Judging from the contents of Jose Ma. Sison A Celebration, Jose Ma. Sison is well-loved and much-admired man, and those who love and look up to him are passionate in their defense of this controversial, much-maligned but undeniably unforgettable individual.
The book, as the title states, is a celebration of Sison’s life and his contributions to not only to the Filipino people’s struggle for liberation and social justice, but to the rest of humanity’s battle for good against thegreat evils wrought by the economic system of capitalism.
Here we find academic writings attesting to Sison’s intellect.
Writers ranging from university professors to newspaper columnists to human rights lawyers all assert how Sison, from the time he was a student in the University of the Philippines (UP) synthesized the experiences in war and struggle for democracy in other nations and put together a uniqe blueprint for the Philippines and Filipinos to follow in their own campaign for freedom.
NDFP chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni in his article “JMS’ Contribution to the GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations” gives insight to the dialectics of the peace negotiations. Far from depicting Sison as a man of war, Jalandoni testifies how Sison used his innate diplomatic skills and uncompromising grasp of revolutionary principlesand help prevent the 1992 peace talks from falling into collapse. Jalandoni also states how Sison’s critiques and analyses on the workings of peace talks between warring parties in other nations have been crucial in keeping the NDFP’s own handling of its end in negotiations with the GRP on the correct path. Historic agreements forged with the GRP, Jalandoni says, were drafted, completed and signed with Sison’s unerring guidance as chief political adviser.
UP Manila Prof. Edberto Villegas traces Sison’s roots as a Marxist. He explains how Sison’s veneration of the most humane theory of Marxism was never without understanding, but was and is in fact founded on deepest comprehension of what Marxism has always sought to achieve for humanity and the oppressed. Sison’s Marxism, Villegas attests, was born not only out of diligent study, but out of practice: Sison the ideologue is also Sison the organizer, the intellectual who put his knowledge to the test and into practice by immersing himself in the labor and struggles of the working people.
As Kabataan party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino, the youngest among the contributors in the book, states, ‘Joma is not an armchair revolutionary: he offered concrete, practical and radical alternative means on how to launch a revolution. Joma’s fidelity to Marxism has has taught many activists the value of standing up for one’s principles.”
Sison, Palatino says, is a “fighting materialist”, a theorist of the future, not of the past and this is what assures the strength and permanence of his political and ideological legacy.
Here we find essays giving detailed and incisive analysis of Sison’s poetry and the romantic patriotism evident in his poems.
Sison’s poetry – some of them written in the freedom of the countryside, some of them penned in the confines of prison, and still some others the product of days spent battling longing for the beautiful country he was forced to leave — attest to the man’s innate gentleness and sensitivity. It was perhaps in his moments of loneliness and sad contemplation that he turned to poetry, and in his poems the sadness was given shape into words that urge and exhort the reader to love his country and win the war for its liberation.
National artist for Literature Dr. Bienvinido Lumbera and poets Eduardo Maranan, Alfredo Salanga and Nonilon V. Queano analyze Sison’s poetry and the frame of mind and social circumstances that fueled Sison’s creative process. E. San Juan, Elmer Ordonez and Gelacio Guillermo in the meantime explain the historical roots of liberation poetry in the Philippines, and as they do, they do not fail to cite Sison’s work as being true to the calling made by Mao Zedong that artists must serve the people in their craft.
Lumbera discusses Sison’s earlier poems as expressions of Sison’s self and his personal history. Lumbera, however, asserts that beyond being autobiographical markers of Sison’s life, the same poems are testaments to how an individual survives torture, isolation and the very threat of violent destruction through sheer will and the unshakable trust that beyond the prison walls what he has lived and fought for thrives: an armed revolution against the dictatorship.
Salanga’s theory, meanwhile, is that the personal is also the political: he said that reading Sison’s poetry, it’s clear that the poet viewed his experiences from eyes that saw the world as an arena of struggle and his own self an active participant in it.
The poet in his prison peoms, Salanga said, grasps firmly what is real — his own suffering, yes, but more so the suffering of his people.
In Celebration, too, is an essay giving tribute to Sison for his guidance to the revolutionary armed forces of the New People’s Army through his his historic article “Specific Characteristics of our People’s War”.
Writer Patrica Agbulos of course credits the work to Amado Guerrero, and says that SCPW has been and remains to be valuable in the conduct of the Filipino people’s armed war against their oppressors and it mercenary army.
