Act on habeas corpus petition soonest to surface Steve Abua, Karapatan urges CA

Rights group Karapatan urged the Court of Appeals to act on the petition for the writ of habeas corpus filed by the wife of missing peasant advocate and activist Steve Abua, and stressed the need for state accountability on abduction and enforced disappearances.

“On the eve of International Human Rights Day, we urge the Court of Appeals to grant Steve Abua’s wife the writ of habeas corpus, and help her find Steve in military camps, police stations, safehouses and elsewhere, when the armed forces and the police have only denied custody of him,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

Palabay said that a petition of habeas corpus is in place to “stop the military and police’s attempts to make Steve’s family and colleagues move around in circles, pointing them to nowhere as they have done with other victims in the past, when all circumstances point to them as having the motive and means to abduct and disappear Abua.”

Named respondents in the petition were 17 officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, including regional and provincial officials in Central Luzon. Abua was last seen on November 6, in a commercial area in Sta. Cruz, Lubao town in Pampanga.

In the petition, Steve’s wife Johanna “hopes that relief from this Honorable Court will address the illegal confinement or detention of Steve, who remains deprived of liberty to this day, amid the continuing cover up and refusal to exercise the requisite diligence by the police and the military under the control, supervision and direction of herein respondents, in determining Steve’s whereabouts and in admitting having him in custody.”

With the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) as counsel for the petition, Johanna underscored the many times that Steve’s captors told her through text messages, calls and video calls, in the two days that they were communicating with her and urging her to convince Steve to “cooperate” with them.

“As they were falsely accusing Steve of being an NPA member whom they are trying to help return to the so-called fold of the law or turn a new a leaf (“magbagong buhay”), Steve’s captors made it clear that they are elements or agents of State security forces. Only the police and the military or their agents, through the chain of command and the command responsibility of respondents named herein, would have cause to abduct an alleged member of the underground movement and use or abuse him compatible with the objectives of the government’s counterinsurgency policy,” the petition read.

Palabay also warned that Steve’s enforced disappearance will not be the last, as long as enforced disappearance remains a permanent part of Duterte’s dirty “war on terror,” and laws that further suppress people’s rights remain in effect, like the Anti-Terror Law.

Meanwhile, as the group awaits the decision of the Supreme Court on the petitions questioning the Anti-Terror Law, Palabay said they continue to call for its junking, and said that the continuous policy of terror and repression of the Duterte regime will remain dangerous not only against Steve or activists and rights advocates, but to the rest of the people exercising their rights.

“As long as there exists a policy of repression and war directed against the people, with Duterte’s ferocious minions in the AFP and PNP, such violence will continue. Only by junking the Anti-Terror Law, and junking a fascist state like Duterte now and in the upcoming elections, shall provide relief for the people who are under constant threats and attacks,” Palabay said.