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Vol. IV,  No. 32                               September 12-18, 2004                      Quezon City, Philippines


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Alvin Luque and the Travails of Filipino Activists

For the past two years, the military has hounded Alvin Luque, a ranking Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan, or New Patriotic Alliance) leader in Mindanao, accusing him of being a leader of the New People’s Army (NPA). This notwithstanding, the teacher-turned-activist remains steadfast in his beliefs. He maintains that the struggle to clear his name is part of the larger struggle of the Filipino people for genuine democracy.


Alvin Luque

DAVAO CITY – A few years ago, Alvin Luque, then a student activist, only thought of becoming a teacher just like his mother.

Not surprisingly, Luque, upon graduation from the Ateneo de Davao, went on to teach at the Assumption School of Davao. Four years later, he got involved in the struggle of workers.

In the eyes of the military, Luque went in too deep: He not only became a leader of the progressive Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan, or New Patriotic Alliance), he also allegedly became a leader of the New People’s Army (NPA).  

The military claimed that Luque is the underground rebel known as Ka Venus (short for kasama or comrade). Associating the 230-pound, 5-foot-10-inch Luque with a female nom de guerre is apparently a psychological warfare (psy-war) tactic that aims to make the likes of Luque appear alien, even comical, thus not worthy of empathy.

The military hopes this tactic, among others, would work against Luque, currently the secretary-general for Bayan-Northern Mindanao based in Cagayan de Oro City.

Cash and phones

In July 2002, Capt. Ramon Torres, intelligence officer of the 73rd Infantry Battalion (IB) based in Malagos, Davao City (Southern Mindanao), accused Luque (“alias Ka Venus”), Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Joel Virador (“alias Ka Joel”), local peasant leader Boy Goc-ong, and 12 others identified mostly by their supposed aliases of being NPA members. He was therefore charged with rebellion and insurrection.

According to Torres, the sworn statements made by four former NPA rebels show that Luque gave P175,000 ($3,117.21, based on an exchange rate of P56.14 per US dollar) to the NPA, along with eight mobile phones in February 1999.

Loreto Palma, one of the ex-rebels, also said that Luque ordered the burning of a Rural Transit bus, a farm in Davao City, and a local office of the Department of Agriculture due to their failure to pay revolutionary taxes.

In November 2002, Davao City Prosecutor Jofre Saniel dismissed the charges of rebellion against Virador and Goc-ong but found "probable cause for rebellion" against Luque and the other respondents.

Luque’s testimony

Based on testimonies filed by Luque’s lawyers, several people stressed that Luque could not have been with the NPA at the time that the four former NPA guerrillas allegedly saw him. Luque was then working fulltime for the Nonoy Librado Development Foundation, a service institution for workers, while teaching part-time at the Assumption.

His lawyers submitted a photograph showing him and other Assumption faculty members attending a junior-senior prom. This was taken within the time that he was allegedly at an NPA camp (i.e., second week of February 1999).

In another affidavit, Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Philippine Independent Church (PIC) said he saw Luque at the PIC compound along Torres Street practically every night in the second week of February 1999. Luque helped in the preparation for the centennial celebration of the establishment of the Union Obrera Democratica Filipina. The latter was the first real labor union in Manila organized in 1902.

"It would be physically impossible then for Alvin Luque to have gone to Marilog in the second week of February 1999 and stay there for a week as alleged," Calang said.

The high school principal of Assumption, Eufrosina Mines, said in an affidavit that Luque was on campus every day in the second week of February 1999 and was never absent from school that month. The president of the United Employees Union of Assumption College of Davao, Europia Campos, corroborated Mines' sworn statement.

Inadmissible testimonies

Luque's lawyers from the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) led by Carlos Zarate also pointed out that NPA surrenderees Palma and Mayagma had been in the military’s custody for a year before they made their “confession” implicating Luque, thus making their testimonies "inadmissible." The lawyers also bewailed the prosecutors’ refusal to allow Luque to face his accusers.

Despite all these, the Davao City Prosecutors Office denied Luque’s appeal to have the cases against him dismissed. Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuño later upheld the charges.

Forthcoming arrest

This prompted Col. Eduardo Del Rosario, who used to lead the 73rd IB and now heads the military’s Task Force Davao, to announce that Luque’s arrest was forthcoming.

When he came to Davao City last week to attend the September 10 hearing of his case, Luque faced possible arrest. His lawyers asked Judge Jesus Quitain not to issue the warrant of arrest and to bring the case back to the City Prosecutor’s Office for reinvestigation. While Quitain agreed not to issue the arrest warrant, he may decide to do so anytime this week.

Luque, meanwhile, said Palma, one of the accusers, had an axe to grind against him. Since his surrender, Palma has become a member of the paramilitary group Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU). He was one of those accused and indicted in the Pangyan Massacre in April 2002, where CAFGUs killed several civilians during a military operation by the 73rd IB soldiers in Pangyan, a village in Marilog.

As secretary-general of Bayan-Davao City at that time, Luque demanded Palma's arrest and prosecution. He also earned the military’s ire for denouncing human rights violations of the AFP and calling for the release of political prisoners.

Political repression

Human rights groups and other progressive organizations denounced the charges against Luque as a form of political repression and harassment. "He is being persecuted for having a firm commitment to change society and to defend the people's rights,” said Sr. Diane Cabasagan RGS, chairperson of the Sisters Association in Mindanao.

Luque’s case reflects efforts by the military to demonize progressive and leftist organizations. “There has always been a conscious effort by the state to demonize legitimate organizations that criticize and oppose the policies of the state, particularly in the context of the worsening human rights situation in the Philippines,” said Virador, former secretary-general of Karapatan in Southern Mindanao.

Identified leaders and members of progressive groups have also been put under surveillance. During Luque’s press conference last week in Davao City, for instance, four men posing as journalists attended the event, taking video footages of the proceedings. The men had press cards supposedly issued by DXRA, a local radio station.

“This case is pure political harassment,” Luque told Bulatlat last week. “And if being jailed,” he said, “means proving that I am right in defending democracy, then so be it.” Luque believes that the political harassment against activists will continue unless the people oppose it. “I am just incidental in this case. My struggle is part of the people’s struggle for democracy and liberation.” Bulatlat

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