Achieving Happiness

December 23, 2010

Christmas of the haves and have-nots; Red interviews

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 3:40 am

It’s been years since I last felt that Christmas truly meant something beyond the usual get-togethers and the exchange of gifts and the mad rush to buy new clothes and clothes. If anything, Christmas has become somewhat sad for me, nevermind that I now have a daughter whom I could spoil and pamper during the season if I had the mind to ( I don’t).

Why is it sad? Because the holidays all the more throw into stark contrast the lives of the haves and the have-nots. The poverty of the poor and the wealth of the rich are all the more made glaringly obvious than usual, and everything even more painful to me when I see the children of the poor roam the streets, begging for alms, or warbling and lisping their way through songs with mangled lyrics in the hopes that they will receive a few coins in return.

They have no good food to look forward to. They will wear no new clothes or shoes. They will not be receiving toys from relatives, or from their parents. Their parents in the meantime are away somewhere trying to scrape enough money so they can at least eat on December 24 midnight, even if it’s only various scraps from hotel restaurants sold by the kilo in Divisoria.

I did not have the energy or the enthusiasm to put up a tree this year. I saw so many real Christmas trees in Bremen, Germany when we went there to see the Christmas Market, and all that beauty (twinkling lights, gorgeously bright and colorful ornaments, the clean scent of pine and the gentle feel of falling snow) in such an affluent country felt right. I didn’t feel guilty about enjoying myself. I looked at my daughter and saw how she actively looked around her, learning new things, tasting new food, experiencing new sensations, and I felt content.

But here, back home, where poverty and unemployment levels are so high they make you scream; and where so many do not even have money to two kilos of rice at a time much less ham, keso de bola or the ingredients for fruit salad, well, I can’t seem to muster Christmassy feelings.

Vendors in Baclaran loudly hawk their wares (plastic toys, knock-off brands of shoes, underwear, costume jewelry, cooking implements) and even as they laughed off their exhaustion with their fellows, one could still see their desperation to sell sell sell because more sales mean better than usual food on the table on the eve of December 25. Along Roxas Boulevard and within the vicinity of the Redemptorist Church, entire families live in make-shift shelters. The shelters can’t even be properly called that because they barely provide it: pieces of cardboard and advertising tarps tied together with twine and rusty wire form the low roof, while the floor is comprised of plastic and cotton sacks that used to contain rice and flour. For these families, December 25 is just another day for them and their children: to be spent in hunger, while they themselves remained dirty and smelly because there are no toilets or bathrooms.

I look through the pages of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and there were feature articles on the gifts various celebrities and politicians are buying for themselves and for their families, and everything made me ill. They’re buying each other watches that cost P50,000;chocolates that come in Murano vases and have tag prices of at least P5,000; designer clothes and leather shoes whose combined prices would’ve fed an urban poor family for two, even four months as well as settled their electricity and water bills. They’re getting each other iPads and Galaxy tablets and various other gadgets and while they enjoy their new hardware, on tv there’s a report of how schoolchildren in Northern Luzon are grateful beyond tears because they received rainboots: their school has all but sunk under floodwater and for the last semester their feet have remained wet as they waded to and from their classroom.

Now I don’t have a problem with gifts, giving or receiving. Neither do I have an issue with buying clothes (I buy mine at ukay-ukay stores, though. Even in Holland I went to the second-hand shops). But there’s something…evil…about spending so much when so many, many others have so very little and so many, many others are dying because they don’t have money for hospital and medical care, proper nutrition, or adequate shelter.

It’s depressing, I tell you.

But there are reasons to be happy and grateful all the same. I am, after all, home. I traveled a total of 16 hours with my daughter from the Netherlands then Singapore, and it was a smooth and uneventful journey. We were most fortunate to have sat next to kind and generous people who didn’t mind having a toddler talk to them in gibberish for hours at a stretch until she fell asleep or got hungry. They helped me put on my daughter’s seatbelt straight when I, stressed out, couldn’t remember how to attach it to my own. They watched her for me when I needed to go to the lavatory, and they asked the flight crew for an extra pillow for her when she began nodding off in her seat. There are still kind people in the world – and I am very glad to have been reminded of this.

I am happy because my daughter now knows her daddy better, and I am happy because my husband is a good (albeit overly protective) father. I am happy because my mother’s health is secure, and because my sister is finding fulfillment in her work. I am happy because the friends I made in college are still my friends today. I am happy because the newer friends I have are intelligent, kind and compassionate people. and I am happy because I have highly interesting work for the coming year and I am excited at the prospect of writing about another individual deeply worthy of emulation and respect.


