On the arrest of Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria
Interview with Prof. JOSE MARIA SISON
Founding Chairman, Communist Party of the Philippines
By ROSELLE VALERIO
Roselle Valerio (RV): What was your immediate reaction to the arrest of Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria?
Jose Maria Sison (JMS): I thought immediately that the arrest of these two NDFP consultants in the peace negotiations is in violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). They are holders of the document of identification under JASIG and are protected from surveillance, harassment and arrest.
RV: Is it true, as Alex Padilla, the military and other Aquino government officials claim, that you are on opposite sides with the Tiamzon couple regarding peace negotiations? That Tiamzon and Austria are “hardliners” and “war freaks” and that they are at odds with you and the NDFP negotiating panel?
JMS: The Tiamzon couple are in support of the peace negotiations. That’s why they are consultants in the peace negotiations. The claims of high officials and military officers of the reactionary government that the Tiamzon couple are at odds with the CPP founding chairman and the NDFP Negotiating Panel is a malicious intrigue. They should read the official declarations of the CPP Central Committee supporting the work of the NDFP Negotiating Panel and its consultants, including myself.
RV: How well do you know Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria?
JMS: I knew them as excellent cadres of the Manila-Rizal regional committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines in the early 1970s. Then Benny Tiamzon became secretary of the Eastern Visayas regional committee of the CPP in the mid-1970s onwards. He was outstanding for his comprehensive ability in ideology, politics and organization. Wilma was also outstanding. It is not surprising that they would rise to the highest central positions in tne CPP.
RV: What do you know of Tiamzon’s involvement and role in the CPP in the 1990s, in the Second Great Rectification Movement?
JMS: Tiamzon played a leading role in the Second Great Rectification Movement, which started in 1992. This was an educational campaign that reaffirmed basic revolutionary principles and resulted in the rectification of serious subjectivist and opportunist errors and the revitalization and resurgence of the CPP, NPA, the mass base and the people’s democratic government. The CPP cadres and members held on to the general line of democratic revolution through protracted people’s war, while a few rabid opponents became NGO racketeers, yellow labor dealers, bureaucrats of the reactionary government and even spies and psywar experts of the military
RV: What do you know of the Tiamzon couple’s current roles in the CPP and their activities in the Visayas when they were arrested?
JMS: My reliable source of information regarding the current roles of the Tiamzons is the CPP official statement published in Ang Bayan. They are described as senior leaders of the CPP paying close attention to the plight and rehabilitation of the communities and families victimized by the supertyphoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in the Visayas.
RV: What will be the impact of the arrest of the Tiamzon couple on the CPP leadership? The military say that without Tiamzon the CPP will suffer from a vacuum of leadership.
JMS: Leadership in the CPP is collective. It does not depend on any single leader no matter how excellent. When I was arrested in 1977, I was the CPP Central Committee chairman. But the armed revolution continued, grew in strength and became a major factor in the overthrow of Marcos despite his boast that he had finished off the CPP upon my arrest.
Like me and Julie when we were arrested in 1977, Benny Tiamzon and Wilma Austria will be replaced automatically by comrades. To use basketball parlance, I say that the CPP has a deep bench. The Central Committee is replenished and further strengthened by the increasing number of national cadres as well as regional cadres from some 17 regions.
RV: What will be the impact on the New People’s Army and the people’s war?
JMS: The NPA will become even more determined to wage people’s war. The ground is fertile for people’s war because of the system of oppression and exploitation that subjects the people to intolerable suffering. The people desire the overthrow of the rotten system of big compradors and landlords servile to US imperialism.
RV: What was the status of the NDFP-GPH peace negotiations before the arrest of the Tiamzon couple? What will now be consequences to the peace negotiations?
JMS: Before the arrest of the Tiamzon couple, the peace negotiations were paralyzed by the Aquino regime’s noncompliance with and violations of existing agreements between the NDFP and the Manila government. The imprisonment of JASIG-protected consultants has had adverse consequences to the peace negotiations.
RV: Do you have a message you would like to convey to Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Austria, and their five companions?
JMS: Luis Jalandoni and the NDFP Negotiating Panel are working hard to demand their release in accordance with the JASIG. But the Aquino regime is extremely reactionary, narrow-minded and short- sighted. I told Marcos in 1977: you have imprisoned me but the revolutionary movement is free to grow in strength and advance. Imprisonment is an opportunity to perform an important form of service to the people. By manifesting their defiance, revolutionary prisoners can inspire the people to fight more fiercely for their national and social liberation.
RV: What is your message to the Aquino regime?
JMS: Respect the The Hague Joint Declaration and the JASIG and release the NDFP peace consultants. Respect the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and release the political prisoners imprisoned on trumped-up common crimes. Thus, there will be a sound basis for resuming the peace negotiations.