At 11:35am today, September 17, members of the fact finding team looking into the rights violations in Hacienda Luisita were arrested by the Philippine National Police of Tarlac City in Brgy. Balete inside the hacienda, while they were conducting a protest action.
The following were arrested: Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap with his daughter Carly Mae, KMP spokesperson Danilo Ramos, Sr. Pat Fox of the Rural Missionaries of the Phils, artists and former political prisoners Ericson Acosta and Kerima Tariman, Karapatan paralegal Ronald Gustillo.
The following were injured and arrested: Hacienda Luisita farm workers Luz Versola, Pong Sibayan and Angelina Nunag; and Rene Blasan, Hicap’s driver. They were brought to the PNP Tarlac City Station now allegedly for the ff charges: malicious mischief, illegal assembly, direct assault, tresspass to dwelling.
Karapatan demands that the above mentioned be immediately released. Their arrest is illegal and is violative of their right to assembly, free expression and to conduct independent investigations on human righs violations. No less than Pres. BS Aquino and his private armies in the PNP and AFP in Tarlac should be made accountable for this.
Anakpawis Partylist strongly condemns the illegal arrest of Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap and other peasant leaders and land reform advocates in Hacienda Luisita.
“We demand the immediate release of Rep. Hicap and others who were arrested,” said Anakpawis President Rafael V. Mariano.
Hicap is attending a fact-finding mission in Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac on the ‘lottery land reform’ conducted by the Department of Agrarian (DAR). The mission was initiated by the Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA).
Among those arrested were Danilo Ramos of Anakpawis Partylist, Florida “Pong” Sibayan acting chairperson of AMBALA, Sister Patricia Fox, Ericson Acosta, Kerima Acosta, Rene Blazan, Kala San Juan, Ronald Matthew Gustillo, Luz Versola and many others. They were charged with malicious mischief, illegal assembly, direct assault and trespassing.
At around 11:45 this morning, Hicap and his colleagues just came from a dialogue with the Philippine Army at Barangay Balete when members of Tarlac PNP arrested them. They are now being held at the Tarlac City Police Station under the command of deputy chief Jovy Pagarigan.
Land reform advocates from various sectors are in Hacienda Luisita to investigate the fraud, harassmentand landgrabbing reported by farmworker beneficiaries that highlighted DAR’s distribution of Lot Allocation Certificates (LAC) in all of Hacienda Luisita’s10 villages from July 18 to August 21.
“DAR executed this sham landreform under the heavy presence of police and military and coerced farmworker beneficiaries to sign promissory notes or the Application to Purchase and Farmers’ Undertaking (APFU). All these happened under a climate of impunity and injustice and without real intent to distribute Luisita lands,” said Mariano.
Mariano noted that hundreds of armed police and SWAT elements were deployed during the DAR’s land lottery activities. “DAR Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes said they have concluded the lot allocation process in Hacienda Luisita and “refusal of any identified farmer-beneficiary to sign the APFU, is a ground for the farmer or farmworker to be stricken out of the list of beneficiaries and be replaced by other qualified beneficiaries.”
“Through the ‘showcase’ lot allocation scheme, DAR coerced farmer-beneficiaries to take part in the tambiolo land reform raffle and sign the APFU that manifests willingness of farmer-beneficiaries to pay the amortization and real estate taxes of the landsand desist from committing so-called prohibited acts,” Mariano said.
“The entire land distribution process initiated by DAR in Hacienda Luisita is a sham because it used the bogus CARP as basis. Farmer-beneficiaries and the public will not be deceived. DAR is not implementing land distribution in Luisita as directed by the Supreme Court decision. DAR is conveniently facilitating the reconcentration of lands to the Cojuangco-Aquinos.”
“Everything about DAR’s land distribution process in Hacienda Luisita is fake and anti-farmer,” the former solon added. ###
In February 2013, 40-year old poet and Amnesty International activist Ericson Acosta has more reason to celebrate other than his freedom from his unjust detention. A few days after the Philippine Justice Department decided to drop the trumped-up charges against him, Ericson witnessed the awarding of a silver medal to his only son, 10-year old Emmanuel, who won in a division-wide Math competition in Pasig City, Metro Manila.
Arrested by military troops in February 2011, Acosta was interrogated for 44 hours on 2 hours sleep and threatened with death. He was then charged with being a member of the once banned Communist Party and later, with the illegal possession of explosives. In August 2011, Amnesty International called for the release of Acosta as a Prisoner of Conscience. In his statement after being released, Acosta thanked his supporters, including Amnesty International, and called for the release of the rest of political prisoners in the Philippines.
While we can celebrate the release of a single Prisoner of Conscience, let’s not forget that the current state of human rights in the Philippines still remains dire:
- 430 political prisoners continue to be imprisoned under false accusations of committing various criminal acts. In December 2012 alone, 28 civilians were arbitrarily arrested by the military on trumped up criminal charges.
- Extrajudicial killings particularly of indigenous peoples including the case of Juvy Capionand her two sons age 13 and 8 years old of the B’laan tribe
- Ongoing impunity over the 2008 disappearance of indigenous leader James Balao
- Continued implementation of Executive Order 546, which institutionalizes paramiltary groups and their operations despite the clamor of human rights victims and their families to dismantle such groups
When running for President, Benigno Aquino ran on a platform of upholding human rights. His party said that “human rights are a powerful weapon for social transformation”. With the upcoming Senatorial elections in May, Aquino, his party and his government must remember their election promises and continue to uphold human rights.
Nerve Macaspac, Amnesty International USA Country Specialist for the Philippines, contributed to this post.
Halos isang linggo na mula ngayon nang pinalaya si Ericson Acosta. Tulad ng maraming uhaw sa hustisya, walang pagsidlan ang tuwang aming nadarama at bumuhos ang aming luha sa nakamit na tagumpay. Sa wakas, natapos na ang dalawang taon ng kanyang ipinagdusa sa loob ng piitan. Dalawang taon ng matatag at masikhay na pakikibaka laban sa mapaniil na estado.
Isang positibong hakbang ng Department of Justice o DOJ ang isinagawang imbestigasyon at rebyu sa kaso ni Acosta. Lumabas ang katototohanan na iligal ang pang-aaresto ng 34th Infantry Batallion ng Philippine Army sa kanya noon sa bayan ng San Jorge, Western Samar; na malaking paglabag sa karapatang pantao ang tortyur; ang kanyang pagkadetine sa kampo; ang pagkakait na makontak ang pamilya at abogado; at ang mga plantang ebidensya ang lalong nagpatibay upang ipinal ng DOJ ang kanyang desisyon na ipawalang bisa ang anumang bintang na kaso. Inosente si Acosta!
Tulad ni Ericson Acosta, kami ang mga bilanggong pulitikal ng Batangas o Batangas 9 ay naninindigan sa pagiging inosente sa mga bintang na kasong isinasakdal sa amin. Kami sina Charity Dino, Sonny Rogelio, Billie Batrina , Maricon Montajes, Ronilo Baes, Rommiel Cañete, Alberto Custodio, Felipe Mendoza at Junver Tirasol ay naninindigan na ang aming pampulitikang kamulatan at pagkilos kailanman ay hindi magiging isang batayan upang ituring kaming kriminal at ibilanggo!
Taon na rin ang binibilang namin sa piitan ng Batangas Provincail Jail . Ang detachment ng 740th Philippine Airforce sa loob nito, ang mga rehas, ang mataas na pader na naliligiran ng mga barbwire ay saksi kung paanong tuloy-tuloy ang panunupil sa aming mga pampulitikang karapatan at ang hustisya ay halos di- masilip sa kitid ng iniikutang piitan. Ang aming kalagayan ngayon ay tiyak na naranasan din ni Acosta at ng lahat ng bilanggong pulitikal ng ating bansa.
