Monday, April 11, 2011

CEGP on Ericson Acosta

A definition of fascism

Statement of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) on Ericson Acosta's illegal arrest and detention

What is fascism?

Fascism is when the highest law of the land entrusted you with the protection of the Filipino people, but you ended up perpetrating crimes of all sorts against the civilians you have sworn to protect. Fascism is when you grab a civilian by the scruff of his neck, accuse him of being an armed rebel, shoot him at the head and declare his death as an inevitable consequence of an encounter with the New People’s Army (NPA). Fascism is planting evidence against a community health worker and throwing trumped-up cases against those who left the comforts of the city to give service in far-flung areas.

What is fascism? Fascism is the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The AFP has again shown its mercenary nature in the illegal detention of cultural worker and former Philippine Collegian editor Ericson Acosta. Last February 13, Acosta was illegally arrested by soldiers in San Jorge, Samar and is currently being detained in a sub-provincial jail. The military insists that the arrest is lawful because he is a member of the NPA. Acosta’s constitutional rights were violated in the process, even if there no grain of truth in the statements of the AFP.

With the bloody human rights record of the AFP, we had no reason to believe what the military claims under the guise of anti-insurgency measures. Acosta, of course, had an entirely different story to tell, and his is a narrative of military deceit.

Acosta, who was then doing research on human rights violations and protection of the environment, said he was accused of being an armed rebel because he had a laptop. “NPA ka! Mataas siguro ranggo mo kaya ka may laptop!” the soldiers said in raised voices when they found a laptop in his bag, unable to fathom the fact that it is possible for a researcher to bring a laptop in the countryside.

It was absurdly illogical to assume that using a laptop in the mountains means that the person is an NPA rebel. Then again, the AFP’s justifications for its unjustifiable actions were always devoid of logic. One of the Morong 43, the health workers who were illegally arrested under the same suspicion, was accused of being an NPA member because of an acupuncture needle.

Acosta had tirelessly explained that he was only doing research, but his explanations “were drowned by the soldiers’ intense excitement” to badger and harass him. When he was taken to the San Jorge Municipal Police Headquarters, the soldiers said he was being turned over because he had a grenade with him. Acosta, however, said the grenade that was being used as evidence against him actually came from his soldier guards.

The planting of evidence – it is an overused tactic of the military to legitimize harassment and to conjure court cases out of thin air. In the case of Morong 43, firearms were also planted in the house where their seminar was held, and this was used as evidence for a “possession of deadly firearms” case.

Indeed, the Armed Forces can be characterized by lack of common sense and deception. But more than these two, the military must be condemned for its rabid, blood-thirsty measures in cracking down at people whose only offense, so to speak, is to criticize the government.

In the case of Acosta, we can see how the AFP casually “neutralizes” people like one throws a cigarette butt. According to Acosta’s counter-affidavit, the company commander said, “Pasalamat ka binuhay ka pa. Sabi ko sa mga tao ko, huwag ka nang dalhin dito at i-charge ka na lang sa encounter.” This makes us wonder; how many have been killed upon the baseless assumption that they were NPA rebels, then later declared as deaths in an encounter with the armed movement?

The situation bears a striking resemblance with that of botanist Leonard Co’s death, which the military claims as a “collateral damage” in a crossfire. Was there really a crossfire to begin with?
This is the true face of the AFP, which had to gall to claim that they are peace and human rights advocates. The College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) believes that the AFP should be held responsible for its long string of offenses against the people.

As journalists who maintain that the conditions necessitate advocacy journalism, the CEGP believes that writers and artists like Acosta have all the reason to use their craft in the pursuit of genuine social change. For them, the conditions are compelling enough to write about the impoverished in the countryside. Likewise, healthworkers like the Morong 43 deemed it necessary to ignore promises of lucrative jobs and provide service to those who live miles away from the nearest hospital, to those whom government services failed to attend to.

And this is what the AFP deliberately does not understand. For them, civilians and armed rebels are all alike. Criticizing the government for its flawed policies is tantamount to engagement in the armed resistance. Seemingly no mind of its own. Like a dog held in the leash of its incompetent masters.


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