Saturday, April 30, 2011

MIGRANTE Austria sinisingil si Noynoy sa kanyang mga pangako

2011 May Day Statement

We at MIGRANTE Austria honor and march with the working people of the world as we denounce a whole year of betrayal by President Benigno Aquino III.

Armed with a most welcome promise of change, Aquino was mandated by the people to drag the country out of the quagmire left behind by the 10-year rule of his predecessor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He made sweet promises on his 10-point agenda declaring that we, the people, are his „boss“. But instead of delivering on his promises, he has outrightly neglected the Filipino people’s issues and legitimate demands in his first year of his term.

As a candidate for President, Aquino talked big about prosecuting and holding Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo accountable for plunder and gross human rights violations. Now in office, Aquino continues many of the policies of Arroyo’s and other previous governments as the socio-economic and human rights situation in the country further deteriorates.

Facts and figures are available to prove this. But when a third of the country's 94 million people remain in deep poverty and their numbers continue to grow by the day, statistics are hardly necessary. We know and experience it in our daily lives.

The costs of basic commodities and services in the country continue to rise and 4.1 million families -- have gone hungry at least once in the past three months (SocialWeatherStation poll, March 2011).

According to the National Statistics Office (NSO) there are about 2.86 million unemployed and 6.76 million Filipinos underemployed as of 2010. The daily minimum wage of Php404 is just 2/5 of the estimated average family living wage (FLW) of Php988 in the National Capital Region (NCR) as of March 2011. Despite of this, Aquino refused to legislate a P125 (USD 2.71) daily wage increase across the board and is instead leaving up the matter to the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board – a cheap way to shirk responsibility.

Owing to the Labor Export Policy implemented by previous governments in the last four decades, more than 20% of the 36-million Philippine work force is deployed abroad at a high social cost (including family separations, various forms of maltreatment in host countries). The so-called Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who remit the dollars that fuel the Philippines' economy are hailed as the country’s present-day heroes but the government hardly pays more than lip service to their rights and welfare. The government does not have a system for the repatriation of OFWs in crisis-struck countries and has neither the will nor the capacity to reabsorb them into the local work force.

Rep. Rafael Mariano of Party-list, Anakpawis stressed "If only the government will protect the local industries from smuggling, global competition and trade liberalization policy, then unemployment and underemployment will not be a cause of concern."

Indeed, Aquino has chosen to pursue a policy of subservience to foreign dictates. In fact, thousands of urban poor families have been displaced through violent demolition of their homes, public transportation fares have been hiked, and value added tax has been imposed on expressways -- all in the name of the public-private partnership program pushed by the World Bank. Large scale foreign mining projects that give foreign companies a high return on their investments cause environmental destruction and damage to human lives and human rights violations. It is also to meet the conditionality of the World Bank that Aquino stopped rice subsidies via the National Food Authority and created the Conditional Cash Transfer, a dole-out program prone to corruption by government officials at all levels.

Not surprisingly, the dictates of imperial power go beyond socio-economic policy. The Visiting Forces Agreement with the USA continues to be in force. Aquino has reneged on its promise to review said Agreement containing provisions that compromise the country’ s sovereignty. Only several days ago, on the occasion of the visit of 2 US senators to the country, he started sounding off to the nation the possibility of the return of US forces in the country’s "former" US bases.

Furthermore, in accordance with the US Counter-Insurgency Strategy for the Philippines, Aquino implements measures that violate the human rights of our already-suffering people. He extended Arroyo’s military campaign upon taking office in June 2010 and launched at the beginning of 2011 his own Oplan Bayanihan which likewise seeks to silence voices of dissent specially in the countryside where peasants and farmers fighting for their basic rights to the soil they till. Harassment, abductions, illegal arrests, trumped-up charges torture and other forms of human rights violations continue unabated throughout the country and the human rights watchdog KARAPATAN documented more than 40 cases of extrajudicial killings during Aquino’s first year in power.

We can fill a book, we can fill a lot of books, to show that Aquino, in his first year, was not eager to make the government work on behalf of the laborer, the farmer and the urban poor, the small businessman and has waisted a good part of his time mismanaging the crises that came his way. He has not proven that he can be trusted to look out for the interests of the Filipino people. And there is no indication that the situation will change for the better within his term. He is not into the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines to achieve peace based on social justice. He is not for the implementation of genuine land reform, as one can see from his handling of the dispute over his family’s Hacienda Luisita. He must have the willingness to assert national independence and adopt an economic development program based on national industrialization and enlightened social policies.

We believe that only the united action of all working people will bring the much-needed change in the key areas of our lives. Your solidarity and support give us enormous strength to press on in our struggle

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Friday, April 29, 2011

The "wedding of the century" is a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing

Vantage Point -- By Luis V. Teodoro

A royal pain

With the 21st century so young, the media are already calling the April 29 event "The wedding of the century." The British media’s focus on the wedding of William Windsor and Catherine Middleton is understandable.

There may be a republican movement in Britain that detests the monarchy and wants it abolished, but there are enough monarchists out there to merit -- if that’s the word -- the kind of breathless attention such conservative papers as London’s Daily Mail have been paying to the run-up to and the actual wedding of two unremarkable people who, if the groom were not second in the line of succession to the British throne, the world would have no reason to notice.

Not that even that really matters, monarchies being relics of a feudal era, anachronisms that have no place in a world in turmoil. For some reason, however, it does seem to matter even to the US media, which are devoting twice as much time, space, and humanpower to the event as the British media. And yet, a New York Times survey found that only six percent of US people have been following the media puffery over the engagement, the wedding and their tiniest details, and are likely to be interested in watching the pomp and circumstance of April 29 via the major TV networks and the Web.

In the Philippines, where there’s no earthly reason why audiences should be interested, print and broadcast as well as the Internet news sites have been similarly hyping the event and are threatening to deluge Filipinos with the same mindless trivia the Western media are grinding out.

One suspects it’s because Philippine media’s mostly Western sources have been flooding them with stories on such earthshaking topics as Ms. Middleton’s weight and diet, her taste in clothes and her work, together with reports on how she and Mr. Windsor met, where they’re going to live, and the supposedly raging debate on whether she should continue working or devote her time to her "royal duties" full time.

And what would those duties be, pray tell? At her level, they’re mostly likely to consist of cutting the ribbon to dog shows, although she could also join Mr. Windsor’s grandmother, Elizabeth, in those handshaking and head-nodding sorties among her "subjects" the British call "walkabouts."

Whatever duties the British monarchy has are supposedly ceremonial, which is true, up to a point. But British republicans point out that as British head of state, Elizabeth Windsor (aka Elizabeth II) also has, among others, the following powers: that of choosing the prime minister, dissolving Parliament, dismissing the governments of other countries of which she is also head of state, rejecting laws passed by Parliament, pardoning criminals, and declaring a state of emergency.

