH tag him for the summary killings in Davao, what’s your take to that?
JMS: The local revolutionary forces in Davao City consider Mayor Duterte as someone they can negotiate with and make reasonable agreements with. Perhaps, if he becomes president, he can act like a statesman and negotiate with the NDFP. But will the big financiers and media lords allow him to win the presidential elections?
The Commission on Human Rights has repeatedly accused Duterte of violating human rights but refuses to take up Duterte’s challenge to put up or shut up. The same commission has never said anything critical of the gross and systematic violation of human rights by the Aquino regime and its military, police and paramilitary forces.
DT: What is your take regarding the rice smuggling issue?
JMS: Rice smuggling is the consequence of the trade liberalization policy and the undermining of local rice production since the time of Cory Aquino. Currently, relatives and friends of BS Aquino are the biggest rice smugglers. Aquino is a liar for misrepresenting the rise of rice smuggling as the rise of local rice production.
DT: In this day and age, how valid is the philosophy of Marx to academics, students and political analysts?
JMS: The teachings of Marx in philosophy as well as in political economy and social science remain valid today. They are shining now in opposition to the capitalist and imperialist system of exploitation, ever worsening crisis, state terrorism and war. There is renewed interest in the teachings of Marx among the academics, students and political analysts because such teachings expose the root causes of exploitation and oppression and show us the revolutionary way out.
DT: Looking at the present crop of Filipino activists and revolutionaries, how do they fare with the activists of the First Quarter Storm and the activists of the 1960s?
JMS: There are definitely more competent and militant Filipino activists and revolutionaries now because of the long series of mass struggles since 1960s. They should fare better than those of the 1960s and the First Quarter Storm of 1970. They can arouse, organize and mobilize far more people now. There should be more proletarian revolutionaries who study Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and are ready to participate in the people’s war.
DT: On lighter things, what are your favorite books and movies in the past ten years?
JMS: I have favored the books that show the recurrent and worsening crisis of monopoly capitalism and the resurgence of the people’s anti-imperialist and socialist movements. I have also favored the documentary and feature films films critical of neoliberal greed and imperialist wars.
DT: What would be your birthday wish?
JMS: To stay healthy and live longer in order to further serve the people.