The following are interviews from a documentary made by a foreign film maker who was visiting The Netherlands. He had previously visited the Philippines, and apparently he learned much from the experience and he wanted to share everything with his own countrymen by making a documentary. I helped a little by editing the English version of the script and subtitles of the footage, and I thought I’d share a few excerpts. Suffice it to say that I also learned a lot from editing it.

Interviews with Guerrillas
Bojoy (22): “I have been a guerrilla for the last four years. I did not know anything about the revolution before. The comrades from the NPA came to our village and spoke with the people. They explained what it was they were fighting for, and taught us what exactly is was that caused our poverty and the great problems the Philippines faced that kept it from developing.

“But it was not just problems they spoke about: they also said that there were solutions. They mentioned the word ‘revolution’ many times, and it was then that I began to wonder what it was. I wanted to know why there people who were willing to give themselves to such a cause, and why they saw it so important that all Filipinos be part of it.

“It was then that I began to believe.

“I was 16 years old at that time and had attended high school. I quietly found answers to the questions in my mind. So, I started to imagine being a communist warrior. Of course I could not say that I had knowledge about revolution, ‘protracted people’s war’ and other heavy matters in the Philippines before I joined the NPA; but what I already knew, what I already believed was sufficient to help me make up my mind.

“In the NPA I learned what protracted people’s war means, and revolution.

“In the NPA I don’t see any gender inequality. Of course I can’t say that there isn’t completely any. For instance, some men would say “You are women, you cannot fight, you cannot use weapons.” But the Party discusses misconceptions like this with comrades and explain why this is wrong.

“Women in the NPA are always given opportunities to prove themselves. We sometimes carry the staffs faster than the male comrades, and sometimes we are quicker in using our weapons. Also, the health care comrades are women, and they are able to take care of all the injured, and at the same time fight in engagement areas.

“It does not mean that men don’t or can’t do this, but as women we also prove that we can fight as much as they can.

“I have also memories in my life as a guerrilla that I am unable to forget. I have had terrible experiences as well.

“One time, the military raided our camp, and as we retreated, several comrades were killed. I became depressed. I did not want to carry the gun anymore and I wanted to leave. I spoke to the comrades, and they did their best to help me, but I refused to listen to their advice and words of comfort. But we had to continue our work, so we went to a village to speak with the community residents there.

“In the village, three children and an old woman came and hugged me. They said “Don’t leave us, you are our hope. If you go, we wouldn’t know what to do and whom to trust.”

“I was shocked and I wept. It is not only because of them I cried, but also because I realized how selfish I was. I joined the NPA to help the revolution succeed, to help the people. I had already accepted that victory will not come without lives being lost, without the revolution having martyrs.

“I gave up all my plans to leave, and have since become stronger than I was before.”

Clara (22) (from the Manobo community)

“I am new here. I have been in NPA for only 17 months.

“What I like to share most with the masses are the things that I have learned in the NPA. It is exciting to be with masses and being with them encourages me to improve my work in the Movement more.

“I haven’t yet had the chance to see my family since I joined NPA. My family was against my joining the revolutionary struggle and they were influenced by state’s “the NPA are terrorists” black propaganda. I know they are mistaken, and I am happy I decided to become an NPA.

“When I was a school boy, my schoolmates made fun of me. They mocked my hair and skin. They always told me that I was different. I did not understand, but I felt that that they attacking me personally.

“Eventually I understood that it wasn’t a personal issue. All jokes were directed against my skin color, so it meant that they were actually making fun of my people.

“I never had any dream to go to university, or get a job to become rich. I graduated from high school and then I joined the struggle, and that has been the best and most meaningful decision of my life.

“I believe that women should unite against their common enemy: not men, but a system of exploitation that violates the rights of both women and men. I want all women in my country to join the struggle and fight for emancipation that only the revolution can give us. This is also a call to all women across the world. Women should know that their emancipation is in the revolution.”

Ka Andrea (Farmer) : “I did not immediately become an NPA when I first joined the struggle. I began by being a member of the youth organization in our village. I met my husband in the group’s activities. It was 1996 when I first knew him, but we did not become a couple then.

