MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine communist leader Jose Maria Sison died on Friday night at the age of 83 after two weeks in a hospital in the Netherlands, his party said on Saturday.
Sison is the founder of the Philippine Communist Party, whose military wing – the New People’s Army (NPA) – is waging an armed insurgency in one of the world’s longest-running insurgencies. More than 40,000 people have died in the conflict between the NPA and the Philippine government.
“The Filipino proletariat and working people mourn the death of their teacher and guide Prakash,” 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 namesake son was elected president in May this year’s election.
In 2002, Sison was put on the US terrorist list, preventing him from traveling.
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The party said Sison died peacefully at around 8:40 pm (1240 GMT) on Friday after being locked in a hospital in Utrecht. It did not give any reason for keeping Sison in captivity.
The party said, “Even as we mourn, we will continue to give all our strength and determination to carry forward the revolution guided by the memory and teachings of Joma, the beloved of the people.”
Sison was also known as Zoma and “ka” means comrade.
President Marcos’ predecessor Rodrigo Duterte made ending the conflict a priority when he took office in 2016, but he abandoned peace efforts after repeated rebel attacks during talks.
At its peak, the NPA had 25,000 armed fighters but now has about 2,000, the army has said.
(Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Tom Hogg)
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