Govt to ask US to remove Joma Sison from terror list

Danny Buenafe, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 25 2017 07:58 PM

Chief of the National Democratic Front of Philippines (NDFP) Jose Maria Sison answers journalists' questions during the opening ceremony of the formal peace talks between the Philippine government and the (NDFP) in Rome on 19 January 2017. Tiziana Fabi, AFP

ROME, Italy – The Philippine government will ask the United States to remove the name of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Jose Maria Sison from its terror list.

Government peace panel chair Silvestre Bello III said the removal of Sison from the terror list is in line with the wish of President Rodrigo Duterte to meet with the 78-year old CPP chair and chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDF).

The NDF alleges that the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was responsible for the inclusion in 2002 of the group on the terror list of the US and European Union.

The European Union (EU) has long ago removed Sison from the terrorist list, the government noted.

Sison has been living in exile in The Netherlands. This means he can be barred from re-entering the country if he leaves the European Union.

The CPP has said its designation as a terrorist organization is what prevents Sison's return to the Philippines.

The US, through its control of the International Police (Interpol), can always arrest Sison outside of EU, which is protective of the rights of people seeking political asylum in its member countries, according to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

Duterte and Sison had earlier agreed to meet in any neutral Asian country once the latter is de-listed from the list of international terrorists.

“Maybe the talks can be held in the Philippines because we are trying to get support from the people," Bello said.

Bello believes there is no reason for the US under its new president Donald Trump to deny the Philippine government’s request, considering that Sison is involved in the peace process.

NDF chief peace negotiator Fidel Agcaoili welcomed the move by Philippine government.

The plan of the government to ask for Sison’s de-listing will be part of the joint statement between the government and the NDF peace panels at the closing ceremony for their third round of talks here.

Also a major highlight in the third round of talks is the agreement by both panels to hold on to their indefinite and unilateral ceasefire declarations.

The NDF will decide in 30 days whether to accept the proposal by Philippine government for a bilateral ceasefire.

Agcaoili earlier warned that their unilateral ceasefire declaration has become untenable due to the alleged abuses by the Philippine military.

He added, he will leave it to communist fighters on the ground to decide whether to honor the unilateral ceasefire if the supposed violations of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) remain unabated.

Another portion of the joint statement are the ground rules that will govern the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER), considered the heart and soul of the peace process.