Dutch Embassy in Ottawa: demonstrators demand Prof. Jose Maria Sison's release

Ottawa, Canada, September 7, 2007 – Overseas Filipinos and supporters picketed in front of the Embassy of the Netherlands here today to demand the immediate and unconditional release of Prof. Jose Maria Sison, a political refugee who was arrested by Dutch police on August 28, 2007. The demonstrators also protested raids on the homes of other progressive Filipino migrants and refugees in the Netherlands.

Prof. Sison, one of the best known and most vocal opponents of the government of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her backers in Washington, was arrested for allegedly ordering the killings of Romulo Kintanar and Arturo Tabara in the Philippines, the homeland he has not visited in 20 years.

“Prof. Sison is a strong anti-imperialist freedom fighter, not a criminal,” said Joe Calugay, coordinator of the Ontario Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (Ottawa). “His only crime it to have fought side-by-side with the Philippine people for justice, liberation from foreign domination and fundamental political and social change to benefit the overwhelming majority of the people in his homeland.”

“We are very concerned that he is being kept in isolation in the Scheveningen Penitential Facility, the very prison used by the Nazis to hold and torture Dutch resistance fighters during WWII,” Calugay told the demonstrators. The last time he was imprisoned like this was during the dark days of the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines. Here he is again deprived of his basic rights as a prisoner in what we thought was a civilized and humane society.”

Domestic helpers and other migrant workers at the picket said they felt a strong connection to Prof. Sison because, like them, he was forced to live thousands of miles from his beloved homeland. They said they admired his efforts to change the social and political situation in the Philippines so that millions of Filipinos would no longer be obliged to seek temporary, often unprotected and poorly paid employment in hundreds of countries around the globe.

“We can only wonder if increasing Dutch investments in the Philippines is the real motive behind Prof. Sison’s arrest,” said Malcolm Guy, coordinator for the Centre for Philippine Concerns in Montreal. “Dutch-owned Premier Oil was recently granted rights to drill for oil in Ragay Gulf area of the Philippines. Holland is one of the major investors in the Philippines, with 150 Dutch companies including Royal Dutch Shell and Unilever siphoning huge profits from the country.”

Anna Rijk, Public Diplomacy Officer at the Embassy, met with the picketers who asked her to take their demands to Ambassador Karel P.M. de Beer and request the immediate release of Prof. Jose Maria Sison. “We Filipinos in Canada and elsewhere will never rest until you free this courageous and principled man,” one demonstrator told her.

Ms. Rijk claimed that the murder case is now in the hands of the Dutch judicial system, so there was little the Embassy could do. “We all know that the Dutch police would never have arrested a world renowned political refugee like Prof. Sison without a green light from top authorities in the Dutch government. This is a political case disguised as a criminal case, so therefore we do not accept that your hands are tied and ask that the Embassy transmit our demand for Prof. Sison’s release.” Malcolm Guy replied.

An ongoing fax and e-mail barrage based on the following letter has been organized across Canada over the last two weeks calling on the Dutch government to release Prof. Sison. Please add your voice to the protest :

His Excellency KAREL P.M. DE BEER
Royal Netherlands Embassy
Constitution Square Building
350 Albert Street, suite 2020
Ottawa, ON K1R 1A4

corriel/e-mail: ott-cdp@netherlandsembassy.ca
fax: +1613 237-6471
phone: +1613 237-5030

Dear Ambassador,

I, ____________________, would like to register my strong condemnation for the arrest of Professor Jose Maria Sison, 68, by Dutch Police on what I believe are trumped up charges of “incitement to murders”.

I hereby demand that the Royal Netherlands government order the immediate and unconditional release of Prof. Jose Maria Sison. I also register my total disapproval of the raids on the homes of other progressive Filipino migrants and refugees in the Netherlands.

As you know, Professor Sison has been a political refugee in the Netherlands for nearly 20 years under the Refugee Convention and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

Sison was arrested August 28, 2007 for the murders of Romulo Kintanar and Arturo Tabara -- in the Philippines, although he has not set foot in that country for 20 years.

I maintain that the real reasons for Professor Sison's arrest are political... not criminal. Prof. Jose Maria Sison has been a leading figure of the Philippine national democratic revolution for almost forty years. He is one of the pioneers who revived the anti-imperialist movement in the Philippines in the early 1960s and he re-established the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). For nine years, he was the most prominent political prisoner of dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Sison admits having been the founder and first chairman of the CPP, from its re-establishment in 1968 until his capture by the Marcos regime in 1977, but today he clearly states he is only the chief political consultant of the NDF and is not in the leadership of the New People’s Army or the CPP.

The Philippine government has been plotting to try to silence Professor Sison for many years. They now seem to have worked out a deal with your government to criminalize and gag one of the most influential and vocal critics of the government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

They want Professor Sison out of the way because, as the Chief Political Consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF), he embodies the aspirations of the Filipino people in the over 30-year old struggle they are waging for the country's national and social liberation. He personifies the spirit of true and genuine international solidarity necessary to bring about a just and lasting peace. And he has been at the forefront of the campaign to put an end to the 850 extrajudicial politically-motivated killings and 200 forced disappearances that have been perpetrated with impunity during the government of President Arroyo. (See recent report by Professor Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Human Rights Council on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.)

I find the timing of this arrest particularly suspicious since earlier this year the European Court of First Instance annulled the Council of the European Union (EU) decision blacklisting Prof. Sison as a "terrorist".

I concur with Supreme Bishop Millamena of the Philippine Independent Church, who said in a recent interview: "Prof. Sison is not a terrorist. All he does is to fight with the poor for a life in dignity. That is a legitimate struggle”. Former Philippine Vice President Teofisto Guingona, Jr. has also said that “one needs to make a distinction between a rebel who is fighting because of hunger and perceived injustice, and a terrorist who seeks to sow terror and hatred”.

I reiterate my call to the Dutch government and police to immediately and unconditionally release and drop all charges against Professor Jose Maria Sison.

Yours sincerely,
Signed by
Signed in (city)

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