It’s not clear whether Agbulos also credits Sison for writing the documents of the Second Great Rectification Movement (SGRM) of the Communist Party of the Philippines;but what is certain is the writer’s certainty that without the said articles, the damage done to the CPP and the NPA would have been worse and perhaps irreparable.
In the meantime, for all the personal and political attacks against Sison, his detractors and other enemies of the Philippine revolution are unable to convince those who support Sison in the international liberation movements that the man is passe.
Bert de Belder is fervent in his praise of Sison and his contributions to the annual International Communist Seminar in Brussels, Belgium. Sison’s contributions, de Belder said, expertly analyzes global developments — the worsening poverty, the escalating wars– as expected effects of imperialism and its desperate efforts to survive and recover. Through the years, Sison has made major contributions for the revolutionary struggle peoples of the world. Unmasking false socialism and denouncing revisionism, Sison is able to his writings and speeches help the international liberation movement move forward.
Through the years, however, attention has shifted from Sison the intellectual, poet and internationalist and become focused on Sison the victim of political persecution.
Failing to convince the Filipino people and the international supporters of the Philippine movement for liberation that Sison is a deranged terrorist, Sison’s enemies (and hence enemies of the Filipino people) have resorted to various forms of political harrassment.
The Philippine’s premier human rights defender Atty. Romy T. Capulong gives an account of the Public Interest Law Center’s (PILC) attorney-client relationship with Sison, saying that through all his legal struggles, Sison has remained optomistic and unfazed. An ideal client, Capulong calls Sison, because he listens to his lawyers’ advice.
But what makes Sison the ideal client, Capulong also says, is his clear innocence and the inherent worth and dignity in defending him at all cost.
Sison is a man whom all lawyers who passionately believe in upholding justice would love to defend. The man was a former high-profile political detainee whom the Netherlands continues to deny asylum. In recent years he has been tagged and libelled as a terrorist, his meagre bank account frozen and his benefits taken away. He has been charged with murder, with inciting to murder, and for being behind the extrajudicial execution of members of the media. In 2007, his home was raided and he himself arrested and detained and placed in solitary confinement for two years.
This aspect of his life alone is enough enough merits an entire season of a legal soap opera or drama series. In Celebration, Prof. Garry Leupp, and Attys. Jan Fermon and Edre Olalia give accounts of the legal cases Sison has been involved and is involved in. Reading the narratives, one will be struck by how serious the cases are, and how much they actually reveal about the desperation of Sison’s enemies in pinning him down.
What these legal accounts and the testimonies provided by the likes of Prof. Luis Teodoro, Bishop Deogracias Yniguez and Atty. Jose Grapilon among others serve to impart to the readers is this: in defending Jose Ma. Sison, we also defend our own rights against injustice and oppression. Sison, after all, has precisely been at the receiving end of so much negative criticism, so many legal attacks because he remains a strong critique of corruption, of injustice, of imperialism and its crimes against the working people and the rest of humanity. Sison uses what remains of his freedom defending the right of Filipinos — and other peoples — to also be free.
Finally, Sison the source of inspiration. Novelist-activist Ninotchka Rosca , Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) secretary-general Renato Reyes (BAYAN) and Raul Valle’s essays praise Sison as an individual who inspires the youth and even the unpoliticized.
Reyes says Sison is ‘timeless’ , referring to how the man through his writings is able to encourage new generations the Filipino youth to aspire to more beyond material wealth and instead aim for higher ideals. Far from being psychic for being able to ‘predict’ the downfall of tyrants and corrupt presidents and leaders, Sison, according to Reyes, is a dialectical materialist to the core. His ‘timelessness’ can be credited to how Sison remains abreast of global political and economic developments, and how immediately he can analyze and write about the same.
It, is perhaps, Valle’s essay on how he met Sison long, long ago in the underground movement that speaks the most and most poignantly about the man and his mission. Valle paints an image of a man who was light-hearted even in the midst of stressful situations; a man who took care to listen to younger activists and give them advice. Valle’s memories are of a young Sison who was truly hands-on when it came to work, and a Sison who took delight in it even as he was cautious and careful.
Sison’s whole life has been devoted to serving a revolution, and how he has gone about is worth all the books that have been written about it, the latest being this, Jose Maria Sison A Celebration. Ever hopeful, ever active, always able and willing to to give guidance to the Philippine mass movement which in his youth he took the lead in establishing and strengthening, Sison as seen in the eyes of his friends and supporters is more than a hero or even a genuine revolutionary: he is in the most noble sense of the word, a good man, and a good man is always worth defending.