Press Release
September 3, 2007

Gov't urged to guard Joma's rights

Sen. Loren Legarda on Monday urged the Philippine government to ensure that the human rights and civil liberties of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Ma. Sison, who was arrested last week in The Netherlands, are "adequately guarded."

"The Philippine government's respect for human rights will be judged by its treatment of its most bitter adversaries," Legarda said.

"We must stress that since Mr. Sison is now in the custody of a foreign government, our own government is now all the more duty-bound to look after him," the senator said.

"The international community -- other governments as well as human rights crusaders around the world -- will be closely watching Mr. Sison's case. Hence, government has to do everything right," she added.

Legarda was reacting to reports that Sison, 68, who is suffering from a heart condition, has been barred from obtaining "maintenance medicine" from outside, and kept from receiving visitors, except his lawyer.

Sison, who is being held in solitary confinement, has also been denied access to TV, radio and newspapers, according to lawyer Romulo Capulong.

On humanitarian grounds, Legarda, on her first term as a senator, facilitated the release of an Army general and other military and police officers held captive by the CPP's armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA).

Legarda, meanwhile, expressed concern over the potential impact of Sison's arrest on the stalled peace process with the CPP-led National Democratic Front (NDF).

"Our people are tired of the war in the countryside. Despite Mr. Sison's case, we remain hopeful that both the government and the NDF will still keep the door open, with respect to moving the peace process forward," Legarda said.

Dutch authorities arrested Sison, who has been in exile in The Netherlands since 1987, at his home in Utrecht on Aug. 28, for allegedly ordering the assassinations of former CPP leaders Romulo Kintanar and Arturo Tabara.

The widows of Kintanar and Tabara filed the charges against Sison in The Hague last year, with the help of the Philippines' Department of Justice.

Tabara, then chair of the CPP splinter Revolutionary Proletarian Army, was slain by NPA hit men on Sept. 26, 2004, along with Stephen Ong, the boyfriend of Tabara's daughter, in a mall parking lot in Quezon City.

Kintanar, a former member of the CPP's executive committee and chief of the NPA until his capture in 1991, was killed on Jan. 23, 2003, in a Japanese restaurant, also in Quezon City.

While Legarda hoped for "swift justice" for Kintanar and Tabara, the senator also appealed for Sison's humanitarian treatment.

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