These powers are supposedly exercised in consultation with, and with the consent of, the government, but in the absence of a written constitution, the head of state, in this case Elizabeth, can influence the thinking of prime ministers, who, in any case, determine the extent to which they will allow the monarch to influence policy making. Most have only been too happy to heed the monarch’s views.

Some members of Parliament have also admitted to a tendency not to raise too many questions about such issues as the finances of the so-called royal family, among other reasons because no one can be a member of Parliament without taking an oath to "be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and her successors, according to law, so help me God." In short, says John Pratt of the Centre for Citizenship, members of Parliament "must declare their loyalty to an unelected, unaccountable individual with no democratic legitimacy, and to any and all members of her family!"

Republicans argue that this requirement either bars people who don’t believe in the monarchy from serving in Parliament, or compels them to lie if they do take the oath. What’s more, only the Windsors, solely on the strength of their hereditary prerogatives, can ever be heads of state, unlike in other parliamentary democracies where a president is either elected by Parliament or at large by the people. The result, says Pratt, is to reserve the office of head of state for one family and to deny it to others, thus making democracy a farce.

For the feudal privilege of having people they may call "Queen," "Prince," "Duke," etc., the British taxpayer spends some 110 million pounds (approximately $200 million) a year to pay for the palaces, stables, fleets of cars, first-class travel, living allowances, staff of 1,000, etc., to which the "royals" are "entitled."

As to the claim that the monarchy unites the country, the antics -- some critics say the philistinism and intellectual vacuity -- of some Windsors have actually done the opposite. During World War II, some of the Windsors -- a German house renamed only in 1915 -- were sympathetic to Hitler, for example. William Windsor’s father Charles, first in line to succeed Elizabeth Windsor as British head of state, supported apartheid when practically the entire planet and most Britons were opposed to it. Charles’ own "fairy tale" wedding to Diana Spencer and his affair with his current wife while she was still alive, not to mention Diana’s own affairs, were themselves a scandal that to this day still invites acrimonious debate.

"Fairy tale" is indeed the key phrase in the media to-do over the William Windsor-Catherine Middleton wedding. Not only is it a tale told to divert people from the realities of a changing world, it is also a tale lived by people who have absolutely no understanding or even knowledge of what’s happening in it, one indication being the Windsors’ enduring friendships with such tyrants as the king of Bahrain, whom they have invited to the April 29 wedding.

The "wedding of the century" is a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing. And yet the Philippine media, mesmerized by their counterparts in the West, are inflicting and will continue to inflict on Filipino audiences this Saturday (Friday in Britain) that very same tale. In the process they deny space and time to the reporting of events that do matter to the lives of the millions who must cope with inflation, poverty, hunger, violence, fear, corruption in high places, and the media’s own enduring inability to distinguish between what matters and what doesn’t.

Comments and other columns:

Bawal sa batas na gabi mag-demolish

'Demolition by night' riles Caloocan settlers
Posted at 04/28/2011 10:19 AM | Updated as of 04/28/2011 1:50 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Residents of Barangay 182, Zone 16, Pangarap Village in Caloocan protested an alleged illegal demolition in their barangay, which left two people wounded by gunfire Wednesday night.

Armed security guards opened fire at the vehicles in the barangay, hitting two of the residents. One was identified as Dino Cabaldo.

Residents believed the demolition was illegal.

“Harassment na ito. Wala naman silang maipakita na court order,” said Barangay Captain Eusebio Palmario of Brgy. 182.

“Bawal sa batas na gabi mag-demolish,” he added.

Police arrived on the scene to restore order in the area but no arrests were made. The armed men immediately fled the scene.

Police will continue to monitor the barangay to prevent any more untoward incidents. -- Report by Jeck Batallones, ABS-CBN News

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mga call center agents sasama sa Labor Day protest

BPO workers gear up for May 1 solidarity actions

Because BPO workers, more commonly known as call center agents, have several job-related concerns, they will meet with the Kabataan Partylist in order to gear up for solidarity actions on May 1.

Their concerns include job security, the right to association, occupational safety and job-related health issues.

In an interview with GMA News Online, Marben Romero, a former training manager at Sitel — an outsourcing firm that deals in technical and customer service accounts — described the main issues call center agents face these days.

“A call center agent’s main concerns these days are: One, job security. Many agents can be let go when accounts get terminated. And things are in constant flux in the BPO industry," he said.

“Two, health concerns. Due to the lifestyle — improper nutrition, eating too much junk food, adjusting to the night shift, irresponsible sex lives — a lot of agents put their own health at risk," Romero said.

“Also, speaking of the night shift, getting home safely can be a concern. It can be a dangerous world out there, man," he added.

BPO agents who wish to take solidarity actions on Labor Day and thus make their concerns known may want to attend a meeting Wednesday at the UP Diliman College of Mass Communications Auditorium at 10 a.m.

The meeting will be between BPO agents and Kabataan Partylist chaired by Rep. Raymond V. Palatino. — With Aya Yuson/VS, GMA News

Monday, April 25, 2011

CHR report on Melissa Roxas practically clears AFP in torture -- Bayan

Related Links:
  1. Affidavit of Melissa Roxas
  2. CHR Resolution Protects Torturers, Torments Victims
  3. CHR Reso on Fil-Am Activist:"NPA Abduction Theory" is Illogical Says Militant Group

News Release
April 24, 2011

CHR report on Melissa Roxas practically clears AFP in torture -- Bayan

The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan today slammed the Commission on Human Rights resolution on the case of the abduction and torture of Fil-Am activist Melissa Roxas. The group said that the report “practically clears the AFP of any wrongdoing”.

“We are very disappointed with the report. This seems to be a departure from the investigation initiated by the former CHR chair. The resolution says that there is insufficient evidence to lay responsibility for Melissa’s abduction and torture on the AFP. This is despite Melissa’s credible and detailed testimony,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“The resolution is an embarrassment for the CHR. It’s also a great injustice after Melissa fully cooperated with the probe of the Commission. This tends to discourage victims seeking the CHR’s help,” he added.

Roxas, a member of BAYAN’s United States chapter, was abducted in La Paz, Tarlac on May 19, 2009 along with John Edward Jandoc and Juanito Carabeo. She was held for several days and subjected to various forms of torture on allegations that she’s a member of the New People’s Army.

In its findings, the CHR said that there is insufficient evidence to support the claim of torture because there was not enough evidence to determine the identities of the abductors. The CHR says torture includes the elements of State party and agents.

