(WiPC/IFEX) - The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International is seriously concerned about the prolonged detention of poet, journalist and activist Ericson Acosta, who has been held without trial since February 2011. PEN International fears that he may be targeted for his legitimate human rights activities, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release if held solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed under Article 19 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, ratified by the Philippines.
According to PEN's information, Acosta (39) is a poet, songwriter and activist. He is a former editor of the student publication "Philippine Collegian", and chairperson of the student cultural group Alay Sinin. He also worked as cultural writer for the "Manila Times", and has acted in and directed a number of theatre plays. On 13 February 2011, Acosta was arrested by the military, in San Jorge, Samar, in the eastern part of the country, on suspicion of being a member of the New People's Army (NPA). At the time of his arrest, Acosta was said to be unarmed and conducting research on human rights and environmental issues in the area. He was reportedly held incommunicado for three days, during which he was ill-treated, tortured and threatened with death. On 16 February 2011, a charge of illegal possession of explosives was filed against Acosta at the Regional Trial Court Branch 41 in Gandara, Western Samar. Under Philippine law, this is a non-bailable offence. Acosta remains in custody pending action by the investigating prosecutor. Under Philippine law, the time limit from an arraignment to trial is set at 180 days by the Speedy Trial Act (RA 8493). However, over one year after Acosta's arrest and arraignment, the prosecutor has yet to file a formal complaint to the court.
Acosta is currently detained at the Calbayog sub-provincial jail, which is a civilian detention facility. Since Acosta's arrest, there has been a constant presence of officers from the 8th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army outside the prison, who reportedly intimidate his family and other visitors. His defense team filed a complaint about this matter before the Philippines' Commission on Human Rights (PCHR), but has received no response. In September, Acosta filed a petition for a review of his case before the Philippines' Department of Justice (PDOJ), alleging irregularities and rights abuses. Despite the 60 days deadline to respond to the petition, the PDOJ's decision remains pending.
While in prison, Acosta has continued to write and to give press interviews. The Philippines PEN Centre has been active in supporting his case.
Please send appeals:
- expressing serious concern for the prolonged detention without trial of poet, journalist and activist Ericson Acosta
- calling for his immediate and unconditional release if held solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed under Article 19 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, ratified by the Philippines
His Excellency Benigno Simeon Aquino III
Republic of the Philippines
Fax: +63 2 735 6167
E-mail: [email protected]
Hon. Leila M. De Lima
Secretary, Department of Justice (DOJ)
Padre Faura Street
Ermita, Manila, 1000
Fax: +63 2 523 9548
E-mail: [email protected] / [email protected]
**Please contact the PEN WiPC office in London if sending appeals after 30 April 2012**