Christine Avendaño, Jerome Aning | Philippine Daily Inquirer
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Tuesday ordered the “immediate disposition” of a petition for review filed by detained poet-activist Ericson Acosta, who is currently confined at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) in Quezon City.
Acosta had sought a meeting with De Lima, complaining in a letter that he was arrested 23 months ago in Samar without a warrant and was tortured, while his petition for a review of his case has been pending at the justice department for several months.
De Lima, in a response texted to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, said she would not be able to meet with Acosta.
“I am not sure if I can accommodate (his) request for a meeting,” she said in a text message.
But De Lima said she had “already directed the immediate disposition of his petition for review.”
Acosta, 40, was arrested by the military in San Jorge, Samar, on suspicion of membership in the rebel New People’s Army. He was charged with illegal possession of explosives. Acosta claimed he only carried a laptop and was doing volunteer research work for a local peasant group. He has been detained at the Calbayog subprovincial jail.
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) on Tuesday protested the way Acosta, who was recently granted a medical furlough, was being handcuffed to his bed at the hospital, among other “overkill security measures.”
The NUPL, Acosta’s counsel, also deplored the stationing of what it described as “Rambo-type guards” at the NKTI and called visitor restrictions “exaggerated and unreasonable.”
“It is cruel, it is degrading and it is even inhuman. This is another clear and shameless proof that the poor and powerless are treated differently from the rich and influential,” NUPL secretary general Edre Olalia said in a text message sent to the Inquirer.
The NUPL said high-profile detainees such as former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former elections Chief Benjamin Abalos Sr. and Philippine Charity and Sweepstakes Office ex-Chairman Manuel Morato, among others were treated leniently when they were hospitalized despite the fact that the charges they were facing were “far greater, serious and well-grounded” compared to Acosta.
According to the Free Ericson Acosta Coalition, a multisectoral group supporting the detainee, 10 fully armed personnel from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) were stationed at Acosta’s hospital room not only to guard him but to see to it that he is handcuffed to his bed at all times.
The BJMP has also banned Acosta’s visitors, including family members and paralegal consultants, from using their mobile phones whenever they are visiting him.
Acosta’s supporters said there was no need for overkill security measures as his visitors were mostly family members, artists and cultural workers.
A Samar court granted Acosta’s motion for a medical checkup last week after a medical team from the Public Attorney’s Office confirmed he was suffering from nephritis, a condition characterized by blood in the urine (hematuria), lower back pains, high fever and painful urination (dysuria).