“We joined the NPA in 2003, and he sought permission from the Party so he could propose marriage to me. He proposed and I accepted. We participated in the Party’s marriage program.

“Comrades who want to marry are encouraged to be a part of a program wherein they learn what is expected from them as a couple in the revolution. We learn that our marriages are not ordinary because they are in the context of revolution, and we are more than husbands and wives but partners, comrades in the struggle.”

“There are collective discussions in the program where we help each other cope with any difficulties we encounter in our marriage and our family lives.

“Now we have a child, a one-year old boy. Of course, it is difficult to be far away from our son I miss him very much, but I struggle to overcome my emotion because the sacrifices we are making in the revolution are also for him, for his future.”

Maria Malaya : “I met Oris after I became a full-time activist. Oris was in the guerrilla front, I was in the white area. We have been working full-time in the rural areas since the 1980s. We have two children.

“When I first got pregnant, my biggest difficulty was where I would leave my children to be taken care of. My daughter was almost kidnapped by soldiers, but they failed when the person taking care of her screamed for help and the neighbors came to rescue them.

“Our son looks like his father and our daughter looks like me. Whenever there is a military operation, our children leave the village where they live.

Milan (21) : “ Our country is semi-colonized and semi-feudal, and Filipinos suffer great exploitation.

“I decided to join NPA to fight exploitation the same way the other comrades seek to do. I want a country where there is compassion and justice, where there is true freedom and national independence.”

“I know there are many obstacles in the path of true freedom, and many lives have been sacrificed and many more will be lost. But these difficulties are part and parcel of the struggle, and I understand this. I am not here to help bring freedom for my people.

“It often rains here in the mountains, and the paths can get very slippery. But I can’t imagine not being here, being part of the struggle. I can easily bear with these weather conditions, they are nothing compared to the greater challenges we will meet as we continue. The revolution entails many sacrifices, and coping with bad weather is a small thing. I am ready to make greater sacrifices, I am prepared to give my life for the revolution.”

Ka Bayani (23): “I belong to Mamanua minority, and as a minority group we face much hardship.

“I joined the revolution on behalf of my tribe. I want an end to the inhumane treatment we are often subjected to.

“ My people want an end to discrimination, and we want to be treated with respect and live with dignity. My people want to live harmoniously with other minorities, and with all Filipinos. I want an end to all the insults and name-calling we often suffer; because of our dark skin and our curly hair, we have been discriminated against. I’ve been called a monkey, ‘King-Kong.’ I’ve been beaten by bullies because of how I look.

“Minorities such as my tribe have been denied their rights to education and health services. I joined the revolution so I could help my people have access to both, and to more things that will enable them to live in dignity.

“There is only one way to achieve freedom for this country, and this is true revolution. I am happy here. It is first time that I have been regarded as a human being. Nobody insults and makes fun of me because of my appearance. I am treated as an equal by other comrades and I can express my opinions freely. This how I want my people to live and to be treated. There is no discrimination here, everyone is equal. Because there is no racial discrimination in the revolutionary struggle. We are all comrades.

Sydney (24) : “I have been in NPA for four years. I am assistant company commander.

“We closely and faithfully implement international humanitarian laws on the treatment of captives.

“First, we do a thorough background check on the captive. For instance, we find out whether he has perpetrated crimes against the people. If yes, what sort of crimes and where.

“If the captive is a soldier and he has no record of crimes against the people, we release him.

“If a captive has committed crimes, punishment is meted out, and the gravity is equal to the seriousness of the crime he committed. The punishment is equal to the crime, and it is done in response to the demands of the people for justice.

“Crimes against the people mean any and all action damaging to the welfare of the masses. The more serious crimes are when violence in inflicted against the people, if they have been subjected to torture or if people have been killed.

“Naturally, the perpetrators of such serious crimes are sentenced with capital punishment. We place them in handcuffs and they are detained in a secure place. We don’t handcuff them all day, such as when we are walking through the area, but we make sure that they can be easily secured if and when necessary.

“As I said before, we do a thorough background check and research on the captive. The findings are presented for deliberation to a committee that has been formed for this purpose. The members of the committee always meet the captives. The head of the committee seeks out the captive’s family, and communicate with them regarding the status of the captive. We send letters, or we call. This is most immediate especially in cases where the captive has been injured in an engagement area, and he surrendered.

