Friday, May 13, 2011

Not another day of injustice: Free Ericson Acosta NOW!

Statement of the Alliance of Concerned Samareños (ACOS)
May 13, 2011

“Bayanihan” is such a gentle way to put it, but especially for peasants in the upland barrios of Samar, President Aquino’s “Oplan Bayanihan” is the same banana as the killing spree that was “Oplan Bantay Laya.” Fierce militarization is the government’s unkind supplement to the “benevolent” road projects and cash dole-outs showered upon the supposedly poor and needy in Samar. With this obvious deception underscored only by the increasing rate of poverty and hunger and the continuing spate of military abuse, torture and illegal arrests in the province, one could expect nothing but the persistence of impunity and injustice under the Aquino administration.

The case of journalist Ericson Acosta has become too tragically ironic: a volunteer researcher comes to the militarized barrio of Bay-ang in San Jorge to fall direct victim to the abuses he intends to document. By his own account, the people of this barrio have seen the worst atrocities one could ever imagine: soldiers strafing the barrio chapel desecrating its religious icons; soldiers ordering civilians to dismantle houses of fellow civilians suspected to be rebels; soldiers burning the remains of the SK chairman to serve as landing signal for the army’s helicopters; heavy aerial bombing destroying farmers’ crops and livelihood; dislocation of the population, hamletting and other grave situations leading us to conclude that the people of Bay-ang and other upland barangays in Samar unfortunately are living under a perpetual state of martial rule even after Marcos or Palparan.

Searching for Acosta after he was picked up by the military in Bay-ang also led us to discover the condition of detained farmers now dubbed the “Catbalogan 5.” The Catbalogan 5 is composed of farmers Noel Galvez, Simon Gabijan, Jesus Bacnotan and spouses Loreto and Beatriz Gabuay. According to initial factsheets forwarded to our alliance, these farmers were either abducted or illegally arrested by government forces. Some if not all were physically and psychologically tortured, and are now detained in a Catbalogan jail charged with various fabricated criminal cases to pay for the military’s setbacks with the NPA.

In the case of Acosta and other political prisoners, torture, illegal arrest and/or abduction, appear to be “standard operating procedure” for the military. The AFP can only pay lipservice to respect for human rights especially under the pretext of “bayanihan.” How does the 8th ID define warrantless arrest, prolonged interrogation, coercion, planting of evidence and denial of one’s rights to communication and counsel? When Maj. Gen. Mario Chan of the 8th ID says that “Acosta was accorded with respect by the apprehending troops,” what Gen. Chan seems to imply is that Acosta should be grateful he is still alive.

The Alliance of Concerned Samareños appeals to concerned institutions such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Commission on Human Rights in Region 8 (CHR-8) to look into the plight of the Catbalogan 5, as we reiterate our call to free Ericson Acosta and all political prisoners. Samareños should not tolerate another day of injustice for Acosta and those similarly incarcerated for political reasons. For genuine peace and stability to prosper in Samar and the rest of the country, it is urgent that President Aquino do away with the “bayanihan” pretensions and start to seriously heed the clamor to end militarization in the countryside and to serve justice to all victims of military abuse.



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