Joma no longer enjoys perks of refugee status: DILG

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    INTERIOR Secretary Eduardo Año yesterday said Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison can no longer use his refugee status to parry an arrest warrant issued by a Manila court and oppose his extradition to the country.

    Año said Sison’s privileges as a refugee has been waived because the CPP has long been included in the European Union’s list of foreign terrorist organizations. The EU had included the CPP and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, in its list of foreign terrorist organizations since 2005, which means these groups cannot hold assets in the EU.

    “There is no longer a reason for Netherlands to coddle Joma because Philippines and EU, where Netherlands is a member, have declared the CPP, under the leadership of Sison, as a terrorist organization. This means Sison is a terrorist and should not be given protection by another government,” Año said.

    Sison went to Netherlands in 1986 and applied for political asylum shortly after he was released from detention during the administration of the late president Corazon Aquino. He was jailed in 1977 by the previous Marcos government. He was recognized as a political refugee in 1992 by the Dutch government.

    Sison has said he cannot be arrested in Netherlands because he is a political refugee and protected by the Refugee Convention and by the European Convention on Human Rights. Also, he said Netherlands and Philippines have no extradition treaty.

    But Año said “the grounds for the grant of such refugee status to Joma Sison no longer exist and should therefore be revoked.”

    Año reiterated the Philippine government is actively working with the EU to have Sison’s refugee status revoked. An EU deputy ambassador, he said, had committed to help the Philippine government on the matter.

    Año said Sison must be hallucinating when he claimed that he remains protected by his political refugee status because “a criminal and a terrorist like him can never be considered a political refugee.”

    PNP chief General Oscar Albayalde earlier said the PNP will ask the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) to issue a red notice against Sison and his wife so they can be arrested and returned to the country to stand trial for the Inopacan massacre.

    “We have referred the warrant issued by the Manila Regional Trial Court to Interpol for publication of a Red Notice which is defined as a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action,” said Albayalde.

    A Manila court issued an arrest warrant against Sison, his wife Julie and 36 others for the mass murder of communist rebels in Inopacan, Leyte.

    Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman, echoed Año’s position that the Philippines may seek the extradition of Sison.

    “Yes, why not. If the Netherland government allows it. It is up to them,” Panelo said when asked if the Philippines will coordinate with the Dutch government for Sison’s arrest and extradition.

    Panelo said until such time that Sison is finally able to “face the music” in the country, he should start breaking himself from the idea of ousting the government, which he said Sison had been doing for almost 50 years now.

    Officials of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) urged President Duterte to reconsider his latest declaration of an “all-out war” against communist rebels and instead push for an “all-out peace” campaign.

    Speaking at the sidelines of the “Ring Out Peace, Our Urgent Call” public forum in Quezon City, PEPP co-chairperson Archbishop Antonio Ledesma said they disagree with Duterte’s latest pronouncement as this will only bring about further division in the country.

    “An all-out war will only bring about a divided country. So all the more we should work for justice, peace negotiations, and the culture of dialogue to bring about peace,” Ledesma said.

    PEPP Head of Secretariat Bishop emeritus Deogracias Iniguez backed Ledesma and said the main key to lasting peace is dialogue, not war. – With Jocelyn Montemayor and Gerard Naval