Detained poet gets temporary release

BELIEVE it or not, it was my first time to ride an airplane!”

This was how poet Ericson Acosta greeted his supporters, friends, and family who welcomed his arrival at the Terminal III of the NAIA.

Acosta, 40, whose siblings now all live with their own families abroad, is a cultural worker and activist arrested by the military in San Jorge, Samar while doing volunteer research work for a local peasant group.

Acosta has been detained at the Calbayog Sub-Provincial Jail for 23 months on trumped-up charges of illegal possession of explosives.

Yesterday, Acosta’s supporters were pleasantly surprised to confirm that the Gandara RTC in Samar granted him temporary release for a medical check-up. Acosta’s lawyers filed a motion for medical check-up in July 2012 after Acosta displayed symptoms of serious renal problems.

Attorney Persida Rueda-Acosta, Chief the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) flew to the Calbayog Sub-Provincial Jail with a medico-legal consultant and a paralegal team from human rights organization, KARAPATAN upon the request of Acosta’s family and the Free Ericson Acosta Campaign (FEAC).

It was found that Acosta has been suffering from nephritis, a condition characterized by blood in the urine (hematuria), lower back pains, high fever and painful urination (dysuria).

These findings prompted the RTC to immediately grant Acosta’s motion for check-up, and allowing Atty. Rueda-Acosta to accompany him right away to the National Kidney Institute (NKTI) this morning.

“Matagal na naming hinihintay ang mapatingnan si Eric. I am coming to see him without my husband who also has an appointment with the doctor for his spinal ailment that has debilitated him for weeks. Gusto nga sana niyang sumama kay Attorney Persida pero hindi na niya kinaya ang sakit,” said Ericson’s 80-year old mother, Liwayway.

Dr. Erwin Erfe, medico-legal consultant of PAO said that Acosta’s ailment necessitates “thorough diagnostic examinations, possibly including renal biopsy and other specialized ancillary procedures in a specialist kidney hospital.” These facilities are not available at the Calbayog Sub-Provincial jail, and even in Samar provincial hospitals.

Meanwhile, FEAC Convenor Renato Reyes, Jr. welcomed this development, saying that it is long overdue yet something that could have been avoided. “Ericson’s aggravated medical condition is a result of his incarceration and torture in the hands of a government that criminalizes political opposition and what it arbitrarily tags as ‘enemies of the state.’”

For her part, Atty. Rueda-Acosta expressed what FEAC has been asserting all along–“there were no private complainants; these are all Army people in the list… The country is starved for justice. We must acknowledge Acosta as a writer and researcher serving this need for doctors for our society.”

Acosta’s temporary release comes in the light of the recent spate of politically motivated arrests of activist organizers all over the country. KARAPATAN reported the arrest of 28 individuals from December 2012 to the few days of the new year. Among them are Randy Vegas and Raul Camposano, government employees and union leaders of COURAGE, Zara Alvarez of KARAPATAN and 19 farmers from Negros.

Despite these attacks on human rights and civil liberties, FEAC remains fervent in its bid for the general and unconditional release of all political prisoners.

On the way to the NKTI, Acosta told his companions, “In jail, I yearned for sea and sky. My temporary release is indeed a breath of fresh air. But freedom and justice are not achieved by mere yearning, only by struggle.”

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