“We also seek intervention from impartial parties. From instance, our unit launched an attack against the General Luna Police Station in Siargao Island on August, 2008. We sought to confiscate the weapons of the police. In the raid, two policemen were injured. We immediately gave them medical attention. We removed the bullet from one of the injured policemen, then we let them go. They thought we were kidding, and they didn’t believe us when we told them that they could leave.

“One of the comrades, our medic, said to them “We are not murderers”, and he explained to him why we attacked the station, The policemen listened, and began to understand why precisely the NPA conducts raids.

“These policemen changed their minds about the NPA because of how the NPA treated them when they were wounded, and this is what they told the media when news came out about the raid.

“In contrast, the enemy is not at all humane when it’s an NPA that has been injured. The enemy neither respects nor implements international humanitarian laws.

“My unit was in a gunfight, but we had to retreat. One of our comrades was caught behind enemy lines and we were unable to rescue him.

“Our comrade was alive when we last saw him—he did not die from his first injury, but we saw how that even though he was clearly wounded, the enemy did not stop shooting him with their M14s, even though he had already fallen to the ground.

“There are many other examples to prove the inhumanity of the enemy. They torture captives until they die. They vanish their captives without a trace, and their families never find their loved ones’ remains. They harass the families of captives. Soldiers rape women, and they have no compunction against using torture even against children. They once burned a mother and her son. They were members of a peasant organization that supported the NPA.

Ian (22): “Revolutionary culture must be strengthened and made popular to counteract bourgeois culture that distorts the truth about society and further corrupts it.

“This guitar is an instrument to do this. I want to help create revolutionary culture in the form of music for both the comrades and the masses.

“Sometimes I miss my family. Whenever I feel sad missing them, I play on my guitar. It helps me feel better. I have not seen my family since I became an NPA three years ago.

“Any comrade can visit their families after their first year in the NPA, that a rule. Afterwards, they can visit their families when necessary. I, however, have not had the chance to see my own family. If my brigade goes to the region where my loved ones live, I will find a way to see them.

“It is because of security reasons that I have stayed away from my family. I tried to visit them before, but there were enemy forces very close to the village where my family lived. It doesn’t mean that I don’t love my family when I stay away from them; I am protecting them from being harassed by the military, or from worse treatment.

“I am in an active war, and as time goes on, the Party and the comrades have become more of my family than my blood kin. If I were not here, I would feel greatly incomplete. I often carry our army’s equipment, and I get so tired at the end of day. Despite the exhaustion, however, I am happy because my strength was used for the comrades, for the revolution.”

December 15, 2010

The Morong 43 and Noynoy’s cautious egg-carrying

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 10:18 am

After 10 long months of being unjustly imprisoned, the Morong 43 now stand on the verge of being released. Based on developments and accounts faithfully reported by the likes of Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes, it has been a most painful ordeal all around, not only for the Morong 43 and their families, but for the urban and rural poor who were the primary beneficiaries of the selfless service of the imprisoned health workers.

One of the detainees, Nanay Del or Lydia Obera, wept as she was interviewed by ABS-CBN; but her tears were not for herself or the family she no doubt misses. She cried because she remembered the communities she and her colleagues have been forced to neglect. These were the communities they used to regularly visit and provide medical services to; these are the same communities whose dire need for health and medical programs and provisions the national government has failed to address and deliver. Already weakened because of the hunger strike she participated in, Nanay Del struggled to regain her composure but failed: the unnecessary guilt and sadness over the duties she was forced to let go of weighed on her heart.

Think of the selflessness, feel the strong sense of compassion and empathy, and be angry that such individuals as Nanay Del have been imprisoned.

There are many others like her and not just among the ranks of the Morong 43. Individuals who have sought to devote their lives and skills to others, seeking nothing but the betterment of the lives of the poor and the oppressed. Somewhere along the way their dreams and ambitions for their own selves melted into what they dream and want for the Filipino people and this country. In their selflessness, the poor benefit. In their compassion, others thrive. But in their refusal to back down from injustice, they were arrested and thrown in jail. Many, many others suffered worse fates: many are missing, many have been brutally killed.

This unjust system propped by abusive military might and founded on a long history of exploitation and calculated cruelty creates political prisoners out of Filipinos who choose not to become deaf, mute or blind victims. Human rights advocates, labor activists and socially concerned employees, workers and professionals including those among the Morong 43 remain on the hitlist of the military and the state because of their unrelenting commitment to a cause that will never be irrelevant, unnecessary or incorrect.

