CALBAYOG CITY, SEPTEMBER 21 – On the 39th year of Martial Law, 39-year-old detained artist Ericson Acosta appears in court for a scheduled arraignment at the Regional Trial Court Branch at 2 pm today in this city.
“Political prisoners still exist under Aquino. After 39 years, Filipinos still suffer political repression. Those who were just babies in 1972 relive that dark era today, ironically under the regime of one who carries the name of Benigno Aquino, a political prisoner during the dictatorship,” said BAYAN Secretary-General Renato Reyes Jr., convenor of the Free Ericson Acosta Campaign (FEAC). Volunteers of the FEAC flew to Calbayog today to support Acosta.
This is the first time Acosta got out of jail since he was remitted to the Calbayog sub-provincial jail seven months ago. Acosta, who is a poet, thespian, songwriter and former editor of the University of the Philippines’ student publication Philippine Collegian, was arrested by the military while conducting human rights research in Brgy. Bay-ang, San Jorge, Samar, last February 13.
His legal counsel led by Atty. Jun Oliva of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) moved to defer arraignment and proceedings pending the result of the Petition for Review of the illegal possession of explosive case levied against Acosta.
Matapos ibigay ang desisyon ng judge hinggil sa rekwes ng motion to defer the arraignment, kaagad na inilabas ng korte si Ericson, inihiwalay sa kanyang mga kakosa at pinaligiran ng mga militar na may bitbit na mga high powered rifles. (After the judge's decision granting the motion to defer arraignment, Ericson was immediately hauled out of the court, separated from other inmates and surrounded by military men with high-powered rifles.)
His supporters reiterated their call for Secretary Leila de Lima and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to act promptly to withdraw the charges filed against Acosta. The petition states that evidence was planted and cited the military’s admission of human rights violations in the conduct of Acosta’s arrest and detention.
The review petition was filed by the NUPL September 1 at the DOJ, where National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), Executive Director Malou Jacob personally appeared to lend her support to the campaign to free the detained artist. The NCCA is a government commission directly under the Office of the President.
Through a postcard-petition addressed to President Aquino, artists and human rights advocates expressed concern over the administration’s human rights record. They urged the chief executive to act decisively on the case of political prisoners as it affects vital national issues such as the peace talks.
“As he may recall the suffering of his family, he callously ignores the suffering of other families whose sons, daughters, wives, husbands, fathers and mothers are detained, not by the dictator but by his government; not 39 years ago, but today,” human rights group KARAPATAN said in a statement.
“It behooves the government to forge favorable conditions in the conduct of its peace efforts by releasing political prisoners, a move your own mother immediately accomplished after the fall of the dictatorship,” read the postcard-petition. They cite the continued detention of another recognized artist and poet, Alan Jazmines, who is an NDF consultant arrested by the military despite protection under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) of the GPH-NDF talks. Acosta, Jazmines and more than 70 other victims of political repression, were arrested and slapped with criminal charges under Aquino’s watch.
It was the unjust detention of a poet in the 1950’s, Amado V. Hernandez, which paved the way for the “Hernandez Doctrine” in Philippine jurisprudence. The Hernandez doctrine states that a person who commits a political offense could be charged with rebellion but not with common crimes or criminal charges. Hernandez was a staunch labor leader who was posthumously declared a National Artist for Literature.
The Free Ericson Acosta campaign will hold a cultural presentation entitled “POLDET: Panata sa Kalayaan ng mga Detenido Pulitikal” on September 30 at the UP Diliman Vinzons Hall Rooftop. It will feature the works of Ericson Acosta, Bonifacio Ilagan, Jose F. Lacaba, Joel Lamangan, Axel Pinpin, and other artists who were incarcerated due to their political beliefs. It will highlight the role of artists in the fight against political and artistic repression, and for genuine freedom and democracy in the nation’s history. ###