By Prof. JOSE MARIA SISON
Communist Party of the Philippines
Julie and I express our most heartfelt condolences to the beloved family of Fr. Jose P. Dizon over his passing away. Like all his comrades, we are deeply saddened and can find comfort only by reminding ourselves of his devoted and fruitful service to the poor and exploited working people.
An Irish priest friend of ours (the late Jack Hynes), who was close to Bishop Perez within the Church-Labor Center, briefed us in 1976 about Fr. Joe D as a trusted assistant of the bishop, a staunch opponent of the Marcos fascist dictatorship, and a supporter of the workers, particularly in the La Tondeña strike. Then, he introduced us to him and put us in his care. We were in transit from one place to another.
Fr. Joe D knew that we were in the underground fighting the Marcos fascist regime, but he did not know exactly who we were. For a few weeks, he provided us with a room to work in. We enjoyed the conversations with him and his mother who served us delicious meals. We had discussions with him about how malevolent Marcos was and how rotten was the ruling system.
Before we departed, we left him a copy of Philippine Society and Revolution. We would come to know later that he read the book avidly, agreed with it and discussed the content with his fellow priests and other friends. He got a big surprise when he would learn later who we were when we were captured in 1977.
When Julie was released from prison in early 1982, she resumed contact with Fr. Joe D. We came to know that he had become ever more resolute and militant as a patriot and revolutionary. He was active in the Basic Christian Community-Community Organizing which had arisen in 1978. He helped to organize the Conference of the National Coalition for the Protection of Workers’ Rights in 1982 . It was he who asked me through Julie to write a speech for the conference.
Julie and I were proud of Fr. Joe D for being courageously in the forefront of the people’s struggle in the 1980s. He was a prominent activist in the Justice for Aquino, Justice for All movement. He became the secretary general of the Nationalist Alliance for Justice, Freedom and Democracy. He became a strong supporter of the Congress for the Restoration of Democracy and then Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN). He became the Secretary-General of Bayan Southern Luzon, which brought significant numbers of people to EDSA during the overthrow of Marcos.
When I was released from prison after the downfall of Marcos in 1986, we renewed our comradely relations of mutual support and met several times in activities of the patriotic and progressive mass organizations. He was close to the activists of the youth, labor and peasant movements. He was supportive of the SELDA and the Partido ng Bayan and was always interested in the strengthening of the mass movement and the united front of patriotic and progressive forces.
While abroad, Julie and I were always elated to know the work of Fr. Joe D. in upholding, defending and promoting workers’ rights. He supported the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research. He established the Workers’ Assistance Center in 1995 and pushed the organization of trade unions in the Cavite export processing zone against the threats of local politicians, notorious for their repressiveness in collaboration with the businessmen and military. He headed the National Conference of Church People and Workers in 2011.
He came to visit us in The Netherlands in 1999. And we took the opportunity of discussing how the broad masses of the people can be aroused, organized and mobilized against the arrogant and corrupt Estrada regime. He became the convenor of the Kairos religious movement and Solidarity Philippines.
He was a consistent critic of the anti-people, anti-national and anti-democratic character of the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system and the chain of corrupt and brutal regimes. In every way possible, he fought for the people’s rights and interests. He was active in the poll watchdog Kontra Daya and opposed the automated programmed cheating in the elections of 2010 and 2013.
Last 13 September, he was at the Luneta despite his frail health. He was a prime mover in the people’s campaign against the pork barrel and corruption. He warned Aquino against persisting to defend the corrupt pork barrel system. His last rally was on 21 September, the anniversary of the martial law proclamation by Marcos. He denounced the continuing corruption and repression under the Aquino regime.
He was the organizer of the Clergy Discernment Group, a formation of priests and nuns for the advancement of the social justice agenda of the Catholic Church. He consistently stood for the preferential option of the church for the poor. When he celebrated his 40 years of priesthood recently, he explained that he stayed on as a priest because of his vow to build further the Church of the Poor.
Fr. Jose P. Dizon served the people without any reservation and to his last breath. He sought to align the Church with the demands of the Filipino people for national and social liberation. He shall always be remembered as a patriot and revolutionary. And the people shall always honor him and cherish his memory.