Tsikahan with Tito Jo under the auspices of Anakbayan Europe and ND Online School
Questions by Host Anghelo Godino
Answers by Jose Maria Sison
Chairperson Emeritus, International League of Peoples’ Struggle
November 18, 2020
1 . What is red – tagging?
JMS: Red-tagging means labelling a person or organization as communist and at the same time as terrorist. The Duterte regime and its political and military agents misrepresent communists as terrorists through propaganda and by the enactment of a fascist law like the Anti-Terrorism Law which targets the Communist Party of the Philippines and the revolutionary movement of the Filipino people for national and social liberation.
- What makes red-tagging dangerous and deadly?
JMS: Red-tagging is dangerous and deadly because it works like the arbitrary listing of drug suspects in the bogus war on drugs. For the Red-tagging or listing alone, the military and police officers pocket public money under the guise of intelligence operations. And then they use the list of those red-tagged for intimidation and extortion, for staging fake surrenders and worst of all for extrajudicial killings. They further pocket the reward money for fake surrenders and for the extrajudicial killings.
What is called military pork barrel keeps on growing under the pretext of anti-communism and anti-terrorism, whereas in fact it is the Duterte regime’s state terrorism that reigns in the Philippines. At the expense of economic development and social social services as in health, education and public housing, huge amounts of money are appropriated for the military, police and intelligence services.
Duterte and his favorite military and police officers officers engage in graft and corruption through overpriced local and foreign purchases of equipment and supplies, imaginary intelligence, psywar and combat operations, fake surrenders and fake community projects. Military pork barrel is now competing with infrastructure pork barrel as big rackets of those in power.
- How do you think legal activists differ from actual Red Fighters?
JMS: The difference between legal activists and the Red fighters of the New People’s Army is very obvious. The Red fighters carry firearms and are with units of the NPA in the countryside. They are committed to wage the armed revolution and are prepared to make sacrifices in the battlefield. They are ready to make the supreme sacrifice of martyrdom.
The legal activists do not belong to the NPA and still go home to their families, go to school, their offices or workplaces aside from speaking up and holding mass actions on issues of public interest. They express views that reflect the needs, demands and aspirations of the people for their own good against the oppressive and exploitative conditions and against the Duterte regime’s reign of greed and terror.
- Reactionary government tags national democratic organisations as recruiters of New Peoples Army, and defenders of CPP-NPA-NDF, Is this true? What really pushes people to join the revolutionary groups then?
JMS: It is perfectly legal for national democratic organizations to assert and exercise their civil and political rights to express themselves and assemble, to make protests and demands in the interest of the people. If they manifest patriotic and democratic ideas and views like those of the CPP, NPA and NDFP, it does not mean that they are recruiters and defenders of these revolutionary organizations.
Those who join the revolutionary organizations are driven to do so by the oppression and exploitation that they suffer from imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. These are problems suffered by the more than 90 per cent of the people. Thus, there is widespread desire among the people to rid the country of these.
And it is therefore not surprising that there is a sharing of ideas, views and aspirations among a broad range of people, including the toiling masses of workers and peasants, the middle social strata and even among those who have social conscience in the upper classes.
- What is really the objective of the Duterte regime in terminating the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, designating the CPP and NPA as terrorists and engaging in red-tagging and in enacting the Anti-terror Act during the time of the Covid-19 pandemic?
JMS: Duterte’s real objective is to impose a fascist dictatorship on the Filipino people. By engaging in state terrorism and all-out war, he can freely engage in intimidating the people, kill people who oppose him and plunder the natural and social wealth of the country in collaboration with foreign monopolies and the local exploiting classes of big compradors and landlords.
He wants to rule beyond 2022 or install his daughter as presidential proxy and ensure that he is not hailed to the International Criminal Court to account for his gross and systematic violations of human rights, especially the extrajudicial killing of tens of thousands of people.
