New Internationalist

His crime? Helping the oppressed

A former student activist, poet and writer Ericson Acosta was arrested in February by members of the military. He was on board a pump boat in Samar, in the eastern part of the Visayas region, one of three geographical islands in the Philippines.

His sin? He looked suspicious, so the military suspected he was a communist rebel.

For more than three months now, Acosta has been detained in a sub-provisional jail and charged with illegal possession of explosives.

Who is Ericson?

I met Ericson in the University of the Philippines, the country’s premier state university. He is many years my senior. I often saw him in campus, active in various activities such as protest actions against tuition hikes, cultural nights and in school electoral processes.

I read his articles in the Philippine Collegian, the school paper of which both of us have been part of, at different times. He is a well-known writer, editor, poet, singer and songwriter. Many years after college, I would still see him and often heard from common friends that he was doing a lot of work for the poor and the oppressed.

As of this writing, Ericson remains under the custody of the military, the institution whose members are known for gross violations of human rights, summary executions and enforced disappearances. Nobody knows what is happening or what has happened in the dark corners of the prison cell where Ericson is locked up – when his lawyers are away or the glaring lenses of the media are not around.

His friends, family and different human rights groups in the country are working for his immediate release and for the dropping of all the fabricated charges against him.

‘His rights continue to be violated each day he remains incarcerated. The fabricated charges are intended to keep him under government’s control and scrutiny. His frail appearance in the photo released to media by the Armed Forces of the Philippines heightens concerns for his health given the conditions in jail.  The road to genuine and lasting peace cannot be paved with government’s continued iron-fist policy of arresting its perceived enemies on mere suspicion. It behooves the Aquino government to forge favorable conditions in the conduct of its peace efforts by releasing political prisoners.

‘Ericson has dedicated his life to serving the people. We, his friends, colleagues, family and supporters, call on the Aquino government to effect his immediate release by dropping the trumped-up charges,’ a statement issued by Ericson’s friends, family and supporters, said on the Free Ericson Acosta website.

The military refuse to hear the appeals. They say they believe that Ericson is a terrorist and a threat to the security of the state. That must be the worst kind of terrorism ever to be recorded in history – helping the poor and working for the oppressed.

Images from the Free Ericson Acosta website.

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  1. #1 gibbse 31 May 11

    Is there somewhere people (concerned citizens) can send their concerns to the Aquino government? Will mounting public pressure have any effect whatsoever in the case of Ericson Acosta? I live in Canada and I am very involved in the large Filipino community here. Perhaps knowing that the large balikbayan population here is aware of the ongoing blatant misuse and abuse of power in the military will help to open the current government's eyes and help pave the way to a more democratic and respectful system in the Philippines.

  2. #2 Iris Gonzales 31 May 11

    Hi Gibbse,

    Thank you for your comment. Please do share to your community there what's happening here. The stories are endless...Hopefully, the president who promised a lot of reforms will have the heart to listen.

    Again, thank you!

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About the author

Iris Gonzales a New Internationalist contributor

Iris Cecilia Gonzales is a Filipino journalist and blogger. At present, she covers economic news for a Manila broadsheet, but she also writes other stories here and there. She has been blogging since 2004 on various issues including women and children and human rights. She is among the winners in the TH!NK 3 global blogging competition organized by the Netherlands-based European Journalism Centre.

You may email her at [email protected]

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