Friday, May 13, 2011

Month three in jail: artists, art events echo demand to end poet’s detention

Renowned Filipino artists will figure in a series of events drumbeating the appeal for the immediate dropping of charges filed against poet and former UP activist Ericson Acosta who remains imprisoned at the Calbayog sub-provincial jail in Samar.

Exactly three months after his arrest, screenwriter Bonifacio Ilagan and National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera joined other artists, Acosta’s family and former colleagues in the cultural event dubbed “Haranang Bayan: Panata sa Kalayaan ni Ericson Acosta,” at the Ta(u)mbayan bar, Kamuning, Quezon City.

Acosta was illegally arrested in Barangay Bay-ang, San Jorge, Samar last February 13.

“Haranang Bayan” featured musical performances, prose and poetry reading, reiterating the demand for Acosta’s release. The event was sponsored by the Kilometer 64 Poetry Collective, KARATULA, UP Alay Sining and the Free Ericson Acosta Campaign (FEAC).

Bonifacio Ilagan’s “Bawat Araw,” a poem assailing the injustice done to Acosta for each day he spends in prison, was read during the event. Ilagan himself is a former political detainee and member of the Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA)

“Ericson deserves to be released for his continuing incarceration is a grievous loss to the growth of a truly democratic art and culture of the Filipino people," Lumbera, who also chairs the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP), has earlier said.

According to the CAP, Acosta has interwoven his artistry into being a human rights activist who lives among and works closely with common folk.

“We demand the authorities to not prolong his illegal detention and to end this injustice now,” the artists said.

Case still with the prosecutor

According to Acosta’s legal counsel, Atty. Julian Oliva Jr. of the NUPL, the detained poet’s case is still with Investigating Prosecutor Agustin M. Avalon, the assistant provincial prosecutor of Samar.

“The private complainant, upon urging from the military, directly filed with the RTC a Complaint against Acosta without Inquest or Preliminary Investigation. The presiding judge of RTC Gandara, Samar, Branch 41, then issued an Order referring the case back to the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor for Preliminary Investigation.”

“Hence, except for the Court's logbook records on the filing of the Complaint and the Order referring the case back to the prosecutor, there are no other records whatsoever of the case filed with the Court.”

“The outcome of Eric’s case is in Avalon’s hands,” said Oliva.

“It has been three months since Eric has been arrested and detained, but no Resolution of the Preliminary Investigation has been issued and no information has been filed in court.”

In his counter-affidavit, Acosta stated that he was held incommunicado, subjected to interrogation for 44 hours, physically and psychologically tortured, deprived of sleep, coerced and forced to admit membership in the NPA.

“The evidence against me was planted,” Acosta wrote. “The complaint against me was filed in court only after 72 hours and 30 minutes after my arrest.”

Poet’s specific appeals

“And so it has happened that I was able to ultimately verify the truth of rampant incidence of human rights violations in the area by falling direct victim to it myself,” narrates Acosta in a recent statement marking his third month in jail.

Acosta expressed gratitude to relatives, friends and colleagues not only in calling for his release but also for giving “due attention to the plight of other forgotten prisoners such as the ‘Catbalogan 5’”referring to five ordinary farmers who were also illegally arrested and detained by the army’s 8th ID.

Acosta then made several appeals. He called on Samar’s 1st district representative Mel Sarmiento and current House Committee on Justice Chairman Rep. Niel Tupas to initiate a congressional investigation on his case. He also appealed to the local CHR-8, as well as to Catholic bishops led by Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma to look into and condemn the human rights violations in his and the Catbalogan 5’s cases.

He also called on the people of Barangay Bay-ang, where he was arrested, “to hold on fast and to be determined to stand up for the truth… even with (military harassment).”

“It is clearly expected of us to carry on the fight,” ended Acosta’s statement.

Series of art events

Two more events will follow “Haranang Bayan” to raise funds for his legal defense and to drumbeat the call for the freedom of Acosta and other political prisoners.

In “Acosta Universe: Beatles Night for a Cause,” rock band The Jerks and other artists will be performing at My Brother’s Moustache, Sct. Madrinan in Quezon City, on May 26.

Another fundraising concert organized by Acosta’s journalist father-in-law Pablo Tariman will be featuring classical chamber music performed by violinist Gina Medina and pianist Mary Anne Espina at the Balay Kalinaw in UP Diliman on May 28.

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