Ang parerekognisa sa kalagayan ni Acosta ay nagpapatunay lamang na may malalang paglabag sa karapatang pantao sa ating bansa. Hindi ito simpleng propaganda lamang. Umiral ito sa panahon ng administrasyon Aquino na ang mga senaryo ay halos walang pinagkaiba sa Martial Law. Na sa balangkas ng Oplan Bayanihan, tila hayok na hayok ang pasistang Armed Forces of the Philippines at Philippine National Police na maghasik ng karahasan na wala nang sinisino at wala nang pinipiling lugar, mapa-kanayunan man o kalunsuran man. Kinokondena ito ng Batangas 9 !
Umaapela kami ngayon kay Pangulong Noynoy Aquino na may 430 pa sa kabuoang bilang ng mga bilanggong pulitikal sa ating bansa at 123 dito ay sa panahon niya iligal na inaresto. Umaapela kami sa mabilisang pag-rebyu at pag-dismiss ng aming kaso tulad ni Acosta. Umaapela na tahakin ang tunay na matuwid na daan sa pamamagitan ng pagpapapalaya sa lahat ng mga bilanggong pulitikal sa pamamagitan ng general, unconditional at omnibus amnesty !
Tuloy ang laban ….. Palayain ang Batangas 9!
Palayain ang lahat ng bilanggong pulitikal ng Pilipinas sa pamamagitan ng General, Unconditional at Omnibus Amnesty!
Maricon Montajes, 22 years old, a film student of the University of the Philippines Diliman, has been imprisoned for more than two years at the Batangas Provincial Jail, along with two other political detainees, Ronilo Baes and Rommiel Cañete. They were arrested by the 740TH Combat Group of the Philippine Air Force at Brgy. Mabayabas, Taysan, Batangas while conducting a community integration with the peasant sector. They were charged with trumped-up cases of Illegal Possession of Firearms and Ammunition, Illegal Possession of Explosives and Violation of Omnibus Election Code Category P and Q.
Maricon’s incarceration is clearly a violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) especially the Hernandez Doctrine which states that a person who works for a political purpose must not be treated as a criminal and must therefore be released. It is a clear violation of Maricon’s academic and political freedom.
After the Aquino government moved for the release of Ericson Acosta, poet, cultural activist, and fellow isko, Maricon Montajes and the Batangas 9 strongly pushes for the intensification of the call for their urgent release and the freedom of all political prisoners in the counrty through a GENERAL, UNCONDITIONAL, AND OMNIBUS AMNESTY.
We must not stop at the release of one political prisoner. We must not forget that these 430 political prisoners from different sectors, who experienced pain, suffering and repression in different places at different times all deserve freedom and justice.
FREE MARICON MONTAJES!
FREE THE BATANGAS 9!
FREE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS THROUGH A GENERAL UNCONDITIONAL AND OMNIBUS AMNESTY!
Jonathan M. Hicap | Manila BulletinFebruary 7, 2013, 5:09pm
MANILA, Philippines — A human rights group yesterday urged the Aquino government to release sick and old political prisoners including those who are jailed at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa.
The Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) said 45 of the 430 political prisoners detained in various jails in the country are sick and old and should be released for humanitarian reasons.
The group said about 30 political prisoners are serving their sentence at the NBP and 11 of them are sickly and one is aged over 60.
“Most of the time, sick political prisoners are not given the proper medical attention because of the lack of facilities in prison hospitals and lack of budget to provide health services to prisoners,” said SELDA Secretary General Angie Ipong in a statement.
Ipong cited Rolando Pañamogan, 47, who is suffering from illnesses usually associated with old age. She said Pañamogan has been admitted to the NBP hospital for a number of times due to diabetes, hyperthyroidism and asthma.
She also said the Alegre family should be freed. The family–father Jesus, mother Moreta and son Selman–were imprisoned due to a land dispute in Negros Occidental.
Jesus, 67, and Moreta, 65 are suffering from arthritis and hypertension, SELDA said.
Jesus and Selman are serving their sentence at the NBP while Moreta is at the Correctional Institute for Women. They have been in prison for eight years.
SELDA hoped that Pañamogan, the Alegre family and other political prisoners be released.
Meanwhile, with the release from detention of poet-artist Ericson Acosta, SELDA said, “we welcome the release of Acosta after two years of detention. No person should be held in detention, charged with trumped-up cases, and stripped of his rights because of his political beliefs. We demand the release of all sick and elderly political prisoners,” Ipong said. (with a report by Chito A. Chavez)
February 7, 2013
After poet-artist Acosta’s release
SELDA demands Aquino to release sickly, elderly political prisoners
Following the release from detention of poet-artist Ericson Acosta on Tuesday, rights group SELDA (Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto) demanded the Aquino government to free elderly and sick political prisoners.
“We welcome the release of Acosta, finally, after two years of detention. What remains true is that no person should be held in detention, charged with trumped-up cases, and stripped of his rights because of his political beliefs. We then demand the release of all sick and elderly political prisoners,” said SELDA secretary general Angie Ipong.
According to Ipong, sick and elderly political prisoners have double the reason to demand for freedom.
“Most of the time, sick political prisoners are not given the proper medical attention because of the lack of facilities in prison hospitals and lack of budget to provide health services to prisoners. To a certain extent, their being political prisoners is even used as flimsy excuse to be deprived of medical treatment,” Ipong said.
As for the elderly political prisoners, Ipong said there should be no question as to their release on humanitarian grounds.
Ipong, a political prisoner herself, was arrested at the age of 60. She was released six years after charges of murder against her were dismissed.
SELDA said there are currently 430 political prisoners in different jails nationwide, 148 of them were arrested and detained under the Aquino administration. The group documented some 45 political prisoners who are sick, while 12 of them are elderly prisoners, or those who are aged 60 and above.
“Cramped and poorly ventilated prison cells, poor water supply and inadequate food and nutrition worsen the state of health of political prisoners who suffer from various ailments. This, along with the fact they shouldn’t be detained because of their political beliefs, are more than enough grounds for their immediate release,” Ipong said.
Ipong cited the case Rolando Pañamogan, is only 47 but is now suffering from illnesses usually associated with old age. Pañamogan has been admitted to the NBP Hospital for a number of times.
“Doctors diagnosed him to have diabetes, hyperthyroidism and asthma. He manages to persist in his work as a political prisoner everyday but the truth remains that his medical condition is aggravated by prison conditions,” Ipong said.
Pañamogan is detained at the New Bilibid Prisons Maximum Security Compound was accused of being a member of the New People’s Army and was convicted of murder and frustrated murder.
Aside from Pañamogan, the Alegre family also hopes to be freed for humanitarian reasons. All three, father, mother and son, were imprisoned due to a land dispute with a local landlord in their town in Negros Occidental. Jesus, 67 and Moreta, 65 are both suffering from arthritis and hypertension. Moreta also has a weak heart.
“We are made to suffer for sins we did not commit. It’s because we don’t have money and power. We just want to live in tilling our small land. We want justice,” Jesus said in an interview. Father Jesus and son, Selman, are at the New Bilibid Prisons. Mother Moreta is at the Correctional Institute for Women. They are all imprisoned for eight years now.
SELDA hoped that Pañamogan, the Alegre family and other political prisoners shall also be given their well-deserved freedom.
“We then call on all those who supported the campaign to release Acosta to support the campaign to free all political prisoners. More political prisoners are detained for crimes they did not commit. We should make the Aquino government accountable for allowing such rights violations to continue,” Ipong ended. ###
Reference: Angelina Ipong, SELDA secretary general 0907-6114086
The night before political detainee Ericson Acosta was to be declared free by the Department of Justice (DOJ), I was told negotiations would be underway. It was difficult to be optimistic. Visit him already, I was being told, we don’t know how
much longer he’ll be at the National Kidney Institute (NKTI), he might be brought back to the Calbayog jail where he’s been since February 2011, the month he was captured.
That is, the month of his illegal arrest. He was about to board a bangka on February 13 2011, 10 in the morning, traveling from Barangay Bay-ang to San Jorge town in Samar. He had with him his laptop and cellphone, some cash, but the members of the 34th IBPA led by 2nd Lt. Jacob Madarang insisted he had a grenade in his pocket and was about to pull it out. This allegation would be enough to keep Ericson in jail for almost two years. It is an allegation the military has been unable to prove true, up to this point when the DOJ has declared the case dismissed.