“In the light of the lack of evidence against the persons who inflicted the physical and psychological maltreatment on the complainant, it is not possible for the Commission to reach any findings on torture, the definition of which includes elements of State party or agent and certain intentions, purposes and motivations,” the CHR resolution said.

“There is, however enough evidence to find that complainant has suffered cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment by persons unknown," the CHR added.

Insufficient evidence against AFP

“As regards the complainant’s belief and allegations that members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines forcibly took Melissa Roxas and companions from Mr. Paulo’s house in Tarlac on May 19, held her in captivity and subjected her to physical and mental maltreatment: there is insufficient evidence to support this conclusion, and insufficient evidence to pinpoint individual members of the AFP as the possible or probable perpetrators,”

“The CHR has received information that indicates the possibility that members of the NPA committed the kidnapping and other human rights violations on Roxas et al. These sources have been found to be credible. However, no specific names of individuals have been provided to the CHR, thus the Commission, with its limited resources, is unable to further follow up and identify specific persons as the possible perpetrators,” the report said.

The report also said that “given the findings that present strong indication of involvement of the members of the New People’s Army as the perpetrators of the human rights violations against the complainant, there is a need to remind the parties of …the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law” which was signed by the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

Bayan decried as “gratuitous, illogical and unsubstantiated” the CHR’s statement that sources pointing the NPA’s involvement were “credible”. The group questioned the basis of how the CHR came to the conclusion that the “findings present strong indication of the involvement of the NPA.”

“The CHR practically clears the AFP and misleads the public to believe the NPA abducted Melissa, without even presenting a shred of evidence and with total disregard for the detailed testimony of the victim. Nowhere in the report does it offer any detail, let alone motive, for the NPA to abduct Melissa,” Reyes said.

Bayan said that the line of questioning by Melissa’s captors during her detention and torture make it “illogical” to pin the blame on the NPA. The umbrella group said that the line of questioning, as detailed in Roxas affidavit, was consistent with how the military interogates activists suspected of being NPA members.

“During detention, accordng to her testimony, Melissa was forced to sign a document saying she’s NPA and was repeatedly asked to return to the fold of the law. She was asked how she got involved in Bayan USA and was lectured on anti-communism and religion. She was told she was in the “order of battle”. She was only released when she played along with her captors’ demand that she will reform. Is this the work of the NPA? It simply defies logic. What is the motive of the NPA for abducting her? Why does the CHR give this theory any credibility?” Reyes asked.

In her testimony, Roxas said she got a glimpse of men wearing fatigue uniform, heard gunfire as if in a firing range, and heard the sound of aircraft as if near an airport or landing strip. She also said she was confined in a facility that appeared to be a barracks that had iron bars.

“Isn’t it the AFP who has the motive for abducting Melissa, because of her leftist involvement? Why was Melissa’s detailed account of her interogation simply disregarded? Why not pursue the investigation as to theinvolvement of the AFP instead of clearing them,” Reyes said.

“The CHR makes a big deal about so-called non-state actors involved in Melissa’s abduction yet offers not a shred of evidence. After practically clearing the AFP, the CHR then says it cannot determine the identities of the abductors because it has neither manpower nor resources,” he added.

Bayan said that the AFP alibi that human rights violations against leftists were the handiwork of the NPA has already been discredited years ago.

“The line that the NPA did the human rights violations against leftist activists has long been discredited. It was rejected by the Melo Commission and by the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Philip Alston. It is a surprise then that the CHR again resurrects this worn out and discredited line. It’s an injustice to Melissa and other victims of torture who are unable to identify their torturers hidden in the shadows,” Reyes said. ###

April 25, 2011

Contact: Rhonda Ramiro
BAYAN-USA Secretary General

CHR Resolution Protects Torturers, Torments Victims

"This is a cover-up," stated BAYAN-USA Chair Bernadette Ellorin in response to the release of a Resolution by the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR) on the case of the abduction and torture of Filipino American Melissa Roxas on May 19, 2009. The result of an investigation begun on the 25th of May 2009, the CHR's report cites copious evidence gathered through public inquiries, expert witnesses, inspections of the abduction site and military facilities where Roxas was possibly held, and sworn statements by Roxas herself, yet concludes that "In light of the lack of evidence against the persons who inflicted the physical and psychological maltreatment on the complainant, it is not possible for the Commission to reach any findings on torture" in Roxas' case.

"With this single report, the CHR has virtually erased any progress made in its 1-1/2 year investigation into this case by the previous CHR chair. It appears that now the CHR is more concerned with covering up the crimes of the Philippine military than with uncovering the truth about human rights violations in the country," said Ellorin.

The first American citizen to be abducted and tortured under the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Roxas is a well-known Filipino American human rights advocate and was BAYAN-USA's first Regional Coordinator in Los Angeles, CA and a founding member of the Los Angeles-based cultural organization Habi Arts. In her sworn affidavit and testimony provided in several court appearances and CHR Public Inquiries in 2009, Roxas described in detail the ordeal she experienced at the hands of the Philippine military: being abducted by approximately 15 armed men, handcuffed and blindfolded for six days, held in a jail cell, subjected to torture via asphyxiation using a doubled-up plastic bag, repeated beatings to the face and body, and having her head banged repeatedly against the wall by her interrogators, who tried to force her to admit that she was a member of the New People's Army and advised her abandon communism and to "return to the fold." Roxas said that one interrogator stated those who tortured her were from the Special Operations Group (SOG), and she heard one of her interrogators addressed as "Sir." She also heard gunfire from what she believed to be a firing range as well as the sounds of aircraft, pointing to the high probability that she was held in a military camp.

By its own admission, the CHR report states that Roxas provided exceptionally consistent and detailed descriptions of the torture she underwent, the place she was held, and the physical appearance of five people involved in her abduction and detention, indicating that Roxas' testimony is extremely credible. However, the CHR report still concludes that it has "insufficient evidence to pinpoint individual members of the AFP as the possible or probably perpetrators."

Moreover, the CHR report dares to shift the blame from the Philippine military to the New People's Army (NPA). "The CHR has received information that indicate the possibility that members of the NPA committed the kidnapping, and other human rights violations on Roxas," states the resolution on page 20. In response, Ellorin said, "By making such blanket accusations without providing a speck of evidence, the CHR under President Aquino is showing that it is no different from the Philippine Presidential Human Rights Commission (PHRC) under Arroyo, which tried to dismiss Melissa's traumatic ordeal by saying that it was fabricated. Falling for information like this is laughable, especially considering that Melissa's captors tried to force her to admit she was an NPA member. Even worse, the CHR resolution opportunistically supports the Aquino government's counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, which is attempting to demonize the NPA while duping the public into believing that the AFP is a peace-making force."