- What do you think of the Senate hearings by the committee headed by Panfilo Lacson? How come General Parlade and a certain Jeffrey Celiz are star performers in these hearings? What are the Senate hearings for?
JMS: The Senate hearings are for the purpose of red-baiting and anti-communist witch hunt. It is a cheap revival of the long discredited McCarthyism in US history. Senator Lacson who is head of the committee is the principal author of the Antiterror Bill. He wants to imitate Senator McCarthy. Thus, wild characters like General Parlade and the impostor Jeffrey Celiz have free play to red-tag people.
They do not have evidence to bring to court against those whom they malign for any act of terrorism and so they use the Senate hearings in order to engage in an anticommunist witchhunt and subject their victims to trial by publicity and to threats of punitive measures, indefinite detention, freezing of bank accounts, torture and murder.
- Is red-tagging really effective in preventing dissent? Why do you think government invest in such propaganda?
JMS: Red-tagging is not really effective in preventing dissent. It is so absurd and abusive that that it actually provokes or challenges people to resist. In my own youth in the 1950s, I became an activist precisely because the red-tagging demonstrated how anti-national and how antidemocratic were the imperialists and the local reactionaries in using it.
Currently, the organizations and individuals that are being red-tagged are fighting back to expose the red-taggers as antinational and antidemocratic reactionaries in the service of imperialism and the local exploiting classes. More people will become activist and more people will become revolutionary because of the red-tagging. In this sense, Duterte and his reactionary agents are the best recruiters of the CPP, NPA and the NDFP.
- Is red-tagging evident even outside the country?
JMS. Yes, of course. The Duterte regime has dispatched psywar and intelligence agents like General Parlade and Lorraine Baduy to foreign capitals in order to red-tag and malign people opposed to the regime. There are also psywar and intelligence agents posted in various foreign countries to surveil the overseas Filipinos and to red-tag those they consider as critics of the regime.
These psywar and intelligence agents of Duterte are paid from the intelligence and discretionary funds of the Office of the President and various departments and agencies of the reactionary government. The Duterte agents who call themselves DDS use the social media to slander and threaten the critics and opponents of the Duterte regime.
- The National Task Force-ELCAC and its highest officials are circulating the propaganda that you yourself red-tagged Filipino organizations and called them “front “ organizations of the CPP. How true is that claim?
JMS: That is a big lie of Duterte and his political and military agents. What I did exactly in a speech in Belgium in 1987 was to differentiate the legal democratic forces and the armed revolutionary organizations. Whenever I speak of national and democratic forces among the people, I do not say that they are members of the National Democratic Front.
The 18 member-organizations of the NDFP are well-known. The NDFP table of organizations is well-publicized. The propagandists and military minions of Duterte pretend not to know it or they really do not know it because they are too lazy to know. Certainly, I do not refer to any legal democratic force as a “front” or facade organization of the CPP or NDFP. I do not use that kind of language. It is the language of the red-baiters.
- There is also one patently ridiculous claim against you. How do you react to the attack on you that in effect you red-tagged Philippine organizations by inviting them to join the International League of Peoples’ Struggle when you were the chairperson from 2001 to 2019?
JMS: Indeed, that is a patently ridiculous claim. It is absolutely clear that the ILPS is neither a communist nor a terrorist organization. It is an international united front formation of anti-imperialist and democratic mass organizations. It has hundreds of member-organizations in several scores of countries. Anticommunists like General Esperon and others of the NTF-ELCAC and the Anti-Terrorism Council and hirelings like Rigoberto Tiglao are absolutely stupid in red-tagging the ILPS or slandering it as terrorist.
- How do we stop and fight red-tagging?
JMS: In the Philippines, the organizations and individuals being red-tagged are fighting the red-taggers in every possible legal way and have been successful despite the enactment of the Anti-Terror Act and the growing threat of fascism. They can serve as examples for the overseas Filipinos in fighting back. You have relatively more democratic space in Europe even if there are also chauvinist, racist and even fascist currents here.
