Sunday, October 16, 2011

Artists to DOJ: free Ericson Acosta now!

Artists led by National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera (right); arts writer Pablo Tariman (partly hidden), TV and stage actor Nanding Josef (center) and Acosta's family tear down symbolic prison bars in a gathering organized by the Concerned Artists of the Philippines at the NCCA.

Oct. 14, 2011 Press Release, Free Ericson Acosta Campaign

Artists led by the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) gathered at the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) building in Intramuros today to call for the release of poet and cultural worker Ericson Acosta.

In an event dubbed “Kumustahan mula sa Piitan,” National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera, painter Neil Doloricon, TV and stage actor Nanding Josef, screenwriter and actress Bibeth Orteza, film director Joel Lamangan and other supporters from the artist community reiterated their appeal to DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima to review Acosta’s case and to immediately withdraw the fabricated complaint against the detained artist.

Actor and former CCP Vice President Nanding Josef

Says Josef: “I know him (Acosta) personally as a cultural worker. I am humbled by his sacrifices and his commitment to the poor. This new administration is challenged to be different from its predecessors. Free those whose only ‘crime’ is genuinely serving the least served, and jail without delay those who have greedily taken away food on the table of the poor.”

NCCA officials; visual artists Karen Ocampo-Flores and Egai Talusan Fernandez; writers Jun Cruz Reyes and Pablo Tariman; musicians Karl Ramirez, Tony Palis and guitarists from the Quezon City Performing Arts group, and members of the Filipino Freethinkers, Kilometer64 Poetry Collective, Kabataang Artista para sa Tunay na Kalayaan, Tudla Multi-media Productions, human rights advocates and other artist groups and individuals were also in attendance.

acclaimed film director and former political detainee Joel Lamangan

Lamangan and Lumbera were also detained during the Marcos dictatorship. Angelina Ipong of the Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) who was imprisoned by the Arroyo administration for six years gave a brief account of her ordeal and incarceration as documented in "Garden Behind Bars," a collection of Ipong's prison writing.

SELDA Secretary General Angie Ipong

Acosta, who is a poet, thespian, songwriter and former editor of the University of the Philippines’ student publication Philippine Collegian, was arrested by the military while conducting human rights research in Brgy. Bay-ang, San Jorge, Samar, last February 13. He is currently detained at the Calbayog sub-provincial jail.

A review petition was filed by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) September 1 at the DOJ, where National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) Executive Director Malou Jacob personally appeared to lend her support to the campaign to free Acosta. The petition states that the evidence against Acosta was planted and cited the military’s admission of human rights violations in the conduct of Acosta’s arrest and detention.

Acosta was brought to court for a scheduled arraignment last September 21 in Calbayog City. His legal counsel led by Atty. Jun Oliva of the (NUPL) moved to defer arraignment and proceedings pending the DOJ’s decision on the review petition.

Acosta is among the country’s political prisoners, numbering 354 as of August 2011. Human rights groups led by KARAPATAN and SELDA appeal to President Aquino to free all political prisoners through a general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty declaration.

National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera

National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera leads call to free Ericson Acosta

Concerned Artists of the Philippines, October 14, 2011

On the 8th month of Ericson Acosta's incarceration, a gathering of artists and cultural workers, led by National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) was held today, October 14 at the National Commission for Culture and the Arts lobby, to press for Acosta's immediate release.

"Ericson should be granted freedom immediately so he can continue his work as an artist and as a cultural worker, " said Renan Ortiz, CAP spokesperson.

Acosta is a poet, songwriter, thespian, journalist and cultural worker. He was a former editor of the Philippine Collegian and culture writer of the Manila Times. As an artist and activist, he chose to work with the poor and the oppressed. On February 13, 2011, he was arrested while conducting human rights research. He was accompanied by a barangay official and was carrying only a laptop and some personal belongigs at the time of his arrest. He was detained in a military camp and subjected to 44- hours of interrogation with only two hours of sleep. He was levied with a trumped-up charge of illegal possession of explosive to justify his arrest and continued detention.

Actress Bibeth Orteza read her letter to Ericson Acosta
According to CAP Secretary-General and painter Neil Doloricon: "Even behind bars, Ericson surmounts the prison walls that try to curtail the creative prowess in him. A determined and committed artist, in pursuing one’s dream of a meaningful change in society, will try to survive the challenges in life that get in the way . The prison cell for Ericson has become a virtual studio for his literary and musical undertakings and he even shares his talent to his cellmates and wardens."
"Ang sining ni Ericson Acosta ay matatag na nakatuntong sa lipunan natin at ang liwanag na dulot nito ay dapat lamang suportahan ng pamahalaan na naglalayon unawain ang mga problema ng sambayanan," said Lumbera.

Ericson is among the 360 political prisoners in the country today, 77 of whom, including Ericson were arrested and detained under the new administration.
Cases of illegal detention continue to increase under the younger Aquino's administration. This has been the situation even with the past administration of Corazon Aquino's granting of unconditional amnesty to political prisoners after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship, and P-Noy's approval of conditional amnesty to 400 alleged rebel soldiers.

TV actor and CAP board member Nanding Josef expressed: There are two things P-Noy and this present administration can do to improve the Filipino people's trust in them and prove that they're different from all the past national leaders: one, to immediately put behind bars all the shameless, greedy, corrupt, self-serving leaders who committed crimes against the poor by stealing everything that rightfully belongs to people; and two, to free all political prisoners, like Ericson Acosta, whose only crime is to side with the poor, to fight for their rights, to protect them from the abuses of the criminals who pass off as public servants, and to educate them on how to liberate themselves from the long years of deprivation and exploitation by a society that has continuously allowed big time thieves to get away with their crimes, but allows self-sacrificing people's heroes to rot in jail."

"P-Noy and his men and women can choose to be remembered in Philippine history as the just and fearless leaders who put the true criminals in jail, and set the real heroes free. We the people, will wait and see," said Josef.

Painter Egai Fernandez

To show their solidarity with the campaign to free Ericson Acosta and all political prisoners, artists and cultural workers, tore down symbolic iron bars to reveal a huge banner with the calls "Free the Artist! Free Ericson Acosta! Free All Political Prisoners!" Artists affixed their names and signatures on the banner to signify their support.

Doloricon added:
"The Aquino regime should instead imprison those who block fundamental change and those who are fetters in developing a truly nationalist, popular and pro-people culture that signify the interests and aspirations of the Filipino people. (There is ) no doubt that Ericson will soon be free not only because he’s not guilty of any crime committed but also because he does not deserve this kind of treatment from a government which is supposed to protect and nurture the talents among its people."

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