Even as they fight and oppose the injustices committed against the poor, they also strive to provide alternatives. They are not content to only criticize and condemn, they also seek to offer tangible service. All these prove an unwavering truth that true democracy can happen in the Philippines, and it will be built on the unity of those who have previously suffered in silence but have awakened and become empowered.

Their impending release from detention is a personal victory for each of the Morong 43; that they remained steadfast throughout their ordeal is proof of their individual strength. Beyond this, however, it’s also a brilliant testament to the righteousness of the cause they consistently sought to uphold: all that serves the best interest of the Filipino people and all that will pave the way towards a society that upholds civil, political and human rights.

The Morong 43 gained the support of Filipinos and members of the international community because they were heroes unjustly and illegally arrested. The call for their freedom did not fell on deaf ears and instead it was echoed by many. At the same time, the hypocrisy of the incumbent administration for declaring its full support for the campaign for the immediate release erstwhile Myanmar political prisoner and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi even there are over 400 political detainees languishing in various detention centers and jails all over the Philippines was exposed.

The Morong 43 rightly deserved all the support they received because their imprisonment represented so much of what’s wrong this country and what needs to be corrected, and the public was outraged by this.

For its part, the Noynoy Aquino regime chose to take its time in deliberating the merits of the case against the Morong 43 despite the overwhelming and glaring facts proving that their arrest and subsequent detention were illegal and unjustified. Noynoy became president in June, but it was only in recent months –around October– that he began to speak on the issue. And when he did begin to speak, he walked around eggs all the same out of fear and worry that he might antagonize the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Noynoy Aquino chose the easy path and stuck to the irregularities surrounding the arrest of the Morong 43 and remained silent on the conduct of the military and what their actions imply when it came to the human rights situation in the Philippines. Perhaps on his own volition, perhaps upon the recommendations of his numerous advisors, Noynoy chose his words carefully when speaking about the Morong 43 and the infamy of the AFP for arresting them. He was very cautious against implying any wrong-doing on the part of the military, all he said was that the process they used in arresting the Morong 43 left much to be desired by way of fulfilling legal and procedural requirements.

I suppose nothing more can be expected of Noynoy Aquino. Here is a man whose service record as a politician was at best lackluster and indifferent. Here is a man who chooses to surround himself with recycled officials whose own records show no obvious bent towards genuine social transformation, pro-poor politics and incorruptible practices. It would have spoken volumes about the kind of values he espouses had he taken action on the demands for the release of the Morong 43 with alacrity, but he dragged his feet and instead allowed justice secretary Leila de Lima do all the work.

In truth one cannot feel a measure of regret that Noynoy Aquino finds it easy to pass off opportunities to do what is just when it comes to human rights. Time and again he has been presented these opportunities, but he did nothing or worse, turned away and undermined issues that have serious repercussions on the economic and political welfare of the Filipino people.

There is no truth to claims that there are always two sides or even three to every issue and leaders must remain objective. Sometimes there’s only black and white, and one must take a stand and decide without fear or compromise. The arrest of the Morong 43 and the ten long months they have spent in detention is a portrait of black, but Noynoy chose to see other colors in it. Not even his trademark yellow could overcome, and what it supposedly represented — change — was proven false.

In the meantime, the AFP feigns magnanimity and arrogantly insists that it was right and justified in arresting the Morong 43. Morons among the mercenary institutions who act as officials conveniently forgot or ignored what has already been exposed in the earlier conducted hearings of the Commission on Human Right, namely that the warrant used in the arrest of the health workers was defective and more importantly, the arrested, tortured and detained victims were genuinely and undeniably civilians, far from being combatants.

The morons also asserted that the Morong 43 are confirmed New Peoples Army (NPA) members because the National Democratic Front of the Philippines’ (NDFP) chief negotiator in the peace talks Luis Jalandoni expressed support and demanded their release as a confidence-building measure in the upcoming negotiations with the GRP. Extending this twisted logic, all the local and foreign government officials, members of religious groups, heads of parishes and legal experts who gave their support for the Morong 43 are automatically enemies of the state.

It was also too much to expect that members and officials of the AFP use their brains to come up with less stupid and transparently malicious reasoning.
As of this writing, there has been no final word as to when the Morong 43 will be released. Noynoy Aquino has finally made a strong enough stand in support for the dismissal of the charges against the health workers, and the latter’s lawyers have expressed hope that it will only be a matter of time before the Justice department lays down a definite order making it possible for the Morong 43 to walk free.