International human rights advocates such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings have repeatedly criticized the Philippine government's cover-up of state-sponsored torture. "This CHR resolution perpetuates the culture of impunity that reigns in the Philippines. There is still no justice for the innocent women and journalists slaughtered in the Maguindanao Massacre in 2009, not one perpetrator has been apprehended in the cases of thousands of cases of extra-judicial killings, nor the abduction and torture of people like Melissa Roxas and the Morong 43 health workers," said Ellorin.

"The CHR resolution will just add fuel to the fire of the Justice for Melissa campaign," continued Ellorin. "While the CHR under Aquino lacks the political will to uphold human rights, BAYAN-USA and Melissa's supporters will persist in pursuing justice for Melissa through all vehicles available to us in the U.S."

The timing of the release of the CHR Resolution comes as the U.S. Congress enters the final weeks of a contentious budget battle, expected by both Democrats and Republicans to result in hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to essential public services. BAYAN-USA calls on the U.S. Congress and Obama administration to stop pouring millions of American taxpayer dollars into the Philippine military, which tortures and kills innocent people under the tacit protection of the so-called Commission on Human Rights.

BAYAN-USA is an alliance of 14 progressive Filipino American organizations in the U.S. representing organizations of students, scholars, women, workers, and youth. As an international chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Philippines), BAYAN-USA serves as an information bureau for the national democratic movement of the Philippines and as a campaign center for anti-imperialist Filipinos in the U.S.

April 25, 2011

BAYAN Philippines

CHR Reso on Fil-Am Activist:"NPA Abduction Theory" is Illogical Says Militant Group

The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan slammed the Commission on Human Rights for saying that Fil-Am activist Melissa Roxas may have been abducted by the New People's Army and not the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

"This assertion is misleading and practically clears the AFP of any liability. The resolution is a big blow against human rights and will only serve to embolden future torturers," said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

"The claim that the NPA abducted Melissa is illogical and does not conform to facts and circumstances of the case. Melissa was abducted by armed men, on suspicion she was an NPA rebel. She was forced to sign a document admitting she was an NPA rebel. She was repeatedly asked to return to the fold of the law. She was even told she was in the "order of battle". How then can the CHR give credence to the claim that the NPA abducted Melissa? It defies common sense," Reyes said.

Bayan said that the detailed testimony of Roxas was apparently not considered by the CHR in its resolution.

"In cases of torture, the best evidence and testimony come from the survivor. However, instead of following up on the leads provided by Melissa's testimony, the CHR got so-called 'credible sources' pointing to the NPA's involvement. Yet neither the CHR nor its sources provided a shred of evidence or even motive establishing that the NPA abducted Melissa," Reyes

"The CHR doesn't even think that what happened to Melissa was torture simply because she allegedly failed to establish the identities of her captors. This is truly an injustice and an affront to the victim,' Reyes added.

In her testimony, Roxas said she got a glimpse of men wearing fatigue uniform, heard gunfire as if in a firing range, and heard the sound of aircraft as if near an airport or landing strip. She also said she was confined in a facility that appeared to be a barracks that had iron bars.

"Isn't it the AFP who has the motive for abducting Melissa, because of her leftist involvement? Why was Melissa's detailed account of her interrogation simply disregarded? Why not pursue the investigation as to the involvement of the AFP instead of muddling the issue with an unfounded theory?" Reyes said.

"The CHR resolution tends to discourage victims of human rights violations from seeking the Commission's help," he added.

Roxas, who is in the US, is currently consulting with her lawyers and organization and is expected to issue a statement soon.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Does Ericson Acosta deserve the hot summer nights in a Calbayog provincial jail?

by Pablo A. Tariman
Sat 23rd April 2011
Source: Munting Nayon Netherlands
Related post: #1 Prison Diary

There are many things my grandson, Emmanuel Tariman Acosta, didn’t know about his father, Ericson Acosta.

My grandson didn’t know that his father acted in several theater productions at the University of the Philippines (UP), including the UP Repertory Company’s “Sa Sariling Bayan” directed by Soxy Topacio; Dulaang UP’s “Green Bird,” directed by the late Ogie Juliano; and “Monumento,” which his father wrote and directed. By coincidence, Ericson also played the lead role of Andres Bonifacio in this multi-media production by the UP Alay Sining.

Ericson’s love affair with theater was understandable. He took a crash course in theater arts with PETA in his elementary school days; he was active in the UST high school theater group and reorganized the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) while EDSA 2 was unfolding.

After his term as editor of the University of the Philippines (UP) Collegian where he was also editor of its Literary Folio, my grandson’s father had stints as segment writer for ABS-CBN’s Wanted TV Patrol and assistant entertainment section editor of the Manila Times.

Two months ago on February 13 to be exact, something happened to my grandson’s father: members of the AFP’s 34th IB led by 2nd Lt. Jacob Madarang arrested him while doing research on the human rights situation in Samar province. He was unarmed and in the company of a local barangay official when he was arrested and note: without warrant. He was held for three days without charges and was subjected to continuous tactical interrogation by the military. Three days after arrest in which no charges was filed, he was finally charged with illegal possession of explosives to justify his detention in the Calbayog sub-provincial jail.

It took me close to two months before I could find the courage to break the news to my grandson. It was the month before the final exams and I didn’t want him carrying extra emotional burden. Emmanuel did very well during the exams in which he got grades ranging from 90 to 92 in all subjects. He was asked to join a dance number –yes, his first on the school stage -- during the recognition program. I thought it would be better to finish all the school events before I break the news to him.

But one day before the scheduled presscon last April 15 launching the Free Ericson Acosta Campaign spearheaded by former colleagues from the UP Philippine Collegian, UP Alay Sining and UP Amnesty International, as well as his former schoolmates from UST High School, my grandson asked: who was in jail and why did he keep on hearing lawyers and court hearings in my phone conversation?

I told him gently his father is closely guarded by soldiers and he couldn’t move around. I tried to avoid the words “arrest” and “jail.”

In the presscon, my grandson got everything from testimonials from people his father knew. Dr. Pilar Ocampo -- who taught at UST while Ericson was president of the UST Tanghalang Sto. Tomas – said the former Collegian editor was an active campus leader, well mannered and didn’t deserve to be in jail.

Then my grandson saw a video of his father playing the acoustic guitar inside the Calbayog jail. I thought my grandson winced and his grandmother was in tears.

Meanwhile, the cultural sector led by National Artists for Literature Bien Lumbera, actors Pen Medina and Nanding Josef, filmmaker Carlitos Siguion Reyna and UP Dean of Mass Communications Rolando Tolentino has rallied behind Ericson in a statement signed by signatories from the cultural sector, media and academe denouncing the illegal arrest of the former UP Collegian editor.

