“After more than one year, it has been proven that the charges, which caused my detention for almost two years, were baseless.” – Ericson Acosta
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Still recovering from a recent kidney operation, poet and songwriter Ericson Acosta was all smiles after receiving the good news that he had been waiting for.
After more than a year, the Department of Justice (DOJ) finally acted on the petition for review filed by Acosta’s lawyers and issued a resolution reversing their decision on the existence of probable cause and dismissing the charge of illegal possession of explosives.
Friends and supporters immediately went to his hospital room at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) this afternoon to celebrate. Acosta’s parents Isaias and Liwayway and his wife Kerima Lorena Tariman were with him.
“After more than one year, it has been proven that the charges, which caused my detention for almost two years, were baseless,” Acosta said in an interview with Bulatlat.com.
Acosta was arrested on February 13, 2011 in Bay-ang village, San Jorge, Samar by elements of the 34th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army. He was detained at the Calbayog City Sub-Provincial Jail in Western Samar. He has been flown to Manila this month after the court granted him temporary release on humanitarian grounds.
In its 15-page resolution, the DOJ said “numerous irregularities have transpired in the arrest, detention and turn-over of respondent Acosta to the police authorities, which leads us to seriously doubt the validity of the charges against him.”
“[T]he instant petition for review is hereby granted. The Provincial Prosecutor of Samar is hereby directed to file the appropriate motion to withdraw the information against Ericson Acosta,” the petition, signed Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, read.
Acosta’s lawyers from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) welcomed the DOJ resolution.
“We hail the resolution as it finally officially exposed the trumped-up charge of illegal detention against our client who has suffered a gross injustice,” Julian Oliva Jr. and Edre Olalia of the NUPL said in a statement. “Somehow, it brings some renewed hope again that dogged pursuit of justice and persistent efforts to right a wrong can still be rewarded ultimately.”
Acosta’s father Isaias, 79, was more than relieved to hear the news. The old man had just come from a medical checkup at the same hospital this morning. “Our struggle for his freedom has been long,” the teary-eyed older Acosta said.
“We want to be with our son for the remaining days of our lives,” the older Acosta said.
In a statement, the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP), welcomed the DOJ’s resolution. “This victory is the result of a long and persistent struggle by Acosta’s family, friends, fellow activists, artists and human rights advocates against such political persecution and suppression. It affirms that the military has erred in bringing on false charges and violated basic human rights,” visual artist Renan Ortiz, spokesperson of CAP, said.
Free all political prisoners
As Acosta thanked his friends and supporters who campaigned for his release, he also urged them “to continue our efforts for the release of all political prisoners.”
According to human rights group Karapatan, there are 398 political prisoners in the country, at least 123 of whom were arrested under the Aquino administration.
The NUPL shared the same sentiment. “We hope that the many who are politically persecuted, thrown in jail on false or fabricated charges through legal shortcuts and hocus-pocus, and made to indefinitely wait in anguish will get their own well-deserved freedom,” the human rights lawyers said.
Acosta called on Malacañang to declare a general, omnibus amnesty for all political prisoners.
Acosta expressed alarm that more activists are arrested and slapped with spurious charges. He also criticized the Aquino administration for putting a bounty for alleged members of the Communist Party of the Philippines. “Anyone may be charged and detained because of the bounty.”
The Aquino administration put out a P466.88 million ($11.38 million) reward for the capture of 235 alleged communist leaders through Joint Order No. 14-2012 of the Department of National Defense and Department of Interior and Local Government (DND-DILG). The list has not been made public.
“While we are happy, celebrating my freedom, we need to continue our efforts for the release of all political prisoners,” Acosta said.
In support of the call to free the artist and free all political prisoners, CAP announced it is organizing a global event for people’s rights entitled Artists Break the Chains: Global Action to Defend People’s Culture on February 20.
The group said many other artists are still in jail for their political beliefs, including poet and painter Alan Jazmines, UP film student Maricon Montajes and, union organizer and writer Randy Vegas.
In the same vein, Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano also called on Justice Secretary Leila De Lima to consider reviewing the cases of detained peasants and order their release.
Mariano cited the following cases:
Felicidad Caparal of Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) who was arrested on February 5, 2009 in Lavezares, Northern Samar and now detained at the Dangcalan Provincial Jail in Northern Samar.
Dario Tomada, a peasant leader in Eastern Visayas and former national council member of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas who was arrested on July 22, 2010 and now detained at the Manila City Jail.
Antipolo 4 namely Jonathan Doroja, Leonardo Ocampo, Roberto Ocampo, Dulcismo Anaiasco of Katipunan ng Samahang Magsasaka (KASAMA-Rizal) They are detained in the Rizal Provincial Jail in Taytay, Rizal since 2004 and accused of various fabricated charges.
Jose Perez, Jaime Lambergo, Santiago Antipuesto, and Romulo Villanueva, also known as Cadiz 4. They were arrested by RPA-ABB elements on July 5, 2008 in Brgy. Bonifacio, Cadiz, Negros Occidental. They are currently detained at the Cadiz Provincial Jail.
Buenavista 5 namely Antonio Sanchez, Ruben Busalanan, Edwin Lofranco, Rodrigo Mejias and Elpidio Tagsip, farmers from Buenavista, Bohol. They were charged with multiple murder by the military. They are in jail since February 3, 2003 or almost a decade now.