By: GMA News
(Updated 12:55 a.m.) Dutch police arrested Jose Maria ‘Joma’ Sison, Communist Party of the Philippines founder, in Utrecht, The Netherlands, on Tuesday on suspicion of ordering the murder of two former allies, Dutch prosecutors said.
Sison was picked up in the central Dutch city of Utrecht, authorities said. He was due to appear in a Hague court on Friday.
He was accused of ordering the killings in 2003 and 2004 of Romulo Kintanar and Arturo Tabara, who were gunned down in the Philippines on Sison’s command, said a statement of the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Spokesman Wim de Bruin said Sison, 68, will be put on trial in the Netherlands, not the Philippines.
“There is no extradition request,” De Bruin said. “These are crimes that were committed in the Netherlands. Ordering murders is a crime according to Dutch law.”
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo hailed the arrest as “a giant step toward peace. A victory for justice and the rule of law.”
Kintanar was shot in a Japanese restaurant in Quezon City on Jan. 23, 2003. Tabara was killed, along with his son-in-law, in a parking lot, also in Quezon City, as they got out of their car on Sept. 26, 2004, the statement said.
The New People’s Army, the Communist Party’s armed wing, claimed responsibility for the slayings.
Kintanar was commander of the New People’s Army when it created a special unit that assassinated US Army Col. James Nicolas Rowe of the Joint US Military Assistance Group in Quezon City in 1989.
However, he later fell out with the communist leadership. He went to work as a security consultant for politicians and helped government officials crack down on illegal immigrants. The NPA said it killed Kintanar for various crimes against the people and the revolution, including the 1986 kidnapping of Japanese businessman Nobuyi Wakaoji, which he reportedly kept secret from top communist leaders.
The communist rebels said Tabara pulled a gun on a group of rebels as they tried to “arrest” him for so-called counterrevolutionary activities, including the murder of an elderly peasant leader and a bank holdup in which four employees were killed in 2002.
In Utrecht, about 30 policemen raided Sison’s office, seizing computers, CDs, documents and books, said Aldo Gonzalez, who said he was questioned during the six-hour police operation at the office. Prosecutors said at least seven other addresses in Utrecht and the nearby town of Abcoude were searched as part of the investigation.
Sison has denied any operational role with the rebels since leaving the Philippines in 1986, and calls himself a political consultant for the Dutch-based National Democratic Front of the Philippines, which has been involved in off-and-on peace negotiations for many years with Manila.
Gonzalez, who said he was a staff member of the Front’s negotiating team, dismissed the well-known allegations against Sison for the murders. ”They are all fabricated charges,” he said.
For years, Sison has fought a legal battle to stay in the Netherlands as a refugee, but repeatedly has had all his requests for asylum rejected. However, the Dutch government has never moved to expel him, and Sison has said he faced assassination if he were to return to the Philippines.
The European Union added Sison to its terror list in October 2002. He was placed on the list both as an individual and as a member of the New People’s Army.
Philippine military spokesman Lt. Col. Bartolome Bacarro called Sison’s arrest ”a triumph of justice.”
”Ironic as it is, he is assured of his day in court – a right denied to the thousands of innocent victims of Communist kangaroo courts,” Bacarro added.
The left-leaning Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or Bayan, condemned the arrest of Sison and the raids on his group’s offices as attacks on civil liberties.
“This bodes ill for the peace process,” the group said. “The arrest was most probably undertaken with the knowledge and prodding of the (Gloria Macapagal) Arroyo government which is out to sabotage all hopes for peace talks.”