Sison: Self-exiled Philippine communist leader dies at 83

Philippine communist leader Jose Maria Sison died on Friday night at the age of 83 after a two-week confinement in a hospital in the Netherlands, his party said on Saturday.

Sison is the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, whose military wing – the New People’s Army (NPA) – has been waging an armed rebellion in one of the world’s longest insurgencies.

The conflict between the NPA and the Philippine government has killed more than 40,000 people.

“The Filipino proletariat and working people mourn the death of their master and guiding light,” the party said in a statement on its website.

The self-exiled communist leader has been living in Europe since the late 1980s, after being released from prison following the fall of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, whose eponymous son was elected president in elections this May.

Sison was placed on a US terrorist list in 2002, which prevented him from traveling.

The party said Sison died peacefully at around 20:40 local time on Friday after being locked in hospital in Utrecht. He did not give a reason for Sison’s confinement.

“Even as we mourn, we pledge to continue to give all our strength and determination to carry forward the revolution guided by the memory and teachings of the people’s beloved Ka Joma,” the party said.

Sison was also known as Joma and “Ka” means comrade.

President Marcos’ predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, had prioritized ending the conflict when he took office in 2016, but abandoned peace efforts, angered by repeated rebel attacks during the talks.

At its peak, the NPA had 25,000 armed fighters, but now has about 2,000, the military has said.

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