With the release of the Morong 43 comes no rest, however. There are still the rest of the almost 400 other political prisoners whose rights have been denied them and whose continuing detention reeks of injustice and political persecution. Each and every single one of these men and women should be released, and every day that sees them behind bars is a day proving that the Philippines is far from being a democratic country.

Political dissent remains a crime, even as the true criminals run and manage the political system through corruption and with iron fists. The struggle against political persecution and human rights abuses must continue and strengthen. If political prisoners like the Morong 43 never grew weary even for a moment, neither must we who still walk freely let down our guard in the unending fight for true freedom democracy.

December 4, 2010

The lies about Jose Ma. Sison

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 11:31 pm

Former press secretary of the Macapagal-Arroyo government in 2002 and current Inquirer columnist Rigoberto Tiglao came out with a review of the Mario Miclat’s “Secrets of the Eighteen Mansions: A Novel” (Manila: Anvil Publishing, 2010), a book which attacks the Communist Party of the Philippines, its members, and what they have struggled for all these years.

The same day, a separate review came out wherein the lies peddled in the Miclat book were exposed and the book author’s own self-serving motives for coming out with such a memoir of twisted recollections were laid bare.

Now I don’t know who Mario Miclat is apart from what I’ve read about him in both Tiglao’s column and the book review; but I will admit that I know Jose Ma. Sison (whom Miclat attacks and vilifies in his book) and what he has done for the national democratic movement and the struggle for genuine freedom and democracy in the Philippines. This personal knowledge of who Jose Ma. Sison and all that he has fought for and continues to fight for is what immediately caused me a measure of annoyance and even anger after reading Tiglao’s column.

Attacks against JMS are nothing new, and the man is used to it, I suppose. I bet he even laughs whenever reading anything that slanders him and paints him in the most unlikeable colors. But even if JMS himself shrugs off this sort of thing, people who believe in him, who are grateful for all that he has done in service of the cause of national liberation in the Philippines, people like me, well, the attacks feel like they’re also leveled against me to some degree. They feel quite personal.

Why? Because JMS is a revolutionary I look up to; and his life in the struggle for freedom is one I find greatly worthy of emulating.

Here’s a man who has devoted all his intelligence, strength and will to the cause of the poor and working people. From his youth he has given all that he had to create a movement strong enough to fight and bring down a dictatorship (and continue to expose and oppose the anti-people governments that succeeded the Marcos regime), and he was imprisoned for 10 years because of it.

After he gained his freedom, he did not retire to a life of comfort and instead continued to write and speak about the conditions of miserable poverty and oppression the Filipino people continued to face. His refusal to be silent is what led to the cancellation of his passport: the Aquino government maliciously revoked the validity of his passport when he was out of the country in 1988 and forced him to go into exile.

Here’s a man who continues to be persecuted for being a freedom fighter and is denied the right to be given asylum in a foreign country, while at the same time he cannot go home to his own country because he will most assuredly be assassinated the moment he steps on the tarmac.

Here’s a man who continues to be maligned and slandered for supposedly living the lavish life in the Netherlands when in truth he and comrade-wife Juliet de Lima maintain the most frugal of lifestyles — so simple and humble that it can hardly even be called to possess ‘style.’ After being included in the US and European Union’s terrorist list, he has also been denied the right to travel outside the Netherlands and forbidden from finding any means of livelihood. Every week he has to report to the local police station and prove that he has neither gone into hiding nor left the country.

It’s most infuriating how the propaganda agents of the enemies of the Filipino people harp on how JMS supposedly lives like a king in the Netherlands. The man rides public transport — the bus or the train — or relies on the few comrades with decidedly luxurious and uncompromisingly functional cars to take him to appointments.

He reads and writes for work and for leisure, and he spends hours on interviews or lectures about the international economic and political situation or the prospects of the Philippines for true progress and related issues. He meets with students and journalists, employees and housewives, diplomats and laborers. Anyone who has an interest in matters of national and international liberation, freedom and democracy will always find it easy to begin a conversation with Jose Ma. Sison.

As for his supposed penchant for the high life, the only gatherings he goes to are the ones where he is invited and where he doesn’t need to spend a euro: get-togethers sponsored by Filipino migrant groups; despidadas or welcome parties for friends, the occasional home-cooked dinner after meetings, or when there are visiting dignitaries and they seek to consult or speak with him.