Said Lumbera: “Ericson deserves to be released for his continuing incarceration is a grievous loss to the growth of a truly democratic art and culture of the Filipino people."

Lumbera has known Acosta since his activist days in the university and has published favorable reviews for “Monumento” written and directed by Ericson.

Distinguished actor and former Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Vice President and Artistic Director Nanding Josef said: “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.’ I know him Ericson personally as a cultural worker. I am humbled by his sacrifices and his commitment to the poor. My accomplishments as an artist and cultural worker are nothing compared to his," Josef added.

In his counter-affidavit filed last April11 and signed by his counsel Atty. Julian F. Oliva, Jr., Ericson maintained that he was arrested without warrant and was not doing anything illegal during the arrest. On top of that, he was not informed of the reason for his arrest, he was denied the right to counsel and was denied to make calls to his family or lawyer and was subjected to prolonged interrogation for 44 hours.

Added Ericson in his counter-affidavit:
“During tactical interrogation, I was physically and psychologically tortured;

I was deprived of sleep, threatened, intimidated, coerced and forced to admit membership in the NPA; the evidence against me – the so-called grenade”, was planted.

The complaint against me was filed in court on after 72 hours and 30 minutes after my arrest.”

Meanwhile, Ericson has languished in the Samar jail for more than two months now.

Ericson’s family is preparing for a long and dragging legal battle.

To date, he is in jail writing his prison diaries.

By coincidence, my grandson watched Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s “Jose Rizal” last Holy Thursday on Channel 7. I knew there are some questions lurking in his mind: what was Rizal writing and why was he in jail? Why was he shot and what was his crime?

It was the same question he wanted to ask when he saw the sequence of Ronnie Lazaro (as the detained leader of a rebel group) in the teleserye, "Minsan Lang Kitang Iibigin" which is about a rebel and a PMA graduate who happen to be twins.

At age 8 and entering grade 3 only this coming school year, there are many things I couldn’t explain well to my grandson.

It’s Ericson’s birthday on May 27.

I told my grandson he can visit his father in that Samar jail before his father’s birthday.

“What do we bring?” he asked.

“Your father ordered electric fan and a rice cooker,” I answered.

“We can listen to the Calbayog school orchestra while we are there,” I added.

In my mind, this cultural worker (who happens to be my son-in-law) doesn’t deserve the hot summer nights in a Calbayog provincial jail.

(The author presents violinist Gina Medina and pianist Mary Anne Espina in a special fundraising concert for the legal fund of Ericson Acosta on Saturday, May 28, 2011, 6 p.m. at the Balay Kalinaw, UP campus, Diliman, Quezon City. Tickets at P1000 (with buffet dinner) and P500 (concert only). Tel. (02)7484152 or cell 09065104270)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Europe's Rising Islamophobia

Europe's Rising Islamophobia
by Paul Hockenos
Released: 21 Apr 2011
Source: Agence Global

Berlin -- With inspiring scenes of the Arab Spring on television for months, one might have expected images of democratic revolutions to punch a hole in the crude anti-Muslim stereotypes of Europe’s Islamophobes, those politicians and intellectuals who swear that Islam is totalitarian to its core. And if this alone didn’t dispel clichés of a monolithic, violent religion, then surely the vox pop of diaspora Egyptians, Tunisians and others on the nightly news -- university students, women who head NGOs and children alongside their native French or German peers -- would have demonstrated the diversity and integration of Muslim Europeans, something study after study documents.

To the contrary, in recent elections Islamophobes like France’s right-wing National Front and the anti-EU True Finn Party racked up their best numbers ever, the latest strides in a surging movement that is recasting the political landscape of Western Europe. These elements have every reason to thank mainstream politicians, who, in the hope of exploiting the phenomenon for their own gain, have paved the way for the far right. In April, for example, France’s ridiculous “burqa ban” went into effect with overwhelming popular support, while EU leaders pushed the panic button over Tunisian refugees landing in Italy and Malta, turning the image of peaceful revolutionaries across the Mediterranean into one of an impoverished mob besieging Fortress Europe.

What makes anti-Muslim racism so lethal is that unlike populisms of the past, Islamophobia has broad appeal across the political spectrum, from the far left to the far right and irrespective of class or educational level. Where it manifests itself in electoral parties, such as in France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria and now even Sweden and Finland, its advocates fare much better than old-school far-right parties ever did, with their vulgar anti-Semitism and expansionist fantasies. There is nevertheless plenty of overlap with the extreme right, which inscribes anti-Islam thinking prominently in its manifestos and is thriving on the new discourse; never before have so many of its representatives been so close to the levers of power in so many Western European countries.

Islamophobia is solidly mainstream; there is no politically correct taboo against it, as there is with overt racism or other strains of xenophobia. In fact, some of Europe’s highest-profile Islamophobes justify their attacks on Islam and Europe’s Muslims in the name of women’s and gay rights. Conservative, liberal and even leftist parties tap into it, partly out of opportunism and partly out of conviction. Invoking secularism and Enlightenment values, some centrists and leftists propagate a cultural racism that instead of using skin color imputes immutable characteristics to cultures and assigns them a hierarchy, with Western civilization at the top. This is Islamophobia, which functions just as racism does, and serves the purposes of those who have long sought to stem immigration, keep Turkey out of the European Union and secure a white Christian Europe.

* * *

Not every European country has anti-Muslim parties as successful as two of Islamophobia’s poster boys, the Dutch Freedom Party and the Danish People’s Party, both of which put the clash of cultures and the Islamic menace at the center of their programs. Yet these cases are instructive, because they represent a new generation of the European right, and the conditions of their rise exist across Western Europe. Surveys and opinion polls, for example, indicate that anti-Muslim sentiment in Holland and Denmark is about the same as in most other Western European countries. In one recent study, between 34 and 37 percent of French, Dutch, Portuguese and Danes say they have a negative opinion of Muslims. In Germany the figure is 59 percent.

The Dutch Freedom Party is a one-man outfit led by 47-year-old Geert Wilders, immediately recognizable by his wavy mane of platinum-blond hair. Since October the party has been an unofficial partner in the center-right governing coalition (it has no cabinet seats, but it can dictate terms to a minority government that ultimately needs its votes). In the Netherlands, previously renowned for its tolerance, Wilders’s party more than doubled its numbers last year, to 16 percent of the electorate, on a platform to stop the “Islamization of the Netherlands.” The party pledged to halt immigration from “Muslim countries,” to tax women wearing headscarves and to ban the Koran as well as the construction of mosques. Wilders blames the easygoing model of Dutch multiculturalism for exposing the Netherlands to Islam, and thus for undermining the very tolerance it naïvely extended to Muslim peoples. Over the past two years he has consistently polled as one of the country’s most popular politicians, despite being put on trial on charges of inciting hatred against Muslims (the case is ongoing).

