After hearing Vice President Leni Robredo’s statement that she supports the mandate of the National Task Force to End Communist Local Armed Conflict, the wife of abducted activist Steve Abua requested the VP for an audience.
By SINAG JOAQUIN
MANILA — The statement of Vice President Leni Robredo saying she supports the mandate of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict has sent chills to Johanna Abua, 35-year old wife of Steve Abua who was reportedly abducted by unidentified forces on November 6 this year. The human rigts group Karapatan said in a post on its official Facebook page that Steve was last seen in barangay Sta. Cruz in the municipality of Lubao in the province of Pampanga, some 93 kilometers away from Manila.
In her open letter posted November 29 on Karapatan’s Secretary General Cristina Palabay’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, Johanna said her husband’s abductors got in touch with her through a video call a day after Steve went missing.
In a separate interview with Bulatlat, Johanna expounded on certain points in the letter. She said her husband’s mobile number gave her a ring around 11 p.m. of November 6. She said she hurriedly picked up the call but nobody answered from the other line. Johanna recalled that she even texted the number to confirm if it was indeed Steve who gave her a ring but she did not receive a reply.
It was at 6:41 a.m. the following day when Johanna received another call from her husband’s number but said she went ill at ease when somebody else’s voice spoke from the other line. “The person on the other line said they had Steve in custody and they will let him talk to me,” she said.
At around 9:30 a.m. of the same day, Johanna said the same number called just to be told by the unidentified person on the other line that she will not be allowed to speak with her husband anymore. After a few minutes, she received a video call through the Facebook Messenger app from a user with a profile name of Michelle Dela Cruz. When she took the video call, Johanna said she saw a man wearing shorts and sleeveless shirt entering a room where she saw her husband sitting on the floor beside a double deck bed. She recalled exactly how Steve looked like on the video: blindfolded, hog-tied, with a gag in the mouth. She also remembers seeing her husband on the video wearing white shirt, jeans and a blue bonnet on his head.
Johanna said she tried to speak to her husband until she realized the video call was muted. She said she was able to confirm that the man on the video was her husband when his abductors pulled off his blindfold and placed the camera near his face. “I’m sure the man I saw on the video was my husband,” she said.
Everything happened fast, she said, adding that the video call lasted for not more than 15 seconds. She was not able to record the short clip, she said, nor was she able to grab a photo of what had transpired. “I was so shocked I forgot to take a screenshot,” she said.
Johanna said her husband’s abductors have repeatedly sent messages via SMS asking her to convince Steve to cooperate with his captors by admitting he is a member of the New People’s Army who wanted to return to the fold. She said Steve’s abductors had been trying to convince her to meet up and talk.
Almost a month after that video call, Johanna said she has yet to find her husband. She said she has been searching from one army camp to another, to no avail.
In her letter to Robredo, Johanna appealed to the vice president to reconsider her support for the NTF-ELCAC, the government agency responsible for red-tagging activists. In the last five years since President Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency, Karapatan has documented 33 cases of activists who were extrajudicially killed after being red-tagged. More than a thousand have been illegally arrested and remain in jail while 19 were abducted, including Steve Abua. Johanna, who had been constantly in touch with her husband, said Steve visited some villages in Pampanga to confirm reports of red-tagging and fake surrenders. She is perplexed as her husband now faces the same predicament.