De Quiros, in his new column, joins the chorus of applause for the Dutch government’s arrest of Jose Maria Sison. He says this: “If it is true that Sison has committed these crimes—and there are witnesses aplenty, not the least of them the widows of the dead, to testify so—then his arrest is indeed a giant step toward peace, a victory for justice and the rule of law. Then there is indeed every reason, from the perspective of freedom, human rights, and all that democracy holds sacred, to be very excited about it.”
What’s wrong with this statement?
De Quiros apparently is not even sure that Sison commited the crimes – if they were indeed crimes – imputed upon him. My previous entry argues that the accusation goes against reason, and that people who only give credence to such accusations either: (1) dislike Sison and the national democratic movement, like De Quiros and the Inquirer; (2) or is politically-motivated to prosecute Sison, like the Dutch, US and Philippine governments.
How on earth can prosecuting Sison for really, really flimsy charges ever be a “giant step toward peace and the rule of law”? How can De Quiros conscientiously approve of the arrest when he is not even sure of Sison’s guilt?
The question that should be asked is: Given the military record of both Tabara and Kintanar, is the killing of Kintanar and Tabara a crime at all? As legitimate combatants (i.e. engaged in armed confrontations) in the civil war between the Philippine government and the CPP-NPA-NDFP, they should have very well known that they were legitimate targets by their enemies.
The problem with this state – whose ideological framework De Quiros embraces – is that when its armed agents kill enemy combatants (i.e. NPA, MILF, MNLF), there is no crime, only casualties. But when enemy combatants kill soldiers (i.e. killing of 12 Marines in Basilan, and killing of Kintanar and Tabara), they cry out to the heavens for justice, demanding and enforcing the arrest of those enemy combatants.
Joma is not even a combatant. Yes, he is the chief political consultant (not in quotation marks, as De Quiros so maliciously writes) of the NDFP, representing the revolutionary organizations, including the NPA, that are directly engaged in combat. But precisely because he is a consultant to a party to peace negotiations that we must make the distinction. This is precisely the rationale behind the Joint Safety and Immunity Guarantees that both the Philippine government and the NDFP signed: negotiators cannot be targetted in the armed conflict. They are there precisely to end the armed conflict.
Let us grant for a moment, though, that Joma, is indeed a combatant, and that he did order the killing of Kintanar and Tabara. If the widows of Kintanar and Tabara indeed feel that they have been wronged and that their spouses were unjustly killed by the NPA – who in turn declared they did so to punish them – the first thing that they should have done is to file a complaint in the Joint Monitoring Committee for the implementation of Carhrihl (Comprehensive Agreement for the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law). This is the organ, composed of representatives of both the Philippine government and the NDFP, which monitors violations of the agreement signed by both parties declaring their respect for internationally-recognized human rights laws and standards.
Filing a complaint in either the Philippine or Dutch courts goes against the very spirit of this landmark agreement. The NDFP, which claims to have its own judicial system, does not recognize Philippine or Dutch laws. But it declares commitment to Carhrihl. How can the widows make the NDFP accountable under a system that the latter does not recognize? The right thing to do is to make the NDFP accountable under this agreement that it committed itself to.
This is precisely why the NDFP says arresting Joma virtually kills the peace talks. The Carhrihl was signed by both parties as a step towards eventual cessation of hostilities. In assisting in the arrest of Joma, the Philippine government flouts the agreement.
“Frankly, I don’t understand what people are doing marching in the streets, banging heads with fully shielded and truncheon-wielding cops, to protest Sison’s arrest,” writes De Quiros. But of course, the militants have every reason to march in the streets to protest the arrest. Joma is a patriot, someone who spent his entire life for a revolutionary cause. He is innocent of the charges. He is being politically persecuted. The question is why De Quiros is not out there with the ralliers.
A quote from Pastor Martin Niemoller after the Second World War that De Quiros might have used before might be of use to him now: “First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Social Democrats, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Social Democrat. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew, Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.”
Avid readers of De Quiros’ column know by now his distrust of Jose Maria Sison, and by extension, the national democratic movement. He is entitled to his opinions. But to applaud the arrest and trampling of the rights of a man whom he is not sure is guilty in the first place but nevertheless dislikes is a betrayal of the very thing he claims to fight for: