In February 2013, 40-year old poet and Amnesty International activist Ericson Acosta has more reason to celebrate other than his freedom from his unjust detention. A few days after the Philippine Justice Department decided to drop the trumped-up charges against him, Ericson witnessed the awarding of a silver medal to his only son, 10-year old Emmanuel, who won in a division-wide Math competition in Pasig City, Metro Manila.
Arrested by military troops in February 2011, Acosta was interrogated for 44 hours on 2 hours sleep and threatened with death. He was then charged with being a member of the once banned Communist Party and later, with the illegal possession of explosives. In August 2011, Amnesty International called for the release of Acosta as a Prisoner of Conscience. In his statement after being released, Acosta thanked his supporters, including Amnesty International, and called for the release of the rest of political prisoners in the Philippines.
While we can celebrate the release of a single Prisoner of Conscience, let’s not forget that the current state of human rights in the Philippines still remains dire:
- 430 political prisoners continue to be imprisoned under false accusations of committing various criminal acts. In December 2012 alone, 28 civilians were arbitrarily arrested by the military on trumped up criminal charges.
- Extrajudicial killings particularly of indigenous peoples including the case of Juvy Capion and her two sons age 13 and 8 years old of the B’laan tribe
- Ongoing impunity over the 2008 disappearance of indigenous leader James Balao
- Continued implementation of Executive Order 546, which institutionalizes paramiltary groups and their operations despite the clamor of human rights victims and their families to dismantle such groups
When running for President, Benigno Aquino ran on a platform of upholding human rights. His party said that “human rights are a powerful weapon for social transformation”. With the upcoming Senatorial elections in May, Aquino, his party and his government must remember their election promises and continue to uphold human rights.
Nerve Macaspac, Amnesty International USA Country Specialist for the Philippines, contributed to this post.