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Part 2: Interview with Jose Maria Sison on the people’s war in the Philippines

By staff

Jose Maria Sison with Fight Back! editor Mick Kelly

Fight Back! interviewed Jose Maria Sison, the founding Chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), August 19, in Utrecht, the Netherlands. This is the second part of the interview, and the conclusion will be published next week. See part 1 here and part 3 here.

The interview was conducted by Fight Back! editor Mick Kelly, who is also responsible for the international work of Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO).

Fight Back!: How do you see or characterize the government of Philippine President Duterte?

Duterte has been well-recommended by the regional leadership of the Communist Party in charge of southern Mindanao region that covers Davao City. So Duterte had been cooperating with the comrades there for nearly three decades. But then he has his own way of doing things. Even before, it was already said that Duterte’s capable of saying and doing anything, from the left way, the middle way, or the rightist way. Depending on what serves him from moment to moment [laughs]. He behaves that way as a bureaucrat capitalist.

But you know, he has a style of not showing of whatever acquisitions he has made. He’s a lawyer, he must know how to stash away what he has to hide. He has a big mansion, he donates that, no? And so he’s also capable of the grand gesture; he donates his own house for little children, for the use of children with special needs.

But being mayor of Davao can be different from being president, because the president will have to take into account more factors. Among those factors are far, far more powerful than even the supposedly all-powerful president. You have the U.S. and other players on a global scale. And also you have a society that is in chronic crisis, and it is stricken by further crisis – more and more, no?

Because this is a country that drowning in foreign debt. So, if Marcos used to borrow money at the rate of 1.4 billion pesos a year, the succeeding regimes would be borrowing at the annual rate of $2.8 billion dollars. Marcos ended his term with 27 billion debt from a level of 500 million. Now you have 77 billion. And Duterte expects to be able to borrow from China – one of the most fantastic figures is 167 billion – I don’t think China can provide that. But in the October visit of Duterte to China he got 9 billion in pledges, and further talks, I think led to an additional pile of like 6 billion, so they are talking about 15 billion in loans but mainly for infrastructure.

The problem is, that Filipino people have to be alert to, is that, you know, Duterte’s open joint undertaking with the Chinese in the exploring and developing the undersea energy resources in the western Philippine sea. The Philippines won the case before the UN Arbitral Tribunal in accordance with the UN convention on the law of the sea, so the exclusive economic zone, the extended continental shelf, sovereign rights over them are completely, clearly belong to the Philippines. But there are certain features in which the Chinese made reclamation.

If you have a wise president, you can take advantage of the multipolar world. You can utilize China and Russia in order to neutralize the long-running U.S. power. But if you are not wise enough, competent enough, because you see, these countries competing with the U.S. have capitalist operations – if you let them take advantage, well they don’t like to pay credit on their side, no? Whoever represents China or Chinese corporations in deals… [laughs]. So, the Philippines must also take care of its interests so there is mutuality of benefit, and you don’t get taken advantage of.

The problem is we might lose control over those trillions of dollars’ worth of energy resources because we cannot pay for excessive loans for infrastructure. So under the World Bank infrastructure projects are a way of drawing away resources from industrial development. That’s an old trick of U.S. imperialism, and it should not be repeated – whichever country or whichever bank we deal with.

We have now a testing ground for Duterte. It is you now, the peace negotiations.

Fight Back!: Let’s hear more about the peace negotiations. Why are they taking place and where are they going?

The peace negotiation is a testing ground for Duterte. We demand, the NDFP [National Democratic Front of the Philippines] demands that the Duterte government complies with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect For Human Rights and international humanitarian law, by releasing the political prisoners, either by one of two methods.

One is by general amnesty, the other is by withdrawal of the charges. Those charges are garbage. According to the CARHRIHL, the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, those prisoners have been arrested and detained should not have been arrested and detained in the first place, because the charges are trumped up. And many of these political prisoners are not even fighters of the NPA [New People’s Army]. After an incident, the military just picked up people from the nearby villages. So the GRP [Government of the Republic of the Philippines] and their obligation to release the political prisoners, there is even more demand for compensation – for apology and compensation.

Duterte so far has not passed the test. A year has passed, and his promise to comply with CARHRIHL has not been done. There are supposed to be six grades which he must pass. He hasn’t passed grade one.

It is obvious in the peace negotiations, there is so much delay. Even if there are already four successful – we call them successful – because there are some advances, but we notice that at a certain point, there may be no success whatsoever, because the GRP or the Duterte government insists that there must be a protracted and indefinite joint or bilateral ceasefire ahead of everything. And you know if the NDFP agrees to that, that would be very bad. People will say, “What about the social and economic reforms?” At least those must be taken up in advance of this ceasefire. In fact, properly, the permanent truce is a subject matter of the end – it’s the fourth item under the rubric of “end of hostilities and the disposition of forces.” So, this is a problem.

Now, Duterte, I think, he’s quite unstable or stupid, no? He had this Marawi problem. First, he underestimated it then he overestimated – well he, for a while, probably for a day or so he was underestimating the problem but when the fighting started, he had just arrived in Russia, then went back to the Philippines, and he proclaimed martial law.

The martial law does not cover only the area where the Bangsamoro is, of where the Marawi and Abu Sayyaf groups exist. He made the martial law Mindanao-wide. That means to say, the NPA is ‘the enemy!’

Duterte speaks with a forked tongue. “Oh, we are not targeting the NPA.” But why Mindanao, nationwide, and why at the level of the national defense department and the level of the armed forces chief of staff, why do the issue the directives against the NPA? And then they repeat threats that martial rule will be extended to the entire country.

So. What enemy will they face? The NPA, and then of course revolutionary forces and the legal democratic forces, especially those concerned about human rights – from the beginning they were critical of these extra-judicial killings in the so-called ‘war on drugs.’

There are too may innocents getting killed and the police are emboldened to kill because they are assured of impunity and they are paid 50 thousand pesos per head. It’s a scandal!

Well, this is the problem for the revolutionary movement. This may be something like pointed out very early by Ka Oris, the spokesperson of the CPP and the New People’s Army.

This campaign popularizing the extra-judicial killings at first posed against this illegal drug trade can be shifted, can be used a method, against the revolutionary movement. And this could be something like ‘Plan Colombia.’ At first the paramilitaries units were formed supposedly against the illegal drugs, then then they could be shifted against the FARC and ELN, no?

So, the Communist Party and the rest of the revolutionary movement have been alerted, and so right now, even Duterte is making some offensives justifying the disengagement that the NDFP has to undertake.

But Duterte has declared the termination, the end, of the peace negotiations three times. Not once has NDF complained and terminated the peace negotiations. So we are on the just and reasonable side on this issue.

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