We at the Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines in United Kingdom are deeply concerned with the Philippine government’s seeming lack of interest on reported irregularities and rights abuses in the conduct of the arrest and continued illegal detention of Filipino artist Ericson Acosta.
Acosta was arrested without warrant on 13 February 2011 in San Jorge, Samar. Government soldiers nabbed him in an upland militarized village where Acosta was conducting research on the local human rights and environmental situation in the region. According to Acosta’s counter-affidavit, he stayed in a military camp for three days where he was interrogated and tortured for 44 hours straight. Illegal possession of explosives was charged against him to justify his illegal arrest. He is currently detained at the Calbayog sub-provincial jail where troopers from the 8th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army has camped-out within the jail premises, causing sustained harassment and intimidation to Acosta, his family and visitors.
Acosta has made direct complaints and appeals to visiting local officers of the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights (PCHR) in the Eastern Visayas. These PCHR officers bore direct witness to the highly-irregular military deployment within the civilian detention facility. However, the PCHR has failed to make any report public, more so to publicly condemn these rights abuses.
A Petition for Review which cites serious irregularities and rights abuses was filed by Acosta’s counsel, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) before the Philippines’ Department of Justice (PDOJ) in September 2011. Acosta’s complainants have failed to file any comment on this petition. Without such opposition, the review petition should have been resolved within 60 days. However, upon inquiry at the PDOJ, resolution to the said petition is still currently pending. The NUPL has recently filed a motion for the immediate resolution of the review.
No less than the alternate voice of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, spokesperson Edwin Lacierda has told local reporters that “there are no political prisoners” in the Philippines. When asked about government response to the plight of Acosta and some 350 other detainees incarcerated because of their political beliefs, the President’s spokesperson can only offer empty rhetoric. This indifference has brought very real suffering to detainees like Acosta and their families.
We urge concerned Philippine authorities, especially the PDOJ to act without delay on Ericson Acosta’s review petition and effect his immediate release. His rights continue to be violated each day he remains incarcerated. Consequently, reported rights abuses and irregularities must be thoroughly investigated and acted upon.
Indeed, it has become disturbing to observe how a government led by the son of a revered political prisoner and democracy icon could turn a blind eye to the plight of Ericson Acosta and other political detainees in the Philippines.
Rev Canon Barry Naylor
Honorary President – Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines (CHRP-UK)
Urban Canon and Parish Priest of the Abbey and Holy Spirit Ministries, Leicester