Karapatan asserts call to surface abducted peasant organizer Steve Abua

Human rights watchdog Karapatan asserted calls to surface peasant organizer Steve Abua, who was last seen in Lubao, Pampanga last Saturday, November 6, 2021. Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay condemned Abua’s abduction and disappearance, as she tagged State forces as the “only possible perpetrators” of this “cowardly criminal act” based on the initial reports regarding the incident, particularly the threats made by Abua’s abductors as detailed by his wife.

“Not only was Steve Abua abducted to threaten and harass his family: he was tortured for ‘information,’ according to none other than his abductors. When they called his wife, they showed him blindfolded and gagged, and they even threatened her that she would never see her husband again should anybody else know of his abduction. Clearly, no one else can be behind his abduction and disappearance but State forces. We join the demand to surface Steve Abua now!” Palabay stated.

Abua, 35, is a peasant organizer from the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Central Luzon. He finished his bachelor’s degree in Statistics at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, with the distinction cum laude, and was a councilor of the UP School of Statistics Student Council. He was last seen in the afternoon of November 6 in Brgy. Sta. Cruz in Lubao, Pampanga. He was supposed to go to Dinalupihan, Bataan to attend a meeting but he never reached his destination.

Abua’s family only learned he was missing on the following day, November 7, when an unidentified individual called Abua’s wife using Steve’s phone and told her that he was under their custody. The caller told her “hindi mo na makikita ang asawa mo” (you will never see your husband again) should she tell anyone about her husband’s abduction. The caller also told her to “help” them in convincing him to cooperate with them in government in order to extract information from him.

Upon the insistence of Abua’s wife, the caller made a video call via Facebook Messenger later that day as they showed Abua being taken into a room, where he was made to sit at the bottom of a double deck bed. The abducted peasant organizer wore a white shirt, jeans, and a blue bonnet; he also blindfolded and gagged while hands were also tied. She was unable to speak to him and was only able to see his face when a man in the video removed his blindfold and the cloth gagged in his mouth.

Palabay said that “despite the existence of a law penalizing the perpetrators of enforced disappearances and the conviction of general Jovito Palparan for the disappearance of UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño in 2006, under the bloody counterinsurgency campaign Oplan Bantay Laya, State forces continue to use the same brutal tactics with shameless impunity — abetted by no less than their rabidly fascist commander-in-chief.”

Karapatan has documented at least 18 cases of enforced disappearances linked to the government’s counterinsurgency campaign under Rodrigo Duterte’s administration. One of the victims, Elena Tijamo, a development worker and program coordinator of the Farmers Development Center, was recently surfaced dead in August 2021 after being hospitalized in Manila, more than a year after she was abducted in Cebu on June 13, 2020 by unidentified armed individuals suspected to be State agents.

“The abduction of Steve Abua is a grim reminder that the Duterte regime’s bloody war on dissent is dirtier now more than ever that they are willing to resort to these shameless and cowardly criminal acts. Amid the growing resistance to Duterte’s brazen schemes to stay in power, we call for support to surface Steve Abua. We demand for an end to the Duterte regime and those who will continue its bloody legacy of killings, arrests and enforced disappearances,” the Karapatan official ended.