Dutch Government Denies Political Refugee Status for Jose Maria Sison

Revolutionary Worker #927, October 12, 1997

On September 11, the Dutch government revealed its latest move against Jose Maria Sison, the founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). A three-judge panel of the Rechtseenheidskamer (REK, or the Law Unity Chamber) announced its decision to deny political asylum in the Netherlands to Sison, as well as Julieta de Lima and their son Jasm. The Sison family has lived in the Netherlands since 1987, when the Philippine government canceled Prof. Sison's passport and filed subversion charges against him.

The REK decision actually goes against a 1995 decision by the Council of State, the highest administrative court in the Netherlands. The Council of State had found that Jose Ma. Sison is a political refugee with "a well-founded fear of persecution" and that he should not be sent back to the Philippines. But the Dutch justice ministry has been actively trying to override the Council of State.

The efforts by the Dutch justice ministry against the Sison family is an indication of high-level forces at work. The Dutch bourgeoisie has important interests in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. But historically, the main imperialist power dominating the Philippines has been the U.S. During a hearing before the Council of State several years ago, a Dutch government official openly admitted that a government friendly to both the Dutch and Philippine governments would be displeased or offended if Sison was granted political asylum in the Netherlands. As Sison pointed out, "He was clearly referring to the U.S. government."

The REK judgment is deceptively worded. It does not threaten immediate expulsion and states that Prof. Sison has a "non-deportation" status in the Netherlands. However, the REK decision also allows the justice ministry to withdraw the "non-deportation" status at any time, on the justification that conditions have changed in the Philippines. In the case of Julieta de Lima and Jasm, the REK directed the justice ministry to make a new decision on whether they should be granted residency. In other words, the justice ministry can simply deny them permission to stay in the Netherlands.

Jose Ma. Sison has a long history in the revolutionary movement in the Philippines. During the 1960s, he and other Filipino revolutionaries were influenced by the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China, led by Mao Tsetung, and the worldwide upsurge of anti-imperialist struggle. Sison led the re-establishment of the Communist Party of the Philippines on a Maoist basis in 1968. The following year the CPP formed the New People's Army (NPA) and launched a protracted people's war against the U.S.-backed Marcos dictatorship. Sison was taken prisoner by the military in 1977 and was imprisoned until the Marcos regime fell in 1986.

The current head of the Philippine government, Fidel Ramos, was a top general during the Marcos dictatorship. Jose Ma. Sison and Julieta de Lima, who was also a political prisoner during the Marcos years, would face serious danger if they were forced to return to the Philippines.

During his years in exile, Sison has continued to stand with the struggle of the Filipino people and other struggles around the world. He currently serves as the chief political adviser to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, a united front of underground organizations including the CPP and the NPA. Just a few days after the REK decision, he sent a message of solidarity to the September 21 national day of protest in the Philippines, when hundreds of thousands of people around the country demonstrated against the policies of the Ramos regime. Prof. Sison was a major participant in an international conference on Mao Tsetung that took place during the Centenary of Mao's birth in 1993. He is a signatory to the Call by the International Emergency Call to Defend the Life of Dr. Abimael Guzmán (IEC).

In an attempt to justify its moves to deny political asylum to the Sison family, the Dutch justice ministry claims that Prof. Sison had committed "terrorist" acts and continues to maintain contacts with "terrorist" organizations. The real concern of the Dutch government is that Sison has continued his activities in support of the revolutionary struggles in the Philippines and around the world. The use of the "terrorist" label is right in line with the moves by imperialist and reactionary governments around the world to step up repression against revolutionaries and the people. And the case of the Sison family has important implications for others seeking political asylum, not only in the Netherlands but elsewhere around the world.

In a statement dated September 18, Sison stated: "The support of the people in the Netherlands and throughout the world is indispensable in our asylum cases because there has to be superior moral force to shame and frustrate the powerful forces within the three governments of the United States, the Philippines and the Netherlands that have sought by all means to deprive us of asylum and yet keep us in legal limbo in the Netherlands. Now they are poised to drive us out.

"The fight is not yet over even if the REK has ruled that not one of us deserves asylum in the Netherlands. The fight must continue until justice is attained in our asylum cases."

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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