“I cannot but be distressed by the continuing prejudice of our justice system against my son and other political prisoners like him.”
By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA — The family of political detainee artist Ericson Acosta has issued a new appeal to human rights advocates and Acosta’s friends and supporters, this time regarding the detainee’s health problems.
Acosta’s father, Isaias, said his son is in immediate need of medical attention because of a worsening kidney problem. Isaias, 79, said Ericson, who has been detained for over a year since February 2011 in Calbayog, Samar on false charges, is suffering from painful kidney stones. He and his wife Liwayway, 80, are not in the peak of health either and have their own share of health issues.
“We are both physically suffering due to our respective conditions but nothing compares to the torment of knowing that our son continues to be unjustly imprisoned,” he said.
Isais said that in his last visit to Acosta, his son said he had been feeling persistent pain in his abdomen and lower back. The pain, Acosta said, intensifies whenever he urinates. Now he has also noticed spots of blood in his urine.
“My cousin, Ericson’s uncle, displayed similar symptoms before he succumbed to prostate cancer. Ericson rarely complains when he is sick. Even when he was arrested last year, his first words to me were, ‘Daddy don’t worry about me. He always tells his mother not to fuss over him. That’s how Ericson is. He suffers in silence. Once when he was still in grade school, he waited until a stomachache had become too unbearable before he finally told us to take him to the hospital. It turned out he immediately needed to undergo an appendectomy. The doctor said we got there in the nick of time,” Isaias said.
According to the detainee’s father, Acosta’s last check-up two years ago revealed a renal function abnormality and a possible prostate affliction.
“So as soon as we received word that he was in pain, we arranged for a visit and asked our lawyers to immediately file a motion before the court seeking urgent medical attention for my son. We had to skip the visit because of my condition. But after we filed the motion, we were told that the judge in charge of his case had just retired. How long would it take until a new judge is installed? It is as if our frustration with the slow resolution of Ericson’s case is not enough. We are once again left bereft of immediate legal options,” he said.
Isaias said he has already sent a letter of appeal to the Calbayog jail warden, to the Department of Justice, to Secretary Leila de Lima, and to all other concerned branches of government.
“I am an old man with no shortage of illnesses as expected of anyone my age, but I would gladly forfeit any trip to the doctor if it could only be traded for much-needed medical treatment for my son. His mother and I fear that his latest hunger strike has further worsened his condition. Ericson must get the medical attention he needs,” he said.
The senior citizen also expressed sadness over the release of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from hospital detention after she posted bail for one million pesos.
“I cannot but be distressed by the continuing prejudice of our justice system against my son and other political prisoners like him. Arroyo was placed under hospital arrest in consideration of her illness. Despite her numerous crimes against the Filipino people, she was allowed to stay in an airconditioned hospital room, regularly attended to by nurses and doctors who were paid by taxpayers’ money. Now she has been released and also allowed to return to Congress. Ericson and many others like him whose only crime is to live serving the poor, they continue to languish in prison, their rights ignored or dismissed. No, we do not seek preferential treatment like Arroyo. What we demand is that Ericson and all other political prisoners – who are ailing precisely because of dismal prison conditions – also be accorded the right to medical attention as necessary,” he said.
The Free Ericson Acosta Campaign (FEAC) support group is set to hold a press conference on August 13 in Manila to announce plans regarding its work to press for Acosta’s immediate release. It will also lead a solidarity activity in front of the Department of Justice (DOJ) where a motion for the dismissal of the charges against the political detainee is pending.
Amnesty for political prisoners on Ninoy Aquino day
In a related development, the Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa (PSNA) has already issued a call to Aquino to grant presidential pardon to all political prisoners.
On August 21, Ninoy Aquino Day will be observed, marking the anniversary of the 1983 assassination of former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr.
The PSNA said Aquino would do well to grant presidential amnesty to all political prisoners even before the day arrives.
“In honor of Ninoy, we believe Aquino must do everything in his power to release all those unjustly detained and stop the continuing political assassinations. PSNA together with church, community, trade union and human rights advocacy groups in New Zealand and Australia call on Aquino to consider how his own family also suffered when Ninoy was unjustly incarcerated and eventually assassinated by the Marcos dictatorship. We are disappointed that Aquino continues to ignore the pleas of the families of those unjustly detained and tortured in prisons,” the group said.
Free political prisoners, jail Arroyo
Political prisoners all over the country have recently concluded their hunger strike. Almost 700 prisoners nationwide participated in the fasting and hunger strike from July 16 to 23,when Aquino’s delivered his third State of the Nation Address (SONA).
The hunger strike and political fast was led by political prisoners from the Special Intesive Care Area (SICA) at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, National Bilibid Prisons Muntinlupa, Camp Crame, Manila City Jail, Nueva Ecija Provincial Jail, Isabela Provincial Jail, and Aurora Provincial Jail. In the Visayas, inmates in Calbayog Sub-Provincial Jail, Iloilo City Jail, Danao City Jail in Cebu joined the strike. Solidarity fasting activities were held in Danao City Jail, where political prisoner Ramon Patriarca was previously detained. Patriarca is now at the Camp Lapu-Lapu in Cebu, where he continues to protest his illegal detention in the stockade of the AFP-Central Command.
The Aquino administration has consistently maintained that there are no political prisoners. Acosta himself, however, lambasted Malacañang spokesperson Edwin Lacierda’s statement on the same as “a highly ingenious and studied performance which, for all its supposed terseness and indifference, still managed to come across as a perversely powerful warning – that as a matter of state principle, political dissenters shall invariably be treated in no other context except in relation to common, even heinous crimes.”
“The unabated incidence, over the last couple of years, of government critics, activists, and revolutionaries being arbitrarily arrested or abducted, tortured and slapped with fantastic non-bailable criminal charges, attest to how seriously such policy of political persecution has so far been put to actual practice by the present dispensation,” Acosta said in a statement.
The Group of ex-political prisoners Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto or SELDA continues to protest against what it said as the Aquino administration’s preferential treatment when it comes to Macapagal-Arroyo.
Selda secretary-general Angie Ipong said the Aquino government doesn’t have the nerve to push through with charges against Arroyo.
“This government has no real sense of justice. It cannot even arrest Palparan. Worse, it cannot own up to its own human rights record. In fact, Malacañang has to deny the existence of political prisoners to claim it is a defender of human rights,” Ipong said.
She criticized Aquino’s silence on the plight of the political prisoners and the increasing human rights violations, saying that neither were mentioned in the SONA.
“He has the gall to tell the nation that he is a victim of Martial Law, but repeats the same fault of criminalizing political dissent. That could only mean that Malacañang is really sweeping the issue of political prisoners under the carpet,” said Ipong.