In celebration of World Poetry Day, all this week we are paying tribute to poets who have been persecuted or imprisoned in violation of their right to free expression.
Today we are honouring poet Ericson Acosta, who has been held without trial in the Philippines since February 2011.
Ericson Acosta is not only a poet, but a songwriter, a journalist and an activist, 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 plays.
On 13 February 2011, Acosta was arrested by the military, in San Jorge, Samar, east 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, the 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, more than 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 Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights (PCHR), but has received no response. In September 2011, Acosta filed a petition for the review of his case before the Philippines’ Department of Justice (PDOJ), alleging irregularities and rights abuses; however, 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. Our colleagues at the Philippines PEN Centre have been active in supporting his case.
AND SO YOUR POETRY MUST
Be wary you say
of its claims
lest you waive art
to us millions unworthy
of taste and manner
lest you be christened
peddler of images
alien in form
pagan in content
lest your license
your ear for resonance
your feel for the sublime.
And so while you summon
the litany of worlds
your own words fashion
you annul my existence
and those of millions
whose narratives you say
betray poetic tone
make burlesque of beauty
and thus like scarecrows
set even the most heretic
muses scurrying back
to their sanctum of rules.
And so in recollecting
you elude the void
which is my hunger
the famine of millions
the empty bowl of history.
And so with your eulogies
to rage against time
to pledge withlife’s gift
you lull the birth
that shall feed millions
and perhaps spare poetry.
(Published in “F1”, the 1995 Literary Folio of the Philippine Collegian, U.P. Diliman, and edited by Ericson L. Acosta)
“AND SO YOUR POETRY MUST” in Kilometer 64 Blog
To read more of Ericson’s poems, please click here.
Read and share Ericson Acosta’s poems
You can read more of Ericson’s poems on the Free Ericson Acosta campaign website: http://freeacosta.blogspot.co.uk/
Spread the word
- Send this bulletin on to any friends or colleagues that you think may be interested, encouraging them to take action.
- Write articles and blog pieces to help raise awareness here in the UK.
- Use social media to help news of this case reach even more people:
- For those of you on Facebook, ‘like’ the Free Ericson Acosta Facebook page and share it with your friends and colleagues.
- For those of you on Twitter, please tweet a message to your followers.
[Sample tweet: Join me in taking action for poet Ericson Acosta in the #Philippines http://bit.ly/GSv9c9 via @englishpen]
Send a message of support to Ericson
If you are interested in sending a message of support directly to Ericson, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details and the address of where he is currently being held.
Send a letter of appeal
Write to the authorities in the Philippines:
– Expressing serious concern for the prolonged detention without trial of Ericson Acosta;
– Calling for his immediate and unconditional release if held in violation 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
His Excellency Mr Enrique A Manalo
Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines
6-8 Suffolk Street,
Fax: 020 7361 4648