Jose Maria “Joma” Sison is best known as the founding chairperson of the re-established Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in 1968, which was organized in response to the oppression and abuses happening during the rule of Ferdinand Marcos. In March 1969, under Sison’s direction, the CPP organized its military wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), which had since waged guerrilla warfare against the Philippine government. Sison is also a writer, activist, professor and a political analyst.

He attended high school in Manila and obtained his university degree from the University of the Philippines in 1959. In 1964, he founded Kabataang Makabayan, which later became the underground leftist youth movement, and was its national chairman until 1968. Sison continued to write even after he went underground in 1968 and is said to be the author of the landmark book Philippine Society and Revolution.

Sison was arrested in 1977, heavily tortured and was imprisoned for almost eight years. He was chained to a cot for 18 months in a solitary cell. His experience was described in Prison & Beyond, a book of poetry released in 1986 after he got out of prison. For this book, Sison received the Southeast Asia WRITE award from the Crowned Prince of Thailand in Bangkok.

In the same year, he embarked on a world lecture tour. While he was in the Netherlands, the government revoked his passport and filed charges against him under the Anti-Subversion Law of the Philippines. Those charges were later dropped, as have subsequent charges filed by authorities in the Philippines. He applied for and was granted political asylum in the Netherlands, where he had lived since then. Sison is currently Chief Political Consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, and in 2005 was elected chairman of the International League of Peoples’ Struggles (ILPS). Since August 2002, he has been classified as a “person supporting terrorism” by the United States. The European Union’s second highest court ruled to delist him as such and reversed a decision by member governments to freeze his assets.