December 20, 2012
HON. LEILA DE LIMA
Secretary, Department of Justice
Secretary de Lima,
I am Isaias P. Acosta, father of detained poet and activist Ericson L. Acosta. My son has been illegally detained at the Calbayog City sub-provincial jail in Samar for 22 months now. He was arrested without warrant by the Philippine army February 13, 2011 in San Jorge, Samar.
Madame Secretary, I am writing you once again to seek the immediate release of my son.
My wife and I are now both very old – my wife just turned 80 and I am turning 80 next year. We would willingly spend this coming Christmas with our son as we did last year, if not for our failing health. We may have but a few years left and our only wish is to see Ericson walk free again.
The serious irregularities and human rights abuses so evident in the conduct of Ericson’s arrest and detention urged us to file a Petition for Review before your good office, with high hopes for a swift, decisive and just resolution. We were even thankful then that Ericson’s unlawful arrest occurred under President Aquino’s new administration. We had nothing but optimism and faith in the President’s promise of justice and impartiality and his “daang matuwid” crusade.
But how long must we wait, Madame Secretary? It has been 22 months and we are still waiting in vain.
It has been more than a year since we filed our Review Petition in September 2011 – and the DOJ resolution remains pending. The standard 60 days of waiting have now stretched into 446 tortuous days. This has been punctuated by two more motions to seek the immediate resolution of the original Petition; dozens of letters of appeal and thousands of petition signatures gathered from various activities of concerned organizations and supporters from all over the world; and three week-long hunger strikes by Ericson – not a line or page of any formal opposition from Ericson’s military accusers, yet the Justice department still cannot issue a resolution. Why does it now seem that this government cannot swiftly dispense justice?
The grave injustice of Ericson’s unwarranted arrest, torture and incarceration torments us each day he remains in prison. Ericson has been languishing in jail without due process and far longer than warranted by the country’s own laws. My son is in effect rendered de facto “criminal” and “terrorist” by the military, and sadly, by the President’s own spokesperson who has declared that there are officially no political prisoners in the country. With these insensitive, irresponsible pronouncements, are we being made to accept that we have no choice but to be at the mercy of the military? This simply cannot be so, Madame Secretary.
The longer Ericson stays in prison, the more that we become direct witnesses, and, yes, victims, to injustice, serious threats and harassment.
This “terrorist” hysteria has been the military’s justification for the highly irregular deployment of 8th Infantry Division troopers within the civilian sub-jail compound in Calbayog City. Ericson is regularly being subjected to intimidation and verbal abuse by young, sorry pawns in full-battle gear threatening that he is never safe from so-called “accidents” inside prison. His visitors and supporters likewise suffer harassment and undue surveillance, even after they leave the prison compound. This was the kind of hostile environment that we ourselves witnessed and experienced during our Christmas jail visit last year.
On July 2012, we filed a motion at the RTC Branch in Gandara, Samar requesting permission for Ericson to undergo immediate medical check-up after he complained of sharp pains while urinating. During a hearing in August, Ericson was ironically asked by the prosecutor to prove that he is indeed ill, for him to be allowed access to a proper medical facility. Unfortunately, our lawyers recently informed us that the RTC Judge has already denied our motion, without prejudice to the presentation of proof that Ericson is indeed ill.
For several months now, we have been doing all within our means to have a private doctor check on Ericson but facilitating a doctor’s visit is extremely difficult for us financially and physically as we are also dealing with our own medical maladies. But above all other difficulties, we have to primarily deal with the very real but unspoken viciousness of military threats and harassment. It is precisely the fear of earning the ire of the military that has discouraged doctors from visiting Ericson. Arrested without committing any crime, tortured, locked-up, intimidated and denied medical attention – for how long must our son go through such cruel fate, Madame Secretary?
On the mornings of October 24 and 25 this year, our driver received text messages saying that Ericson “is in danger..he might get killed on all souls day,” and warning that we, his parents, were also targets for assassination.
On November 2, the text threats warned that our house was already surrounded by assassins. We could have easily dismissed these messages as awful but harmless pranks but local human rights workers based in Calbayog City also received the very same messages.
Through Ericson's friends and supporters, we were able to report the incidents. But when authorities told us that more soldiers have been dispatched to the jail to assure Ericson's "safety," we were far from appeased.
We are now more anxious and restless knowing too well that increased military presence in and around the sub-provincial jail is the primary threat to our son's life and well-being.
It has been 22 months, Madame Secretary. 22 months of anguish and anxiety for us, his parents. 22 months of longing for Ericson to be reunited with own son and family. 22 months of disappointment and disillusionment for all his supporters around the world. 22 months of government neglect. 22 months of injustice.
It has been more than enough.
ISAIAS P. ACOSTA