Canadian organizations form Free Joma Sison Committee
OTTAWA –Filipino migrant organizations and solidarity groups across Canada have joined together to form a country-wide committee to defend the rights of Filipino anti-imperialist leader Prof. Jose Maria (Joma) Sison, arrested by Dutch police on August 28, 2007.
Prof. Sison is a political refugee who has been living in exile for 20 years in Utrecht, Netherlands. As the chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), Prof. Sison has been instrumental in pursuing peace talks between the Philippine government and the Philippine revolutionary organization. Sison was a political prisoner under former dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
The formation of the Free Joma Sison Committee is a culmination of a commitment to continue actions protesting the unjust arrest and detention of Prof. Sison. The convening groups have been collaborating on actions including protest letters, fax barrages and rallies in Canadian cities. Their latest activity was a rally in front of the Embassy of the Netherland on September 7, in Ottawa, Canada’s capital, where a group of protesters surrounded an Embassy spokesperson to press their demand to immediately release Prof. Sison and drop the trumped-up charges.
On the day of Sison’s arrest, the Dutch police, in Gestapo-like fashion, also raided the homes and seized the property of seven other NDFP personnel, making the arrest and investigation clearly politically motivated as the entire NDFP Peace Panel based in the Netherlands are also being subjected to harassment and repression.
Dutch prosecutors allege that Prof. Sison ordered the killings in the Philippines of Romulo Kintanar and Arturo Tabara. However, the Philippine Supreme Court recently dismissed these charges against Sison and other progressive individuals in the Philippines. The court ruled that evidence used in the rebellion case can no longer be used in other legal proceedings against Sison.
“The attacks on Sison and the NDFP are part of the continuing political repression carried out by Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her backers at the White House,” says Malcolm Guy, coordinator for the Montreal-based Centre for Philippine Concerns (CAP-CPC), one of the convening groups of the Free Joma Sison Committee.
“Prof. Sison has been an outspoken critic of the Arroyo government and its policy of extrajudicial killings under the guise of the ‘war on terror’. The Netherlands has huge oil interests in the Philippines and is the second largest foreign investor in that country. With Sison’s arrest, the Dutch government is clearly colluding in a political repression campaign orchestrated from Washington and Manila.”
Guy concluded: “The arrest of Prof. son is an attack on basic human rights and civil liberties and demands the widest possible response. We call upon all freedom and justice-loving people and organizations to join The Free Joma Sison Committee to call for the immediate release and unconditional dropping of all charges against Prof. Jose Maria Sison by the Dutch authorities.”
Free Joma Sison committees have also been set up in the U.S.A., Europe and Asia as part of a global response to the launching of the Free Joma Sison Campaign, initiated by the International Committee Defend, International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS), and the Dutch Friends of the Filipino People on September 7, 2007.
In Canada, besides the CAP-CPC, the following organizations from Ottawa, Toronto and Winnipeg are the convenors of the Committee: PINAY (Quebec Filipino migrant women’s organization), Ontario Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (Ottawa), Philippine Network for Justice and Peace (Toronto), Migrante Toronto (an alliance which includes Damayan Migrant Education and Resource Center, Filipino Worker’s Support Committee -Toronto, Sulong Itaguyod ang Karapatan ng Migranteng Pilipino sa Labas ng Bansa – Ontario, Ugnayan ng Kabataang Pilipino sa Canada – Toronto, and United Filipinos for Nationalism and Democracy), and Centre for Philippine Concerns – Winnipeg. Organizations interested in becoming members are requested to contact the Centre for Philippine Concerns at email@example.com.
“The convening organizations have worked together in the past and have two things in common: They are anti-imperialists and they support the Filipino people’s struggle for national sovereignty and true democracy,” says Marco Luciano, spokesperson for Migrante International – Toronto. “We see a direct connection between the campaign to free Joma Sison, our efforts to defend the rights and welfare of migrant workers here in Canada, and the struggle of the Philippine people for a truly independent, just and peaceful country.”
For more information:
Centre for Philipine Concerns (CAP-CPC) firstname.lastname@example.org