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Court help sought in finding activist

/ 04:35 AM December 08, 2021

Steve Abua

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga, Philippines — The wife of missing activist Steve Abua has petitioned the Court of Appeals (CA) to issue a writ of habeas corpus ordering 17 officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police to produce the body of her husband.

The petition filed by Johanna Abua on Tuesday came a month after her husband, an organizer of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, disappeared on Nov. 6 possibly in Lubao town in Pampanga where he was dropped off to take a bus for a meeting in Orani town, Bataan province.

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Steve’s captors later contacted Johanna using his mobile phone number and sought her cooperation to make Steve admit he was a member of the New People’s Army (NPA). They showed Johanna a video clip of Steve alive during the first two days of his disappearance.

Named respondents in the petition were Lt. Gen. Andres Centino, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff; Brig. Gen. Andrew Costelo, commander of the AFP’s 7th Infantry Division in Central Luzon; Brig. Gen. Krishnamurti Mortela, commander of the 702nd Infantry Brigade in Pampanga and Bataan; Lt. Col. Arnel Cabungon, commander of the 48th Infantry Battalion (IB); Lt. Col. Eugene Garce, commander of the 70th IB; and 2nd Lt. Jeffrey Egos, commander of the Bravo Company, 70th IB.

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The other respondents were Philippine National Police chief Gen. Dionardo Carlos; Brig. Gen. Matthew Baccay, Central Luzon police director; Col. Robin Sarmiento and Col. Joel Tampis, provincial police directors in Pampanga and Bataan, respectively; and Lt. Col. Julius Javier, Lt. Col. Melencio Santos and Lt. Col. Editha Solomon, chiefs of police in Lubao, Dinalupihan and Orani towns, respectively.

Also sued were Lt. Gen. Allen Paredes, commander of the Philippine Air Force (PAF); Brig Gen. Fabian Pedregosa, commander of the PAF’s 5th Fighter Wing in Basa Air Base in Pampanga; and Brig Gen. Edward Libago, commander of the PAF’s 710th Special Operations Wing in Capas in Tarlac.

‘Reasonable grounds’

Johanna said she failed to find Steve in several camps and hospitals in the region. Abua, 35, is a native of Parañaque City and earned his bachelor of science in statistics degree from the University of the Philippines in Diliman in 2007.

“The personnel from the said institutions merely denied having Steve in their custody,” Johanna said, adding that while she was issued certifications about his absence in their areas, they refused to show her all the facilities inside the military camps, police stations and offices.

She said she had “reasonable grounds to strongly believe [that] Abua is under the custody of either the military or police in Central Luzon.

”This, she added, was “clearly shown by the words employed” by Steve’s captors in their text messages and communication with her on Nov. 7 and Nov. 8.“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 leaf, Steve’s captors made it clear that they are elements or agents of state security forces,” Johanna said in the 12-page petition filed on her behalf by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers.

The respondents have yet to issue their statements but top officials of various police and military units in the region had earlier denied allegations that they were holding Steve.

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