It’s even uncertain if he has a MuseumKaart and has visited a tenth of the museums in Utrecht or nearby Amsterdam: the cards cost 40 euro and with it one can visit various museums all over the Netherlands for free. He and wife Julie survive on 800 euro a month — the subsidy grudgingly provided by the Dutch government. From this meager amount they have to pay utilities and rent, and everything that remains goes to food.

Those who have never been to the Netherlands think that life here (or anywhere else in Europe) is easy. In many ways, from the simple reasons to the more important ones, it is.

Yes it’s easier here because the air and the environment are much cleaner than in the Philippines. There are public parks where one can jog or stroll with one’s children or play basketball. There’s hardly any pollution because there are trees everywhere so breathing does not entail risks. Traffic jams are almost unheard off because the cities are well planned and road rules are strictly enforced and mostly obeyed. The government despite its corruption at least uses much of taxpayers’ money to provide and maintain social services that are more or less accessible to the general public: garbage is regularly and efficiently collected and disposed off; there are public clinics for babies and children up to to 18 years old; and health insurance is mandatory for everyone.

But Jose Ma. Sison did not come to the Netherlands on his own volition; he didn’t stay here because he was trying to escape the chaos in his own country.

He went to the Netherlands on a speaking tour on the invitation of solidarity groups and it was then that his passport was cancelled and he was rendered suddenly homeless. He remains in the Netherlands because he is compelled to by circumstances and because he is bound by the collective decision of his comrades and allies who are correct is ascertaining that he is much more useful alive here in this cold and faraway country than dead in the one he loves and was forced to leave.

No doubt if left on his own and allowed to make his own decisions without regard for the threats to his own life, he would’ve taken the first KLM flight to the Philippines. No doubt if he were home in the Philippines he would be at the thick of all activities of the national democratic movement, at the frontline of protests demanding respect for civil, political and human rights.

Those who attack Jose Ma. Sison resort to slandering him because they continue to fail in their efforts to discredit and prove wrong everything about the Movement that he helped build and continue to give guidance and inspiration to through his books and speeches and other writings. He has written books that set to rights the falsities of history as it was previously written about the Philippines, and removes the blinders that keep Filipinos unaware of how their nation has been raped and continue to be raped.

His body of written work provide a veritable map or manual to how the Filipino people can destroy the shackles that bind them to poverty and begin to build a government and a nation that puts a premium not on profit but on the sanctity of human life above everything else. His analysis of global developments also prove valuable contributions to the international struggle against imperialism: an internationalist to the core, he is always able and willing to give support to the campaigns of the working people of other sovereign countries in defending themselves against all forms of imperialist aggression.

They do their best to expose Jose Ma. Sison as a man with personal weaknesses and who has committed mistakes as a leader, husband, father, friend or brother; but they say nothing about what he has done to atone for whatever mistakes he has made and how he has more than evolved into a finer specimen of humanity and compassion through the years because of the support and love of his wife and children, friends and family. He was included in the terrorist list and on the hit list of the US and its agents in the Philippines because he remains committed to the cause that embraces all that seeks betterment and good for the oppressed;and because the Movement he helped build and lead continues to gain strength.

In the meantime, he has never lost what kept him sane through 10 years of imprisonment and through agonizing hours and days and weeks of torture in its various forms: a sense of humor that is both keen and giving; and a lightness of heart even as his will remained built of steel.

Those who attack Jose Ma. Sison make much of how he is able to laugh and sing and dance even as he speaks of revolution. They say he shouldn’t even smile because his comrades in the Philippines live in dire poverty and want.

This says much about how those who are against the revolution: they believe that only the oppressors and exploiters have the right to laugh and sing and dance; after all, they find delight in the death and suffering they cause among the poor and exploited just so they could live in castles and bathe in champagne if it was their whim.

What they don’t know is how revolutionaries like Jose Ma. Sison can continue to sing, dance, and yes, laugh and laugh til tears flow. Even in the midst of greatest despair and even as the darkness never seems to end, when one has a great and uncompromising hope, one will always be able to find joy. All hope springs from the certainty of how one day, there will be justice; how one day, there will be freedom; and how one day, there will be boundless happiness because revolutionaries from the mountains and revolutionaries from far away like Jose Ma. Sison will be able to go home. And that is no lie.

For information about the life and work of Jose Ma. Sison, visit this website.