It goes without saying these two years in a far away Calbayog jail has been torture for Ericson and his family and friends.
Which is also to say that within the first 44 hours after his arrest, Ericson would be tortured, coerced, and interrogated. He had two hours of sleep on him. He was disallowed from communicating with his family or legal counsel.
It seems Ericson had disappeared on Valentine’s Day of 2011. Because it would only be on the evening of February 15 that he would be brought to San Jorge PNP Municipal Headquarters. This would be when he hears about the charge of illegal possession of explosive being brought against him. This blotter procedure would take the police until the following morning to finish. In the course of those 12 hours, he would undergo a medico-legal procedure and stay in the San Jorge PNP.
For a good 72 hours after his arrest, Ericson would have no access to family or legal counsel. It would only be upon his insistence to the civilian employees of the Calbayog Hall of Justice that he would finally be allowed to call his family. The case against him would be filed with the Regional Trial Court of Gandara Samar at 10:30am of February 16 2011. He was brought to the Calbayog sub-provincial jail at 1:30 in the afternoon of the same day.
Ericson would stay in that jail for 23 months on that charge of illegal possession of that grenade.
His counter-affidavit filed by the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) led by Atty. Jun Oliva speaks of more than just the warrantless arrest. It also points out every other irregularity in the process of Ericson’s capture and detention. a
He was not informed of the reason for his arrest at the time of his arrest. He was denied the right to counsel. He was denied a phone call and prevented from contacting his family or his lawyer. He was subjected to prolonged interrogation for 44 hours. During tactical interrogation, he was physically and psychologically tortured. He was deprived of sleep, threatened, intimidated, coerced and forced to admit membership in the NPA. The grenade subject of the case was planted. The complaint against him was filed in court only after 72 hours and 30 minutes. He was detained in a military camp, which is not of civilian jurisdiction.
It’s stuff for Martial Law, isn’t it? Made worse by the fact that government is in perennial denial, and refuses to stare issues in the eye. Or at least engage in proper responses to queries. If not to rallies. At the Martial Law anniversary last year, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairwoman Etta Rosales had reprimanded student protesters: “Stop comparing martial law of yesterday to what they are doing now because if they do that they are merely muddling the issue. They should study. Do they know what they’re talking about?”
Does she and this government?
Cue Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, post-Martial Law anniversary 2011, who was asked the question “Can we get your observation on what have been the substantial changes insofar as the human rights situation in the country is concerned?” His roundabout answer could be summed up thus: “To our knowledge, we have no political prisoners” and “I think that’s very, very clear that we—government—frown on human rights violations.” He proves this true by citing Rosales’ appointment to the CHR, because she was a victim of Martial Law, too.
There is no point to having been victimized by Martial Law and dictatorship, by extralegal means of capture and detention, if 40 years hence you prove your memory short and muddled by the power you now hold. There is also no putting Martial Law in the past, when someone like Ericson, probably the most high-profile case of an individual illegal detention (versus, say, the Morong 43), can suffer for two years, until he is too sick to be kept in jail.
Butch Dalisay, writer and professor, says it succinctly: “If the government thinks that the evidence against Acosta is strong and irrefutable, it should prove its case, and prove it quickly. Otherwise, it should free Ericson Acosta and the others like him—arrested for patently political reasons 40 years after martial law—to put that era squarely in the past.”
But it seems PNoy is not one to listen. Asked about the human rights situation in the Philippines in a New Zealand interview, he dismissed this as “Leftist propaganda.” Certainly his spokespersons—CHR head included—do quite well at being dismissive, too. But numbers might work?
430: number of political prisoners in the country. 250: number thrown into jail under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. 129: extrajudicial killings under PNoy. 69: number of farmers killed under PNoy. 25: number of indigenous people killed under PNoy. 72: cases of torture under PNoy.
180: political prisoners under PNoy. 28: number of arbitrary arrests by the Armed Forces of the Philippines in December 2012 alone.
One: Ericson Acosta, poet, cultural worker, activist. You’ve freed him. Free them all.
Data taken from Karapatan 2012 Year-End Report on the Human Rights Situation in the Philippines, and karapatan.org