Will communist leader ever return to the Philippines?

Utretch, Netherlands

    ━ By the Old River Rhine, thousands of kilometres away from home, Jose Maria Sison continues to lead a revolutionary movement he began about 50 years ago when he established the Communist Party of the Philippines.

    Now 79yo, he learned how to use social media. Thanks to his techno-savvy wife Julie De Lima who had the patience to teach him.

    Facebook serves as his measure of political events in his home country where the struggle is as relevant as before he left.

    The internet allows him to reach out and influence more people as some sort of an online “newsmaker” through a technology not available to Lenin and other communist leaders in the past.

    But through facebook critics portray him as someone who has opted to enjoy life overseas while comrades do the actual battle back home.

    “Of course, I would prefer to be with my compatriots,” he said. “It was not my choice to get political asylum here.”

    The Philippine government cancelled his passport in 1987. Since then, he was stuck in the Netherlands and regarded as a “political refugee.”

    With no social benefits, he is dependent on his wife, a Dutch resident, and contributions from friends for his daily needs.

    For several times, he was confined for pneumonia in a university hospital as a “private charity case.” He also suffers from Sweet’s syndrome, a painful skin condition.

    He has been asked repeatedly by President Rodrigo Duterte, his former student, to return to the Philippines to continue peace negotiations. But Sison said this would mean giving up the “advantages of negotiating in a foreign neutral venue,” which is Norway.

    But Duterte’s volatile nature is also a factor: he could easily order the resumption of talks just as easily he could end them. He did so earlier following continued attacks by communist rebels on government troops despite ongoing negotiations.

    Sison said he was “not absolutely against” returning to the Philippines but “at the proper time.”

    He is optimistic that he would return to the Philippines within this year. He said an interim peace agreement is expected to be signed when formal talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines resume on June 28.

    Both sides, he said, were expected to announce some stand-down agreement two weeks before that.

    A copy of a stand-down agreement obtained by ABS-CBN News calls for a “temporary cessation of hostilities in which the contending armed units and personnel” of the two sides “stay where they are.”
    An “as is where is” provision seeks to avoid “any kind of movement… which may be considered as a provocative and/or hostile act.”

    A member from each of the negotiating panels will serve as coordinators to “work on measures to prevent the escalation of hostilities that may arise from certain incidents.”

    “No retaliatory act shall be taken by either party,” according to the draft agreement, which both sides hope to replace with a coordinated unilateral ceasefire later on.

    The wider interim peace accord is hinged on agreements now being ironed out by both sides on a ceasefire, amnesty proclamation, and major portions of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), which is considered the “heart and soul” of the peace negotiations.
    The rebels are pushing for CASER to address the root causes of the armed struggle, with provisions on genuine agrarian reform and rural development, and nationalization of certain industries.

    “I think within one round, we can finish CASER and that would be a signal for me to return to the Philippines,” Sison said, noting that an agreement on political and constitutional reforms could also come soon afterward.

    Life in Utretch could occasionally lead to boredom, Sison admitted, pointing to the river from across his apartment window where the view has a calming effect on him. But home, he said, is still the Philippines. (Source: ABS-CBNnews)

Updated: 05/28/2018 — 07:12:06
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