Jose Maria Sison, the head of the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), passed away last December 16 in Utrecht, the Netherlands. He was 83 years old.
Years ago, then President Rodrigo Duterte announced that Sison was seriously ill. There were also reports that since 2019, Sison made frequent trips to a Dutch hospital for medical treatment.
Sison’s death leads me to discuss three related topics.
First, what happens now to the CPP-NPA-NDF with Sison gone?
A successor is certain to appear, but whether that individual can lead the local communist movement in these modern times is very uncertain.
While Sison is credited with establishing the CPP-NPA-NDF, and even if he made the group capable of creating disorder, violence and misery in the country since the late 1960s and particularly during the early 1970s, it was also under his watch when the communists took the road to inevitable oblivion.
An often cited documented account reveals that Sison was the mastermind of the bombing of the August 1971 Liberal Party (the opposition political party then) proclamation rally at Plaza Miranda in Manila.
Sison expected that the people would blame the administration of then President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. for the bombing, and that it would entice many Filipinos to join the reds.
The Sison plan anticipated that the government under Marcos would eventually get discredited and vulnerable enough for it to collapse, and thus pave the way for a communist takeover of the Philippines.
Well, Sison’s plan backfired because President Marcos resorted to martial law in September 1972.
That constitutionally permitted measure enabled the government to derail the plan of the communists, as Sison himself was eventually detained. The rest of the reds either went to the mountains, or gave up their rebellion and cooperated with the government.
The fact that martial law saved the country from a communist takeover is now being realized by contemporary analysts and historians. It is why, until today, the CPP-NPA-NDF hate Marcos and continue to demonize him.
Although he was on self-exile in Utrecht, Sison enjoyed a luxurious life there, funded by proceeds from “revolutionary taxes” extorted by communist cadres from businesses in the Philippine countryside.
There were also violent intramurals within the CPP-NPA-NDF ranks, which resulted in the death of many red leaders in the hands of their fellow rebels.
Those were enough reasons for many communist cadres to rethink their participation in the rebel movement.
Sison’s biggest mistake was his gamble in the May 2022 elections.
The reds made a tactical alliance with Leni Robredo and Kiko Pangilinan, the de facto Liberal Party candidates for president and vice president, respectively.
Sison hoped that a Robredo-Pangilinan win would keep the communist movement alive. He lost his bet.
Second, President Cory Aquino was responsible for keeping local communism alive after she seized power in February 1986, and ordered the release of Sison, detained during the Marcos administration.
After spending a little time pretending to negotiate peace with the Aquino administration, Sison eventually exiled himself to Utrecht. The official excuse was that his Philippine passport was canceled.
From Utrecht, Sison continued directing the operations of the CPP-NPA-NDF. Those operations led to the death of thousands of Filipino soldiers in the undeclared war between the government and the communist rebels.
Third in the line of discussion is the University of the Philippines (UP).
For the past several decades, UP was a fertile ground for the recruitment of young, impressionable and gullible students to the local communist movement.
Several red-leaning UP officials, administrators and faculty members kept it that way.
Many housing facilities in the UP campuses in Diliman and Los Baños serve as accessible safe houses for red recruiters and their comrades avoiding arrest. Students enrolled in the Arts, e.g., Theater and Journalism, are favorite targets of the recruiters.
Angry parents lament that they sent their children to UP with high hopes and expectations of a bright future for them, only to learn that their kids have been skipping classes, or have totally left for the boondocks to join the rebel movement.
Some of their children end up returning home in a coffin, killed in the jungle altars of godless communism.
The fact that UP is very much influenced by the local communists can be seen in a few photographs published in some newspapers days after Sison’s death.
One such photograph shows a tarpaulin streamer featuring Sison and words proclaiming that his dreams will live on, prominently displayed inside a UP campus.
Another photograph published in the front page of a periodical shows a small crowd of CPP-NPA-NDF sympathizers marching inside the UP Diliman campus in honor of their departed red chieftain.
With the CPP-NPA-NDF finally leaderless, it’s time for local communists to give up their lost cause.