A FORMER colleague of an activist-turned-rebel has blamed the government for pushing activists to the mountains with its "impunity in targeting militants and critics just so it could perpetuate itself in power."

Christin Lim, secretary general of the militant Bayan Muna in Northern Mindanao, said the decision of Alvin Luque-her predecessor-to join the New People's Army (NPA) can be attributed to the government's "increasing political persecutions and harassments" of the militant leader.

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She said the "baseless" criminal cases filed by the military against Luque had pushed the latter to the hills.

"The fascist Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government and her lapdogs in the armed forces remain the number one recruiter of NPAs," said Lim in a text message to Sun.Star.

In a press statement to the media, Luque confirmed that he had "sought refuge with the revolutionary forces."

Lawyer Beverly Musni, Luque's colleague in his brief stint as Bayan Muna regional coordinator in Northern Mindanao, expressed surprise upon learning of the news Wednesday.

"What? He's already gone underground?" was Lawyer Musni's reaction when this paper called to seek for her comment. Musni is the regional head of the militant human rights group Karapatan.

Nonetheless, Musni said she "salutes" Luque's decision to join the NPA. While she couldn't say she respected his decision, Musni said it was "courageous" of Luque to bear arms to fight the government, noting that latter hails from a middle class who was not used to living a spartan life in the hills.

She said Luque's decision "reflects the kind of justice we have under (President) Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whose impunity is forcing activists to flee to the mountains."

Luque said Bayan or any other progressive organization had nothing to do with his decision to go underground. He clarified that it was his "personal choice," and that it must not be taken to mean "the organizations I was involved with in the legal arena and the revolutionary forces that I have sought refuge in (now) are one and the same."

The military had noted a television interview of Luque with ranking communist leaders during commemoration rites by Mindanao-based guerrillas of the 41st founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in Marihatag, Surigao del Sur.

Luque was a long-time leader of the left-leaning Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in Mindanao. He was its secretary-general in Davao city, deputy secretary-general in Southern Mindanao, and then secretary-general in Northern Mindanao in 2006.

Various speculations have cropped up regarding Luque's glaring absence from the ranks of the progressive movement in the last three years, among which was his supposed death.

"These speculations must end... Yes, I have chosen to seek refuge under the revolutionary movement, particularly with the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People's Army and the National Democratic Front," admitted Luque.

He described the NPA as "my sanctuary."

It was widely held that Luque became publicly scarce as soldiers and police were already hot on his trail, both for continually stirring anti-government sentiments and to answer for legal accusations.

Since 2002, he has been facing rebellion and arson charges in Davao city, allegedly trumped up ones meant to neutralize him from his political activities.

Several former NPA guerrillas, who are under military custody, have accused Luque of giving money to the rebel group and to have ordered the burning of a public transport bus, a farm and the physical office of a government agency for failure to pay revolutionary tax.

Luque maintained that he is "innocent of the criminal charges" leveled against him.

"I would have wanted finally to have my day in court, but I feared that once arrested I will be vulnerable to all sorts of attack, especially from the armed forces, which considered me an enemy of the state," he said.

He added that he dreaded the thought of joining the list of activists allegedly 'silenced' by government.

"Therefore, I have chosen not to submit myself to the processes of the law ...in the interest primarily of self-preservation," Luque explained.

Since 2001, at least 700 political activists associated with progressive groups opposing the Arroyo administration have been killed.

This phenomenon occurred amid government's dogged determination to reduce into insignificance the communist movement in the country.

"Justice indeed has a bleak prospect under the current regime. ...There is no way out of the brutality and impunity under this government except to fight against it," Luque said.

Luque said joining the communist guerrillas "is the most logical choice on my part because these are the very organizations that can guarantee... my protection from political killings."