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Preliminary works now ongoing for MCC road project in Samar

Dawning of the vultures of freedom and democracy!

NPA terrorizes Lapinig town, kills the mayor’s security detail and wounds an innocent civilian

Barangay LGUs urged to tap 70% out of 5% calamity fund for disaster preparedness

UN Official: Philippine Law on Anti-Corporal Punishment could be First in Asia

Illegal fishers arrested

Local officials exonerate soldiers in Northern Samar

e-Blotter starts at 3 police offices in Eastern Visayas







Free Ericson Acosta now!

A campaign statement of the Free Ericson Acosta
January 23, 2012

Detained artist Ericson Acosta ended his hunger strike December 10, amidst initial assurances that government is heeding the demand to look into his case and that of other political prisoners. Acosta was visited in jail by representatives of the Commission on Human Rights-Region 8 (CHR-8) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Acosta’s family and the network of artists, friends and advocates behind the Free Ericson Acosta Campaign (FEAC), appeal once again to concerned Philippine authorities to free Ericson Acosta and all political prisoners immediately.

In August 2011, the Amnesty International (AI) released a statement urging authorities to “end Acosta’s detention without trial.” After six months in detention, the international human rights group expressed concern that Acosta, like “anyone subject to arrest or detention is ‘entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release.’” The AI also pointed out rights violations in the conduct of Acosta’s arrest and detention.  “Death threats and prolonged sleep deprivation for the purpose of interrogation violate the international prohibition against torture and other ill-treatment. These practices violate the Convention against Torture, which the Philippines has ratified… The Philippine authorities must investigate these allegations and hold the perpetrators accountable.”

Pending before the Department of Justice (DOJ) since September 1, 2011 is the Petition for Review of the illegal possession of explosive complaint against Acosta. Aside from the Petition filed by his counsel the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), the FEAC network also submitted before the Office of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, several statements of support for Acosta’s release signed by hundreds of artists, journalists and human rights advocates; and publicly released by different groups and individuals. The filing of the Review Petition and the artists’ protest held outside the DOJ premises that day were supported by no less than then-Executive Director of the government-run National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), acclaimed playwright Malou Jacob.

While detained in a civilian facility, Acosta continues to suffer harassment and intimidation from the military. Since July, a platoon of soldiers from the 87th IB was deployed near the Calbayog sub-provincial jail in the pretext of military operations. Today a squad of soldiers from the 14th IB, apparently deployed to guard Acosta, has literally set up camp within the jail compound. The prosecution’s recent motion to transfer Acosta’s custody we believe is based on an imagined, if not engineered threat, and tramples upon civilian authority. Acosta’s court appearances are all scheduled to be held in Calbayog City, making the motion obviously impractical as Catbalogan is hours away from Calbayog. Transferring Acosta will make visits more difficult and prone to military surveillance for his family and supporters. Military deployment inside the civilian facility is highly irregular as it is, and the plan to transfer Acosta to a soldier town like Catbalogan is completely unacceptable. Acosta has had enough suffering in detention to be violated several times over with overkill security arrangements.

Human rights groups have long called on President Aquino to free all political prisoners in the country. They lament the continuing practice of criminalization of political offenses, and cite the campaign for unconditional amnesty as goodwill measure for the peace talks between the government and rebel groups to move forward. Some 38 congressmen have already signed House Resolution 1956 citing the case of Ericson Acosta and urging President Aquino to grant unconditional amnesty to all political prisoners.

Acosta’s family and supporters continue to appeal to concerned Philippine authorities, along with the Amnesty International, the NCCA, the University Council of University of the Philippines, Diliman, the Philippine Center of the International PEN and several other artist and human rights organizations and institutions around the world such as the Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines-United Kingdom, the Rice and Rights Network in the Netherlands, Habi Arts USA, etc., have all made public their appeal to the Philippine government to release Acosta and to look into the irregularities and rights violations in the conduct of his arrest and detention. Acosta was even cited finalist of the 2011 Imprisoned Artist Prize at the Freedom to Create Awards Festival in Cape Town, South Africa in November, for the contribution of his work in promoting the creative spirit while highlighting injustice.

Nearly a year has passed since cultural worker Ericson Acosta was arrested by the military in Samar on February 13, 2011. He was tortured, interrogated for 44 hours straight and held incommunicado for three days before a fabricated charge of illegal possession of explosive was levied against him to justify his arrest and continued detention. At the time of his arrest, he was carrying only a laptop and some personal belongings and was accompanied by a local barangay official as a volunteer researcher of the peasant group Kapunungan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Weste han Samar (KAPAWA), a member-organization of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP). Philippine authorities must end his unjust detention.  FREE ERICSON ACOSTA NOW!