The Student Christian Movement of the Philippines joined rights activists and civil society groups in calling for the release of a peasant organizer who was reported abducted in the province of Pampanga.
“We pray for nothing but the swift and safe return of [Steve Abua] and accountability against those responsible for his disappearance,” said Kej Andres, spokesperson of the student group.
“We are in utter shock and frustrated at what happened to him,” said Andres in a statement released on Friday, November 12.
Abua, 34, is a peasant organizer and land rights defender who went missing on November 6 after he was reportedly abducted by still unidentified persons.
His wife, Johanna, however, said she believes her husband is being held captive by state forces based on video messages she received on November 7 and 8.
Human rights group Karapatan said Abua was last seen in the afternoon of November 6 in Sta. Cruz village in Lubao town.
He was supposed to go to Dinalupihan town in Bataan province to attend a meeting, but he never reached his destination.
Abua’s family learned that Steve went missing the following day, November 7, when an unidentified individual called Abua’s wife using Steve’s phone, saying that he was under their custody.
The caller told her, “You will never see your husband again” should she tell anyone about her husband’s abduction.
The caller also told her to convince her husband “to cooperate” with the government. The caller also made a video call to prove that Steve was with them in a room.
His wife said she saw her husband wearing a white shirt, jeans, and a blue bonnet. He was blindfolded and gagged while his hands were tied when shown on the video.
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay condemned Abua’s abduction and disappearance, accusing state forces as the “only possible perpetrators” of this “cowardly criminal act.”
“Not only was Steve Abua abducted to threaten and harass his family, he was tortured for ‘information,’” said Palabay.
Abua is a peasant organizer for the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Central Luzon. He finished his bachelor’s degree in Statistics at the University of the Philippines in Diliman with the distinction cum laude, and was a councilor of the UP School of Statistics Student Council.
Karapatan has already documented at least 18 cases of enforced disappearances linked to the government’s counterinsurgency campaign under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.