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BAGUIO CITY – A regional human rights group in the Cordillera said a search party found activist Stephen ‘Steve’ Tauli on Sunday evening, August 21, after more than 24 hours of his reported abduction in Tabuk City, Kalinga.
“Steve Tauli was found at around 10 pm today, after the search initiated by CPA in Kalinga, including persistent calls made to the local government units, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines ( AFP),” the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance said.
“He is still in shock and needs to recover to be able to state the full account of what took place since the assault on him yesterday,” the group added.
Tauli is a Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) regional council member and an organizer of the Timpuyog ti Mannalon ti Kalinga, a CPA affiliate.
CHRA has yet to disclose where Tauli is and has not yet offered additional details regarding his reported assault and abduction.
The group released an urgent alert around 5 pm on August 21, appealing for public support for the search for the 63-year-old Tauli.
A report filed by the victim’s colleague with the local police said five men descended from a white Sportivo and forcibly took the victim. The abduction happened between 7:30 to 8:30 pm on August 20 in front of a store at Ag-a Road, Appas, Tabuk City. The place was near the CPA provincial office.
CCTV footage acquired by CPA Kalinga also showed five men entered their office at 7:52 PM and left after five minutes. They were onboard a red Innova.
CPA condemned the abduction and blamed state security forces for the incident.
“We believe the abduction of Steve was committed by members of the state security forces due to his decades-long commitment and advocacy for the defense of indigenous peoples’ rights and human rights,” said CPA secretary general Sarah Dekdeken in a text message.
She said Tauli’s abduction is part of the government’s attack on CPA, delegitimizing and silencing its leaders, especially for the past few years.
Tauli is the husband of CPA vice chairperson Jill Cariño and a native of Besao, Mountain Province. Like other CPA leaders, he has been a victim of red-tagging and harassment in the past.
He finished his Bachelor of Science in Forestry from the University of the Philippines Los Baños, where he became a UP Green Mountain Circle and Alpha Phi Omega Fraternity member.
Tauli has been active since the Chico Dam struggle and continuously campaigned against dams, mines, and other forms of development aggression in the Cordillera.
He is active in the ongoing opposition against the 49 MW Saltan D and 45 MW Saltan E dams along the Saltan River, a project of JBD Water Power Inc. (JWPI). Aside from those projects, indigenous peoples’ communities are against the proposed Upper Tabuk Hydropower Dam and Karayan Dam. – Rappler.com