Jose Ma. Sison was one of the idols of my fiery youth. I would use the name Boy Ma. Guerrero in my early writings (Amado Guerrero is Sison’s most popular nom de guerre). I would ape his prose (simple, direct, with emphasis on content). I was in awe of his grasp of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought and its application to local setting.
To say that his works exerted some influence in my formative years would be an understatement. However, when I became a determined activist, Sison was in jail and then went into exile in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Still, it didn’t diminish my appreciation of his contribution to the growth of the Filipino revolutionary movement at that time.
But when I read reports of Sison’s recent arrest in the Netherlands, I felt a certain degree of ambivalence. I was saddened but cautious. Indeed, much has happened to the revolutionary movement in the past decade and I am no longer tied to the viewpoint of my younger years. Outsiders looking in see things differently compared with insiders.
What struck me was the claim of Dutch government officials that Sison was arrested for charges relative to the killings of former Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) central committee members Rolly Kintanar and Arturo Tabara. That brought back memories of the CPP’s tumultuous split into the Reaffirm and Reject factions.
While the split gave an outward appearance of a debate on conflicting ideological lines, it was more than that. The 1986 Edsa People Power uprising that largely left out the revolutionary movement prodded some cadres to question the correctness of the people’s war strategy and with it Sison’s ascendancy. The split was a power struggle as well.
I know Tabara less but I heard about the exploits of Kintanar, whose roots could be traced to Cebu, when he was still in the leadership of the New People’s Army (NPA). His stint with the NPA, though, was largely forgotten because of what he did or did not do with regards to the bloody purge of suspected deep penetration agents in Mindanao.
I don’t know the magnitude of the “blood debts” of Tabara and Kintanar to the revolutionary movement but I hoped than that the split in the CPP wouldn’t turn bloody. But in a power struggle, there usually follows effort of protagonists to demonize each other. Objectivity is shut out. Eventually, high profile Reject leaders were killed.
I don’t agree with the military’s claim that Sison’s arrest would weaken the revolutionary movement. A revolution is not a one-man undertaking, it is about causes. Besides, the CPP prides in its collective style of decision making and the autonomy of its units. Still, Sison’s arrest strikes at the very core of the principles the party is preaching.
It would be interesting to find out the information that will come out as the Dutch government hears Sison’s case. What data about the CPP split, which sparked the animosity between the factions that we saw later, would be dug? This is important especially to those wanting to close that chapter of the revolutionary movement’s history.
And I would agree with the theory that with Joma’s arrest, the hawkish elements of the Arroyo administration have succeeded in scuttling the on again-off again peace talks with the National Democratic Front. This is another proof of the continuing drift of the Arroyo administration to the right. Which, for me, is a worrisome development.
–-I wrote this for my Aug. 31, 2007 column in Sun.Star Cebu