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)