by Ellson Quismorio and Yas Ocampo
Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison is old and is suffering from life-threatening illness, President Duterte revealed on Monday during his second State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) while calling on the Red leader’s followers to abandon him.
Sison struck back, saying he was wondering about President Duterte’s tirade that low-blows his age.
“Duterte himself is an old man at 72. I am only 6 years older than him. So what is the public issue? I am still physically and mentally strong, trying hard as NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines) chief political consultant to help in the GRP (government)-NDFP peace negotiations, which have been scuttled by Duterte,” Sison retorted.
During his SONA, Duterte claimed that Sison, 78, his former teacher, is suffering from colon cancer.
“Eto matatanda na ito (These are old people). Sison is sick. May (He has) colon cancer. Ang gastos ng Norway, sumurender na siya (Norway is spending, he has surrendered),” Duterte said in one of his many ad libs.
“Ang tanda na ni Jo. Kayong mga nasa kalsada, mabuti pa umuwi na kayo. Ano mapala niyo sa Komunista? (Jo is very old. Those of you on the streets, better go home. What will you gain from Communism?)” he added.
Sison said he was indeed hospitalized, but it was for rheumatoid arthritis and skin allergy.
He said this was because of his “low auto-immunity level during the cold months of autumn and winter, lack of appetite, loss of weight, skin allergy, pains on the joints.”
Sison fired back and questioned President Duterte’s suitability for public office.
“It is Duterte who has to explain his disappearances for medical reasons because the public is entitled to know everything that pertains to his suitability for public office,” Sison said.
Sison claimed that there were already two governments running the countryside.
“One is the reactionary government of big compradors and landlords headed by him and the other is the revolutionary government of workers and peasants led by the CPP,” Sison said.
Sison, referred to as “Joma” by his followers, has been in exile in the Netherlands since the 1980s. He is a wanted man in the Philippines due to his part in the insurgency.
Duterte also said the Left was wasting the government’s time.
But Sison said that it was the GRP that was not interested.
“Duterte thinks it is a waste of time to negotiate peace with the NDFP. It is because he is really not interested in peace negotiations concerning social, economic, and political reforms to lay the basis for a just and lasting peace,” Sison said.
Duterte, Sison said, “is only interested in demanding the surrender of the revolutionary movement through a protracted and indefinite kind of ceasefire ahead of any comprehensive agreement on reforms.”
Peace talks between the Duterte administration and the NDFP have been on and off despite the President’s self-admitted affinity with the Left.
But things have changed, said the 72-year-old Digong.
“I used to be friends really with the NDF. I was crossing the ideological borders before. I was able to enter their territory.
“But times have changed because God placed me here, I have to take care of the Republic,” the populist President said.
The NDFP is the negotiating arm of the CPP. Its military wing is the New People’s Army (NPA).
Duterte appeared to take exception to the NDFP’s previous tagging of him as a “bully,” but then admitted that he was indeed one.
“Sabi nila bully daw ako. [Expletive], talagang bully ako (They said I’m a bully. [Expletive] I’m really a bully).
“[Expletive]. Talagang bully ako (I’m really a bully), especially to the enemies of the state,” the President said. This was met with wild applause.
Duterte further said about the Communists: “Masyado kayo demanding. Hindi naman kayo nanalo ng election ni minsan (You’re too demanding. And yet not once have you won in an election).”
“You keep on killing people, hindi lang mga pulis pati sibilyan na ayaw sumali (not just police but even civilians who refuse to join you),” he said.
Sison, meanwhile, questioned the presence of US allies in high government posts, citing Duterte’s personnel, namely (Defense Secretary) Delfin Lorenzana, (National Security Adviser) Hermogenes Esperon, (Armed Forces chief) Eduardo Ano, (Finance Secretary) Sonny Dominguez, and (Socio-Economic Planning Secretary) Ernesto Pernia. Sison said these people were behind pro-US sentiment that was rising from the Duterte presidency.