BY RAYMOND AFRICA AND VICTOR REYES
INTERIOR Secretary Eduardo Año yesterday said he has asked the European Union to cancel the refugee status of Netherlands-based Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Jose Ma. Sison.
In an interview over radio dzBB, Año said he sought the help of the EU after the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 32 issued warrants of arrest against Sison, his wife, and 36 other members of the communist organization in connection with the Inopacan, Leyte massacre which happened in 1985.
“We have asked them to revoke the refugee status of Sigon so he can be extradited to the Philippines and face criminal charges that have been filed against him. This is a good development to bring Sison back to jail,” Año said without providing details on who among the EU officials he has talked to and where the talks were held.
Año said the EU has been responsive to his request and has even offered to find ways to stop non-government organizations from funding the CPP-New People’s Army.
Sison said he cannot be arrested and extradited to the country because “Netherlands and Philippines have no extradition treaty and I have rights as a recognized political refugee in line with the Geneva Refugee Convention and European Convention on Human Rights.”
“I am a political refugee recognized by the highest administrative court and the Netherlands government itself, in line with the Geneva Refugee Convention,” the 80-year-old Sison said.
Sison insisted anew on his innocence over allegations that he ordered the purging of dozens of New People’s Army rebels in Inopacan, Leyte in the 1980s.
Sison and his co-accused were charged in 2006 after the discovery in Inopacan of a mass grave with around 100 skeletal remains of alleged NPA members believed to have been executed from 1985 to 1992.
Sison said he was in maximum security detention from 1977 up 1985 and could not have ordered the killings. He was released from detention in 1986 shortly after the overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship. Her later on fled and sought asylum in Netherlands.
“I was at a maximum detention in 1985 since 1977. I lost my position at the CPP (upon my detention). I have no authority to order the NPA,” said Sison who described the Inopacan massacre case as a joke.
Sison said his lawyers can easily shoot down the argument that he ordered the killings of the 67 rebels who were reportedly executed for being military spies.
“I already said the most important point. I was at the maximum security detention in 1985 and as a detainee, I am in no position to order the CPP and the NPA. My lawyers can easily dispute the fake allegation,” he said.
He said it was former AFP chief and now National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon and then defense secretary Norberto Gonzales who invented the purging allegations supposedly under Oplan Venerial Disease.
“It was Esperon who collected these (unearthed) skeletons from various cemeteries and used them as evidence in the so-called Inopacan case which is a case of ‘walking skeletons’,” Sison said.
But Sison did acknowledge that some NPA leaders went wayward and carried out purging operations in the 1980s.
He said a CPP investigation established the crime of these NPA leaders. “In 1992, the CPP rectified the wrongdoing and denounced the crime of those who took the wrong path,” said Sison, who alleged the perpetrators left the movement and joined the “enemy.”
Año said he has also discussed with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, PNP chief Oscar Albayalde and AFP chief of staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. the formation of joint police and military teams to hunt down all the accused who are still in the country.
“The other accused were already jailed but were set free after they joined in the peace talks. But now, the peace talks have been called off by the President and they have no reason to still be free. We will put them back to jail,” Año said.
During the early months of his presidency, Duterte ordered the release of a number of communists as a goodwill act and allowed them to join the peace talks held in The Netherlands.
But the peace talks collapsed and Duterte signed Proclamation No. 360 on November 23, 2017 declaring the termination of the dialogues due to supposed rebel infractions each time a ceasefire was declared by the government.