The former university professor, who is known to have launched one of the world's longest-running Maoist insurgencies, passed away at a hospital in the Netherlands.

Sison died peacefully on Friday after being confined in the hospital in Utrecht.
Sison died peacefully on Friday after being confined in the hospital in Utrecht. (Michael Kooren / Reuters Archive)

Jose Maria Sison, who launched one of the world's longest-running Maoist insurgencies, has died at 83 after a two-week confinement in a hospital in the Netherlands , the Communist Party of the Philippines has announced.

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

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

"The Filipino proletariat and toiling people grieve the death of their teacher and guiding light," the party said in a statement on Saturday.

The self-exiled communist leader has lived in Europe since the late 1980s, after his release from jail following the fall of the former president Ferdinand Marcos, whose namesake son was elected president in a May election this year.

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Sison was also put on a US terrorist list in 2002, which prevented him from travelling.

The party said Sison died peacefully at around 8:40 p.m. (1240 GMT) on Friday after being confined in the hospital in Utrecht. It did not give a reason for Sison's confinement.

"Even as we mourn, we vow (to) continue to give all our strength and determination to carry the revolution forward guided by the memory and teachings of the people's beloved Ka Joma," the party said.

Sison was also known as Joma. "Ka" means comrade.

The Philippines' defence ministry said his death could finally lead to an end of violence in the country, calling Sison the "greatest stumbling block" to peace.

"The death of Sison is but a symbol of the crumbling hierarchy" of the communist movement, it said, calling for remaining rebels to surrender.

President Marcos' predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, had prioritised ending the conflict with the NPA when he took office in 2016, but he abandoned peace efforts, infuriated 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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Following Sison's death, the Department of National Defense (DND) called on the "remaining few believers ... (to) turn their backs on the violent and false ideology" of the Communist Party.

"The greatest stumbling block of peace for the Philippines is gone; let us now give peace a chance," the DND said in a statement.

In recent years, the government has claimed that hundreds of communist rebels have surrendered in exchange for financial assistance and livelihood opportunities.

Deadly clashes still take place in different parts of the country, which is plagued by kidnap-for-ransom groups and secessionist movements in the country's southern region.

Source: Reuters