You have to strengthen your patriotic and democratic Filipino organizations and develop solidarity with the host people and other foreign minorities in order to assert and exercise your democratic rights abroad. At the same, you and other people in solidarity with you can support the struggle of the Filipino people for national independence democracy, economic development, cultural progress and peace.
- The CPP and NPA are never known and have never been accused of committing any act of terrorism abroad, why are they listed as terrorist organizations by the US, EU and some other countries?
JMS: It was upon the request of Gloria M. Arroyo, General Esperon and Norberto Gonzales that the US designated the CPP and NPA and even myself as “terrorist” in 2002. And other countries followed the US in designating the aforesaid as “terrorist”. In my case, I have succeeded in having my name removed from the EU terrorist list since 2009 by filing a court case before the European Court of Justice.
It is in deed anomalous that the CPP and NPA are designated as terrorists despite the fact that they have never been known or have been accused of committing any act of terrorism abroad. They adhere to the international conventions on human rights and humanitarian conduct as co-belligerents in the civil war in the Philippines. They are also bound by the GRP-NDFP Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
But they have been unable to undertake legal action like I have done. They are preempted from making representations before authorities abroad by certain factors and conditions. Filipino organizations abroad and those organizations in solidarity with the Filipino people should expose the injustice done to the CPP and NPA and demand their removal from so-called terrorist lists. After all these lists are administrative acts by executive entities. They are subject to inquiry and changes upon the demand of the people.
They have emboldened the Duterte regime to terminate the peace negotiations with the NDFP and to make its own designation and listing of the CPP and NPA as terrorists since 2017. With their baseless listing of the CPP and CPP as terrorists, they are practically encouraging Duterte to engage in anticommunist witchhunts and engage in state terrorism.
- The newly-elected Us president Biden has expressed interest in promoting human rights and democracy in countries that the US supports and has referred negative trends towards authoritarianism specifically in the Philippines, Turkey and Hungary. What can the Filipino people expect and demand?
JMS: The Filipino people expect Biden to keep his word. Somehow Duterte should be advised to give up his scheme of fascist dictatorship and ruling the Philippines beyond 2022 as well as his scheme to rig the 2022 presidential elections to install his daughter or any of his stooges as his proxy. Especially now Duterte has bankrupted the Philippine economy and his own government, he has become more dependent on the US for the military and economic assistance and on pro-US military and police officers. The US can actually tell him to stop being a tyrant or else he loses the US assistance that he begs for from year to year.
The US can also advise Duterte to stop selling out the sovereign rights of the Filipino people over the West Philippine Sea and favoring China’s political and economic interests in the Philippines. China has now seven military bases in the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, controls the national power grid and erects communications towers in the same military camp where the US has its own personnel and facilities under the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced defense Cooperation Agreement. Both imperialist powers violate the national sovereignty of the Filipino people.
- By all indications, the Duterte regime has failed to destroy the CPP, NPA and the revolutionary movement in accordance with the promise he made to US President Trump when he was in the Philippine on November 13, 2017. Now, he is trying to intimidate the urban populations with state terrorism. Will it be helpful to the people if calls for the resumption of GRP-NDFP peace negotiations are made? Will such calls help to discourage from carrying out his scheme of fascist dictatorship.
JMS: Duterte is already too deeply involved in his own scheme of fascist dictatorship. He has committed so many grave crimes of treason, tyranny, mass murder and plunder against the people that he knows the people will never believe any pretense that he makes at negotiating peace with the revolutionary movement. He is hell-bent on attacking the revolutionary movement and the people. And there is too little time for him to step back from his lurch to an ignominious end.
But it is good for the peace advocates to call for peace negotiations as a goal for the broad united front and the broad masses of the people against the Duterte tyrannical regime. Such a call can rally the entire people, unite them for bringing about a change of administration and encourage the incoming administration to engage in peace negotiations and lay the basis for a just and lasting peace by addressing the roots of the armed conflict.###