Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Vol. IV, No. 32 September 12-18, 2004 Quezon City, Philippines
Luque and the Travails of Filipino Activists
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.
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.
military hopes this tactic, among others, would work against Luque,
currently the secretary-general for Bayan-Northern Mindanao based in
Cagayan de Oro City.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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