Supporters of detained poet and activist Ericson Acosta has condemned the alleged plan of Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) to handcuff him to his hospital bed at National Kidney and Transplant Institute where he is undergoing treatment.
A press release posted on freeacosta.blogspot.com said Quezon City jail warden Superintendent Joseph Vela and around 10 armed BJMP personnel arrived at Acosta’s hospital room Monday night and introduced themselves as the detainee’s new security detail.
Acosta’s lone jail officer from the Calbayog sub-provincial jail flew back to Samar Tuesday.
Vela allegedly informed Acosta that he must be handcuffed to the hospital bed and visitors and personal companions will also not be allowed to use cellular phones.
GMA News Online tried to reach Vela for his comment but he was not in his office as of posting time.
UP Art Studies Professor Roselle Pineda, who was visiting Acosta when the jail personnel arrived, described the set up as an “overkill of simple security arrangements” that she said the detainee does not need.
“Ericson was temporarily released on humanitarian grounds. He stayed here for four days with only one security escort and there have been no problems with him entertaining dozens of visitors and supporters every day. He is not a criminal,” Pineda said in the press statement.
Artists and supporters, including noted director Bibeth Orteza and painters’ groups led by Mideo Cruz, are expected to visit Acosta Tuesday, according to an advisory accompanying the press statement.
In a separate press statement, the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), which is defending Acosta, deplored the plan to handcuff him to his hospital bed.
“This would be a brazen overkill not warranted by the situation and his condition,” said lawyer Edre Olalia, NUPL secretary general. “He has heretofore not been handcuffed for many days and was guarded by a lone unarmed guard without any incident. It is cruel, it is degrading, and it is even inhuman.”
He added that it is another clear and shameless proof that the poor and the powerless are treated differently from the rich and influential like former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, former poll chairman Benjamin Abalos, Manuel Morato Jr. “and many others who have exploited their arguably contrived medical conditions to whoop it up while facing far greater, serious and well-grounded charges versus the people including activists like Acosta.”
Acosta was brought to NKTI last Friday, January 18, after a local court in Samar granted his request for temporary freedom to undergo medical treatment for his renal problems, which was filed back in July 2012. He was flown to Manila through the assistance of lawyer Persida Rueda-Acosta, chief of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO).
His family and supporters are currently raising funds to shoulder costs of his hospitalization, including expenses for a scheduled operation to remove kidney stones, and medicine.
Acosta, 40, former editor of the UP’s Philippine Collegian, was allegedly arrested without warrant by the military in San Jorge, Samar, in February 13, 2011 while conducting human rights research. He was allegedly interrogated and tortured inside a military camp for three days, and was charged with illegal possession of explosives and detained at Calbayog sub-provincial jail.
While in NKTI, Acosta wanted to have a dialogue with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to discuss the petition for review his lawyers filed in September 2011.
“Why exactly is this resolution still pending? The question caught me off-guard because I had no answers. All I know is that I am a political prisoner who has been robbed of my freedom and deprived justice for almost two years. The Department of Justice owes it to all freedom-loving citizens to ensure that justice will prevail,” he said in a letter to De Lima dated January 21, 2013.
“Madame Secretary, I respectfully urge you to consider a dialogue with me while I am here at the NKTI. Fortunately, my doctors are of the opinion that despite my medical condition, I may still accommodate a few visitors. I sincerely look forward to meeting you very soon,” he added.
The campaign to free Ericson Acosta has been sustained for almost two years, gaining widespread local and international support from prominent artist and human rights organizations such as the Amnesty International, PEN International, Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines in the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand, INTAL-Belgium, The International Conference for Progressive Culture-People’s Art Network, BAYAN,SELDA, UP Diliman University Council, Concerned Artists of the Philippines and even members and officials of the state’s National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).
In November 2011, Acosta was named finalist of the Imprisoned Artist Prize at the Freedom to Create Awards Festival in Cape Town, South Africa, along with other nominees from Myanmar and Tibet. — Amita O. Legaspi/KBK, GMA News