As for the Danish People’s Party, it has worked hand-in-hand with the country’s center-right government since 2001. The party -- one leading MP likens the hijab to the swastika -- took 15 percent of the vote in the 2009 European Parliament elections and is now Denmark’s third-biggest party. Its guiding light, Pia Kjaersgaard, originally belonged to one of Denmark’s establishment parties, as Wilders did in the Netherlands. Unlike the old right, with its blood-and-soil chauvinism and anti-Semitism, new rightists like Kjaersgaard couch their nationalism as a defense of Western civilization and even “Judeo-Christian values.” One of her quotes: “Not in their wildest imagination would anyone [in 1900] have imagined that large parts of Copenhagen and other Danish towns would be populated by people who are at a lower stage of civilization, with their own primitive and cruel customs like honor killings, forced marriages, halal slaughtering, and blood-feuds. This is exactly what is happening now…. [They] have come to a Denmark that left the dark ages hundreds of years ago.”

In both countries the governments have caved in to Islamophobes by dramatically tightening immigration requirements for non-Westerners. The once proudly open-minded Denmark now has the strictest such laws in Europe. “I’m certain that soon many other countries will copy us,” boasted the People’s Party after the November passage of a law it co-wrote. The opposition Social Democrats, though fiercely split on the issue, ended up backing the bill as well. Their rationale: to stop forced marriages and protect ethnic minority women from family pressure, as if immigration restrictions would accomplish either. All such talk from centrist parties does is perpetuate prejudices: in this case, that forced marriage is the rule in Muslim European families, which is simply not true.

The Netherlands and Denmark, like most of Western Europe, have significant numbers of foreign-born immigrants and second-generation inhabitants from Arabic or majority-Muslim countries. (Many have Turkish backgrounds and -- as with many Bosnians, Moroccans and Iraqis -- may or may not practice Islam. But thanks to the new discourse, which conflates ethnicity with religion, they’re all called Muslims.) These communities make up 5 and 4 percent of their populations, respectively (3.2 percent is the European Union average), and have a positive birthrate, in contrast with sagging demographics across almost all of traditionally Christian Europe, a trend that has Islamophobes sounding the alarm bells. It is also the case -- though the root causes are hotly disputed -- that segments of these minorities are poorly integrated, unemployment among them is higher than the national average and 1 to 2 percent hold radical views.

Even in EU countries that don’t have growing anti-Muslim parties, Islamophobic sentiment is potent. In Germany, for example, one survey after another attests to widening hostility directed at the Muslim population and Islam in general. One recent study showed 58 percent of Germans in favor of restricting religious freedom for Muslims. This included more than 75 percent of those in eastern Germany, where the Muslim population is negligible. Thirty-seven percent of Germans feel the Federal Republic would be better off “without Islam.” The surveys underscore the steady rise of these sentiments since 2004, with a significant jump from 2009 to 2010. They also show that while attitudes are particularly strong in traditional right-wing milieus, they have also become more pronounced in the middle and upper classes and among Germans with higher education. They also reveal that anti-Muslim feelings are far stronger than homophobia, classic racism, sexism or anti-Semitism -- the latter long the measure for illiberal thinking in Germany.

This mainstreaming of Islamophobia would have been inconceivable without the post-9/11 anti-Muslim discourse in European media; Islamophobic websites like Germany’s Bürgerbewegung Pax Europa and Politically Incorrect have tens of thousands of visitors a day. In large part the trail was blazed by intellectuals, a surprising number of whom had roots in progressive politics. Hugely influential was the late Italian writer Oriana Fallaci, whose bestselling books insisted that Islam is a thoroughly violent and totalitarian creed striving for world domination. The former antifascist partisan and left-wing journalist once likened the Koran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

Others include French writer and activist Bernard-Henri Levy (“the veil is an invitation to rape”), British novelist and former New Statesman editor Martin Amis, Dutch intellectual and Labor Party member Paul Scheffer, and in Germany such figures as Ralph Giordano, Necla Kelek, Alice Schwarzer and Henryk Broder, all leftists or former leftists of one stripe or another. Schwarzer, for example, is the mother of Germany’s feminist movement, and with her flagship quarterly EMMA she has fought for women’s liberation since the early 1970s. She denounces Islam as misogynistic and misanthropic, accusing it -- and those who defend it -- of betraying the universality of human rights. For her, and for many other critics of Islam, “tolerating” the religion means tolerating forced marriages, honor killings, burqas, female genital mutilation and polygamy. Schwarzer now argues for measures that conservatives and the far right have pursued for decades. In the past it was coalitions comprising liberal intellectuals, feminists and Christian churches that waged fierce opposition to such legislation.

Where the new right parties aren’t surging, centrist politicians take on much of the anti-Muslim baggage. It wasn’t, for example, right-wingers who passed the burqa bans in France and Belgium but liberal and mainstream conservative parties, backed by the left. In France, some Socialists and Communists joined President Nicolas Sarkozy’s ruling party in voting for the recent ban of the full veil in public, a law proposed by a Communist mayor from southern France (the Greens abstained, fearful of the repercussions of a no vote). Polls showed 80 percent of French voters in favor of the ban.

In contrast to the conservative parties’ thinly veiled racism, the left’s anti-Muslim reaction is an anticlerical stance, a kind of dogmatic secularism that sees religion as nothing more than the opiate of the masses. Its inability to grasp that Islam is a source of identity for many European Muslims and, more important, to debunk racist Islamophobia plays straight into the hands of political foes, including the churches (which come off as benevolent compared with en vogue caricatures of Islam). By branding Islam as something qualitatively different from and much more dangerous than other religions, the left helps to stigmatize it further -- and lets Christianity off the hook.

As John Mullen of France’s radical left-wing Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste explains, “The majority of the left in France believe that the hijab is an assault on women’s rights. This position quickly moves into the prejudice that Muslim women in France are more oppressed than non-Muslim women, that the experience of women in, say, Saudi Arabia is merely an extreme case of an oppression which is inherent in Islam.” He and other NPA activists protested the party’s reluctance to allow Ilham Moussaïd, a secular, French-born, prochoice feminist, to run as a candidate because she wears a headscarf. Twelve eventually quit. Says Mullen: “Muslim and Arab men are then presented as the major source of women’s oppression and contrasted with the progressive white values of Republican France. So opposition to religious practices on the basis of progressive values can easily turn into a thinly disguised form of racism.”

