The founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, Jose Maria Sison, whose armed wing conducted one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies, has died. He was 83.
Sison died quietly on Friday night after two weeks of confinement in a hospital in Utrecht, the Netherlands, according to a statement sent by the party’s spokesperson on Saturday. The reason for death remained unknown.
Since then-President Corazon Aquino released him from jail in 1986, shortly after the “People Power” rebellion deposed Ferdinand Marcos, the father and namesake of the current Philippine president, Sison has lived in self-imposed exile in the Netherlands.
The size of the party’s army is decreasing, according to the military
Ten days before the party he established in 1968 celebrated its 54th anniversary on December 26, Sison passed away. Its military branch, the New People’s Army, was founded some months later, in March 1969. It consisted of around 60 Maoist warriors armed with nine automatic rifles and 26 single-shot rifles and handguns. However, the movement flourished and spread across the developing nation over time.
However, battle failures, surrenders, and infighting have weakened the guerrilla group, which the United States considers a terrorist organization and remains a danger to Philippine security. The communist insurrection caused the deaths of around 40,000 soldiers and civilians. It has also impeded economic growth, particularly in rural areas where the military estimates 2,000 militants remain active.
Sison served as the primary political advisor for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the umbrella body under which communist insurgents were represented.
In March 2019, former president Rodrigo Duterte terminated peace talks, and discussions have not restarted.
‘End the country’s decades-long insurgency.’
“The Filipino proletariat and toiling people grieve the death of their teacher and guiding light,” the party’s statement said.
“Even as we grieve, we pledge to carry on the revolution with all our might and resolve, guided by the memories and teachings of the beloved Ka Joma,” the statement said, referring to Sison by his nickname.
Vice President Sara Duterte, daughter of the former president, released a brief comment upon hearing of Sison’s passing, stating, “May God pity his soul.”
According to the Department of National Defense, Sison was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians and military personnel. It stated that his death “denied the Filipino people the chance to bring this fugitive to justice following the country’s laws.”
A court in Manila issued an arrest warrant for Sison and 37 others in 2019 for their suspected involvement in a massacre in 1985. A mass grave uncovered by troops in the village of Inopacan on the island of Leyte in 2006 allegedly comprised the bone remains of rebels executed by their colleagues on the suspicion that they were military spies.
In a September 2019 Facebook post, Sison dismissed the claims against him, claiming it was a “false conspiracy” and that officials had gathered bones from graves to frame him and the others. He claimed that he and the other suspects were in jail at the time of the alleged murders.
Sison, a former youth activist and university lecturer before creating the Communist Party, played a pivotal part in the acrimonious split within the rebels’ ranks in the 1990s due to strategic differences. A vicious internal purge resulted in the deaths of hundreds, significantly weakening the rebels, whose numbers had plummeted from a high of about 25,000.
The Defense Department stated, “A new age without Jose Maria Sison dawns for the Philippines, and we shall all be better for it.”
The Communist Party made no mention of Sison’s potential successor.
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