The family, supporters and fellow artists of detained poet Ericson Acosta held a picket-rally at the Department of Justice to call for his immediate release.
Acosta, 40, a political prisoner was earlier granted temporary release from the Calbayog sub-provincial jail to undergo medical treatment at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute in Quezon City, through the provisional assistance of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) led by Chief Atty. Persida V. Rueda-Acosta.
In line with the PAO’s Legal and Medical Jail Visitation and Decongestion Program, Atty. Rueda-Acosta visited Samar Sub-provincial Jail inmates, including Acosta, at his detention cell, and consequently filed a Manifestation cum Compliance on 17 January 2013 seeking for his release for the purpose of undergoing medical check-up, confinement and treatment at the NKTI.
The picket-rally was held as Atty. Rueda-Acosta submitted her report to the Department of Justice (DOJ) on PAO’s provisional assistance on Acosta’s case. The PAO, in same letter, requested that the DOJ “immediately resolve” the petition for review filed by Acosta’s legal counsels on September 1, 2011 “in the highest interest of justice and for humanitarian reasons.”
The PAO’s submission came in light of DOJ Chief Leila de Lima’s directive for the “immediate disposition” of Acosta’s petition for review following intensified clamor from his supporters and a personal letter from Acosta requesting for a dialogue.
Acosta’s supporters in the Free Ericson Acosta Campaign (FEAC) said that the DOJ failed to act promptly on the petition for review. “It’s been almost two years. Ericson’s current medical condition is due mainly to having been tortured and unjustly and illegally incarcerated. The DOJ should immediately dismiss the complaint against Ericson,” said National Artist for Literature Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera.
Acosta’s petition for review stated several irregularities and human rights violations in Acosta’s arrest and detention, namely, 1) he was arrested without warrant while not committing any crime or doing anything illegal; 2) he was not informed of the reason for his arrest at the time of his arrest; 3) he was denied the right to counsel; 4) he was denied a phone call and prevented from contacting his family or lawyer; 5) he was subjected to prolonged interrogation for 44 hours; 6) he was physically and psychologically tortured during tactical interrogation; 7) he was deprived of sleep, threatened, intimidated, coerced and forced to admit membership in the NPA; 8) the grenade subject of the case was planted; 9) the complaint against him was filed in court only after 72 hours and 30 minutes; and, 10) he was detained in a military camp which is not of a civilian jurisdiction.
Isaias, Acosta’s father, appealed to the DOJ to urgently resolve his petition while he is still confined at the NKTI. “We do not want him to go back to Calbayog for as long as he needs medical attention. We do not want him to return to a hostile environment where the whole military organization in the region, and even the provincial governor, deliberately ignored and actively blocked our requests for much-needed medical attention for my son.”
The campaign to free Ericson Acosta has been sustained for almost two years, gaining widespread local and international support from prominent artists 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.###
Reference: Ericson Acosta, 0939-9259368
Ericson’s letter to DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima
January 24, 2013
HON. LEILA DE LIMA
Secretary, Department of Justice
Padre Faura, Manila
I appreciate your prompt reply through the media with regard my request for a dialogue. I also welcome your directive for “immediate disposition” of my Petition for Review. I understand your agency’s heavy workload, but my invitation for a dialogue still stands. Our wager for the defense of human rights and justice amidst the climate of impunity in the country is a compelling reason for a fruitful encounter.
Lately, I have been overwhelmed by very inspiring messages coming from my peers from the art field, and human rights defenders worldwide. I realize that my research on the human rights situation in Samar matters to so many people. This advocacy, which has caused me two years in prison, is the same just cause for which my supporters are united in seeking your prudence and fairness at this very crucial juncture.
I am confident that the worldwide movement for human rights will continue to clamor for the release of all political prisoners. This is defining moment for the Department of Justice.
(SGD.) ERICSON L. ACOSTA
Photos by Sarah Raymundo, Rose Roque and Carla Padilla