By INA ALLECO SILVERIO
In a series of cables, the US embassy admitted the US’ government’s role in the terrorist listing of Prof. Jose Ma. Sison, chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in the peace talks with the Government of the Philippines (GPH).
Wikileaks also released confidential and secret cables from the US embassies in Manila and The Hague in the Netherlands, and these expose how the three governments worked together to designate Sison as a terrorist. Sison also stands as the chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in peace talks with the Government of the Philippines (GPH). Attacks against Sison served to endanger the talks.
In the three cables where officials and reports from the US embassy in the Manila, the Hague and the GPH were quoted, Kenney said that it was inadvisable for the Netherlands government to remove Prof. Jose M. Sison from the terrorist listing of the European Union. It said Sison is the leader of the NPA and that the NPA continues to launch attacks and ambushes against its targets including Philippine military and police personnel.
Sison, the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army were included in the US terror list in August 2002, right after the Manila visit of then Secretary of State Colin Powell. He was soon after also included in the EU “terrorist list” of organizations and individuals upon the requests of the US and PH governments. His bank account was subsequently frozen, denying him social benefits accorded to refugees living in the Netherlands.
In a cable dated 05/18/2009, Charge d’Affaires Michael Gallagher in the US embassy in the Hague sent a cable to Manila on the Dutch government’s “urgent request for information” on Sison’s inclusion in the terrorist list. The Dutch government was concerned that the European Court of First Instance would rule that Sison does not rightfully belong in the the EU sanctions list.
“The Dutch government may be unable to retain its domestic designation against Sison if the EU removes him from its list. The Dutch government claims that it listed Sison in 2002 at the US government’s request, and it is now urgently asking for US government information to bolster the case for keeping Sison’s EU and Dutch designations,” he said.
In Manila, Kenney said the “NPA remains a serious threat to the country’s security, development, and the continued consolidation of democratic institutions,” and that “the designation of the NPA as a terrorist organization by the U.S., EU, and others has materially hampered its effectiveness and military capabilities.”
Kenney also said she concurred with the March 2009 Intelligence Community Assessment of the NPA’s activities since 2004 and Sison’s leadership of the NPA is basis enough to go against all calls to have Sison removed from the terrorist listing.
In the meantime,the US embassy under Kenney essentially admitted that the US interfered in the peace talks between the GPH and the NDFP.
According to NDFP chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni, the US, Dutch and Philippine governments engaged in acts that were inimical to the peace talks between the NDFP and the Philippine government. In statements released in 2007, Jalandoni insisted that the GPH has been using the terrorist listing as leverage against the NDFP.
Sison was placed under intense pressure: he was deprived of social benefits; his life was threatened, and he was actually even arrested and detained in September 2007. Reports had it that the matter of the terrorist listing became a prejudicial question in the peace talks.
In a 2005 meeting with US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo said the NPA’s “delisting as a foreign terrorist organization depended on a demonstration or proof of sincerity.such as entering into a cease-fire or new peace talks.”
The same leveraging tactic was echoed by then Presidential Peace Adviser Annabelle Abaya in a discussion with US Ambassador Kristie Kenney in November 2009. Abaya noted that Sison’s delisting by the EU “would eliminate some of the GRP’s leverage over him” and that “the GRP preferred Sison to remain designated as a terrorist” but admitted that “talks had not succeeded during his time in the EU list”.
Pressure for Sison’s removal from terrorist list
In the meantime, the Foreign Ministry’s terrorism finance coordinator, Wendela Haringhuizen, met with the US Economic Office on May 13, 2009 to discuss the Sison case and the Dutch government’s great concern about the repercussions if the European Court rules that he should not remain in the EU sanctions list.
The official also was reported to have alluded to agitation from several countries including Norway to remove Sison from the list and allow him to travel to Norway to participate in the peace talks.
The official also reported that within the the EU the customary sanctions blockers feel the case against Sison is “weak” despite the efforts of the the Dutch police, intelligence services (AIVD), and the Dutch embassy in Manila against the delisting.
“These offices have not been able to provide concrete help,” Haringhuizen said. ”
It was also stated in a cable that the Dutch government “feels on thin ice because the original listing was in part at the US government’s request.”
US intervention, through the terrorist listing, had a very negative impact on the peace talks. It was a move that was aimed at forcing the NDFP to surrender to the Philippine government, even without addressing the roots of the armed conflict. This negates the inherent character of the talks which are primarily aimed at finding solutions to the root causes of the armed struggle. Arroyo appeared more interested in getting the NDFP to surrender than in addressing the substantial issues in the peace negotiations. These issues include human rights, socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and the disposition of forces.
After a long legal battle, Sison was eventually removed from the EU “terrorist list” in November 2009 based on a ruling by the European Court of First Instance. It appeared that the Dutch “terrorist listing” was done only in relation to asylum proceedings and was not based on actual crimes or terrorist activities.
US embassy admits strength of revolutionary forces
Finally, in a cable the US embassy admitted that the CPP and the NPA continue to maintain a support base at the grassroots level.
“The CPP/NPA cadre often provide free medical care, education, and other social services to the rural poor, especially in areas where the GRP remains only a distant reality. These social services, as well as propaganda against the often ineffective and corrupt central governmental structure, help to explain the continued appeal of the CPP/NPA/NDF to segments of the Philippines’ rural and urban population.
It also said that the the NPA remains a potent force.
“The NPA targets not only GRP security forces but also internal dissenters, defectors, suspected government informants, and those who fail to pay “revolutionary taxes” or “permit to campaign” (PTC) fees.
“We see no signs that the CPP/NPA has any intention of abating its decades-old effort to overthrow the Philippine government or that it has any hope of ever achieving this goal. It continues to survive in reaction to chronic nationwide problems of poor governance, inadequate governmental resources to combat poverty, enduring resentment over official corruption and incompetence, as well as societal remnants of Philippine-style feudalism that continue to favor a small number of political and economic dynasties. The CPP/NPA’s nationwide presence nonetheless make it a significant threat in the eyes of the GRP, which remains incapable of defeating it militarily,” she said.