Joma open to coming home over peace talks or Nat’l Artist award

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Joma open to coming home over peace talks or Nat’l Artist award
(UPDATED) 'I am most likely to visit the Philippines to promote and advance the peace process,' CPP founder Jose Maria Sison tells Rappler

(UPDATED) Much-awaited peace – or the country’s highest possible honor in the arts.

Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder and National Democratic Front (NDF) consultant Jose Maria Sison is “open” to coming home after decades of exile in the event of two things: the “highly significant development” in peace talks, and the chance that he’s declared National Artist for Literature.

In a media statement, the NDF said Sison was open to coming home if the negotiations lead to the release of “all political prisoners” and the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER). The two sides just wrapped up their 4th round of talks.

But the CPP founder has another source of motivation for coming back home: his supposed nomination as National Artist for Literature (Poetry and Essay).

“He had just learned that creative writers, performing artists and mass leaders, including a group from the Concerned Artists of the Philippines, are nominating him for the National Artist Award,” said the NDF.

“[Sison] welcomed the nomination, saying this could also be a ‘compelling reason’ for him to come home. But he modestly said that at this moment, he could not presume to win the award.”

Sison has been living in Europe since the late 80s, following the collapse of peace talks then.

But wait…

Despite Sison’s openness and optimism, there’s one major obstacle. The CPP and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, is still in the United States’ terror list.

It means Sison can be arrested by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) the moment he steps outside of the European Union, which has long delisted him from its list of terrorists.

Sison, however, told Rappler on Sunday: “Neither the US nor Interpol has any warrant of arrest against me… My lawyers and route planners are studying how to avoid any stopover where the government is rabidly pro-US and whether a return visum to the Netherlands effectively guarantees the protection provided by the European Convention on Human Rights.”

He added: “I can travel on a Philippine passport for the sake of the peace negotiations. I am most likely to visit the Philippines to promote and advance the peace process.”

Sison had earlier expressed hope he would be returning home in July 2016, amid high optimism over peace talks between the NDF and President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration. Duterte was Sison’s student in the 60s.

But a lot of things have happened since then. The ceasefire between the two sides ended, and peace talks were put on hold. The two sides eventually patched things up and returned to the negotiating table.

A new ceasefire, however, is still up for talks.

The 78-year-old Sison is also a known poet and essayist. In 1986, he won the Southeast Asia WRITE Award for poetry and essay. He also wrote more than 25 books, according to the NDF.

Whether he’ll be declared a National Artist or not is ultimately up to his former student. The President picks from a list of nominees by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

“Creative writers, performing artists and mass leaders are now urging the CCP and NCCA to announce the guidelines and forms for nomination within April,” said the NDF. –

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