* * *

In Germany the issue burst into the political sphere only last year, with the publication of Deutschland schafft sich ab (“Germany Does Away With Itself”), by Thilo Sarrazin, a Social Democrat, an economist on the board of Germany’s Central Bank and a former Berlin councilman. In it he argues that Muslims are “unwilling” and “unable” to integrate; that Muslim immigrants sponge off the welfare systems; that because of their higher birthrate they will soon outnumber indigenous Germans; and that immigration (from the wrong parts of the world) undermines Germany’s “cultural identity” and “national character.” He writes, “I don’t want the country of my grandchildren and great grandchildren to be largely Muslim, or that Turkish or Arabic will be spoken in large areas, that women will wear headscarves and the daily rhythm is set by the call of the muezzin.” Unlike much of the cultural anti-Muslim sentiment in the media, Sarrazin’s book explicitly mixes race into the blend, arguing that “Muslim genes” are somehow inferior to German ones.

Though Sarrazin’s book certainly wasn’t the first anti-Muslim tract published in Germany, it was the first by a mainstream politician. It unexpectedly surged to the top of the bestseller list, where it remains today. While controversy over the book forced him to leave the Central Bank, it made the sullen, gray-haired economist Germany’s favorite talk-show guest and a multimillionaire. Fortunately, Sarrazin is not a movement leader and has no ambition to start his own party. An explicitly anti-Muslim right-wing movement, Pro Deutschland, has emerged recently, but it has yet to kindle broad-based enthusiasm, perhaps because the established parties are soaking up its potential.

The Sarrazin affair illustrated just how deep-seated Islamophobia has become in Germany. At first, the country’s leading politicians responded by roundly condemning the author. But once polls emerged showing that every party’s constituency believed that Sarrazin “gets some things right,” many critics backed off. The Social Democrats balked at expelling him (an investigation is under way), and party members as esteemed as former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, one of the fathers of the Federal Republic, praised Sarrazin’s candor. Chancellor Angela Merkel, a Christian Democrat, said “the multiculturalism experiment” has “failed,” and the leader of Bavaria’s Christian Social Union said it was high time to stop immigration from alien cultures. Although Germany’s Left Party condemned the Sarrazin theses, one poll showed that 29 percent of the party’s voters would be sympathetic to a Sarrazin-led party, the highest result of all the parties (Left Party voters are overwhelmingly eastern German, secular and consider themselves socialists).

Critically, Germany’s political elite is divided over the issues posed by Islam and Muslims. Almost every party -- with the exception of the Greens, whose members poll lowest for Islamophobia -- has prominent representatives who are hostile to Islam as well as those who speak out for tolerance. For example, Germany’s president, Christian Democrat Christian Wulff, underscored in a major address this year that “Islam now too is part of Germany,” an enormous step forward in making the country’s 4 million Muslims feel at home. And Merkel has made great strides in modernizing the Christian Democrats, including the initiation of the Islam Conference, a forum for dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims. But conservatives have long fought for tighter immigration laws and still defend the idea of a Christian Europe, for example in their adamant opposition to Turkish EU membership. For some, anti-Muslim sentiment is a perfect way to dress up bigotry in liberal clothing. Now conservatives call for limiting immigration because of Islam’s antipathy to gay rights and feminism -- which they now claim to support, in contrast with backward Muslims! Islamophobia is an enormous boon to these forces, supplying them with an ostensibly politically correct rationale for their goals as well as access to previously unreachable voters.

Although Islamophobia is gaining ground at a disturbing clip, there are voices of reason among the political elites and civil society. They rightly emphasize that there is no monolithic Islam as such -- it is preposterous, for example, to throw Iran-born political refugees with university degrees into the same pot as 1960s-era Anatolian guest workers, even though both are “Muslim.” And reducing all of Islam to its most radical factions only serves demagogues and obstructs integration. They point out that Islam is remarkably heterogeneous and dynamic, and includes an emergent European Islam that blends religion with modernity. Moreover, Europe’s integration of immigrants is actually far more successful than critics portray it, with their images of “parallel societies” and sinister ghettos.

A number of recent studies in Germany unequivocally refute anti-Islam clichés. They show, for example, that the vast majority of Muslims don’t see Islam as a political ideology and don’t define themselves foremost through religion but through social standing, regional origin and profession. Only about 7 percent are deeply religious and adhere to patriarchal traditions; these tend to live in ethnic enclaves, unlike their co-religionists. In Germany 98 percent of Muslims choose their own partners. Eighty-four percent believe in separation of church and state. The new studies corroborate other research showing that most of Europe’s 53 million Muslims (16 million in the EU) have lifestyles and concerns a lot like those of non-Muslim Europeans. The birthrate of successive generations of “German Turks,” for example, is approaching that of other Germans. Muslim groups have welcomed initiatives, like Germany’s Islam Conference, to bring Islam and European Muslims into the mainstream, as well as other positive steps to overcome the discrimination that, in part, accounts for European Muslims’ marginalization and lands many of them at the bottom rung of the social ladder.

Europe’s left in particular should be in a better position to critique Islamophobic discourse. This means a rethinking of knee-jerk laicism in light of new phenomena such as the desire of many women from Muslim backgrounds to wear a headscarf for reasons of ethnic or religious pride. Or, if the left is to insist on radical secularism, then it should apply the same critique to all religions. Why, for example, is Islam to blame when ethnic Turkish kids perform poorly in German schools, but not Catholicism when Italian migrants flunk out (which they do, in higher numbers than kids with Turkish backgrounds)? In the same vein, the rationale for exceptional behavior such as honor killings should be sought in the patriarchal traditions of certain countries rather than in Islam itself. Cultural racism, which legitimizes right-wing goals, is a complex phenomenon to decode, but it is the task of progressive forces to do it.

Policies like Switzerland’s ban on minaret construction (approved by 58 percent of voters in 2009) and veil prohibitions in France, Belgium and parts of Germany violate basic rights. Increasingly derogatory popular attitudes toward Islam and Muslims translate into workplace and schoolyard discrimination, which only increases tensions. Moreover, the mainstreaming of bigotry has created a new right and revived the old one: Austria’s Freedom Party, the Flemish Vlaams Blok and France’s National Front have renewed their fortunes by adopting Islamophobia. In last fall’s Vienna elections, the Jörg Haider-less Freedom Party nearly doubled its 2005 result, capturing 27 percent of the vote. Polls actually show the National Front’s new leader, Marine Le Pen, running ahead of Sarkozy for the 2012 presidential vote.

Of all the specters haunting Europe, none are as potent-- or potentially disruptive to democracy -- as Islamophobia. Though the economic crisis and budget slashing across the continent have certainly fueled anti-Muslim discourse, they are not chiefly to blame for Islamophobia. The goals and jingoistic assumptions at the core of the right’s agenda are essentially unchanged from the 1980s. The difference is that the left and liberals have largely capitulated, unable to address the issue of Islam and the Muslims among us in a constructive way.

Paul Hockenos, a writer based in Berlin, is the author of Free to Hate: The Rise of the Right in Post-Communist Eastern Europe.

Copyright © 2011 The Nation -- distributed by Agence Global

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

France to Italy: Ayaw namin ang mga Tunisian immigrants

Simula na ba ito ng pagkawatak-watak ng Europa? Gusto lang yata huthutin ang yaman ng Africa pero ayaw naman tulungan ang mga nagsilikas na mga mahihirap mula dito. Tapos may pakunwari pang "we just want to protect the civilians" kaya binobomba ngayon ang Libya.

Source: AoLNews

MENTON, France -- Simmering tensions between Italy and France over the influx of thousands of Tunisian immigrants reached the boiling point after French riot police blocked trains carrying North Africans bound for the French Riviera from southern Italy.

More than 20,000 Tunisian immigrants have arrived in Italy since the January revolution in their country. Rome granted them residence permits of six months so they can join "friends and family" in France and elsewhere in Europe -- a move that has infuriated France.

On Sunday, about 350 mostly Italian activists supporting the Tunisian immigrants, and chanting anti-France slogans, massed at the Ventimiglia, Italy, train station, and French riot police stopped trains from crossing into Menton. Stunned tourists found themselves stranded in the middle of the increasingly bizarre conflict.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini issued a statement late Sunday instructing Italy's ambassador to Paris to express "the firm protest of the Italian government" calling France's actions illegal based on the European Union's policy of open borders.

Basahin ang buong balita dito.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Eighty Years War

Grabe pala ang patayan na nangyari sa Netherlands at mga karatig na bansa noong kapanahunan ng pananakop ng Espanya sa Pilipinas. Magandang basahin itong kasaysayan ng pagkabuo ng bansang Netherlands. Itong Eighty Years War ay tinatawag din pala na Dutch War of Independence. Nagsimula ito sa taong 1568, tatlong taon matapos marating ni Miguel Lopez de Legazpi ang Cebu. Si Legazpi ang namuno sa pinakaunang matagumpay na pananakop sa arkipelago ng Pilipinas. Naunang dumating si Ferdinand Magellan noong 1521 pero napatay ito ni Lapu-lapu kaya naudlot ang tangkang pananakop ng Espanya.

Natapos ang Eighty Years' War sa taong 1648, isang taon bago sinimulan ni Sumuroy ang pag-aalsa laban sa mga Espanyol sa probinsya ng Samar.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Manggagawa, Mayo Uno na naman!

Pakinggan ang pinakabagong broadcast ng Buhay Manggagawa.

Manggagawa at mamamayan! Sa Mayo Uno, magkita-kita tayo alas diyes ng umaga sa mga tipunang ito: Trabaho Market, Paco Market, Plaza Moriones, at Blumentritt. Magmamartsa tayo patungong Liwasang Bonifacio...

Download this episode (3 min)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Ang sulat sa baba ay sinulat ni Ericson Acosta, isang bilanggong pulitikal na nakapiit ngayon sa isang provincial jail sa Samar.

# 1 PRISON DIARY: Press Statement Debacle…

This is miserable writing. This can’t be the comprehensive press statement that I’ve tasked myself to write two days earlier. It’s 1:00 am and a few minutes ago I’ve just completely abandoned pursuing my original outline. Now I’m trying, groping, cramming to come up with an alternative. I’m quite confident though that the papers which the campaign organizers have prepared and the messages of the speakers would more than suffice in providing the media with the general political context of my case, the circumstances of my illegal arrest and detention, as well as some basic details regarding my person. Just the same, my apologies. In the meantime, bear with me as I ramble on.

I have already received and read most of what have been written about me since my arrest. These have given me a clear picture of how promptly friends and comrades have actively taken my cause, and how in a short period of time the Free Ericson Acosta Campaign has reached quite an extensive base of support. I am of course sincerely touched by all this. I have long been wanting to communicate with them through letters or general statements, not only to thank them but also to personally shed light on my experience with state fascism. But I’ve been having some difficult, stubborn time with my writing.

I suppose I’m still basically ill-adjusted with my present prison set-up. I find it almost impossible to write during the day. The heat inside the cell is simply oppressive – there is no ceiling here, the lone window is less than a square foot, and my tarima is just beside two charcoal stoves that burn non-stop. The noise outside and the frenzied – sometimes juvenile, sometimes zombie-like goings on among my 12 kakosas inside a stifling, cramped-up space are just too distracting, disorienting.

But it is at night, when the heat, noise and fuss have all supposed to have subsided, that I am actually assailed by more pressing writing issues. There would always be this heavy strain that seems to balance itself upon my bobbed head, and as though from a ravine’s edge, I’d be looking down my writing pad waiting for vertigo to set in. Then this intermittent heaving motion in the chest. And, especially during the first month, I would, even without tears, just suddenly notice myself sobbing. This is pretty intense. I could never have imagined myself writing in such a wrenching, emotional state.

This is trauma of some sort I guess. But one, I think, that I’m compelled less to subvert than to temper. It is not necessarily the feeling of having been vanquished or the sense of utter helplessness that usually creeps in. No. More often, it is that surge of righteous vindication that overwhelms me.

It’s not writer’s block that has been nagging me. I call it writer’s burst. I’ve actually written a great deal already in the last two months as I tried to sum up and make sense of my ordeal. All of which, however, except for a few, amount to nothing more than disjointed rambling notes or a series of incoherent digressions.

The past week though has seen some modest breakthrough. It helped that my legal counsel had asked me to personally write my counter affidavit. I was able to finish it on time, glaring lapses in grammar notwithstanding. I was also able to complete a draft of a regional human rights situationer that focused on the cases of human rights violations in Barangay Bay-ang in San Jorge, Samar. I was in Bay-ang at the time of my arrest precisely to follow-up on these cases.

A friend of mine has sent me some samples of Ka Allan Jasminez’ Prison Diary entries. I realized that I would have to really step up on my writing and maximize relatively less restrictive conditions here as compared to those in Ka Allan’s place of detention. Already, I have started reviewing my jumbled notes and have come up with a design that would piece them together into several essays with different themes.

I am optimistic, despite this press statement debacle, that I would finally be able to handle my writer’s burst. It is very important that I do. My active engagement through my writings naturally serves to effectively amplify the campaign, as well as the general call to free all political prisoners. While I am in fact the principal subject of the Free Ericson Acosta campaign, it’s time that I enlisted myself as its principal mass leader and propagandist as well. So let’s just keep the pressure on – FREE ME! FREE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS!

Ericson L. Acosta

April 13, 2011

Calbayog sub-provincial jail