Artists, writers and teachers at the University of the Philippines on Sunday held an “eat-in” to put a spotlight on the Aquino administration’s failure to stop human rights abuses ahead of the United Nations’ review of its members’ rights records in Geneva on May 29.
National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, scriptwriter Ricky Lee, The Jerks’ singer Chikoy Pura and UP Board of Regents member Bibeth Orteza served congee (Chinese porridge) as part of a fund-raising campaign for the legal funds of Ericson Acosta, a militant poet currently in detention. Members of militant groups also sold books and handicrafts made by political prisoners.
Acosta, who turned 40 on Sunday, was arrested in Samar last year without a warrant by military troops who accused him of being a member of the New People’s Army. He was charged with illegal possession of explosives which Acosta claimed was baseless.
Sarah Maramag, a media officer of the Free Ericson Acosta Campaign, said Acosta’s situation reflected the culture of impunity in the Philippines, which started during the Arroyo administration.
The current administration had not halted the impunity, she said.
“There are more than 350 political prisoners in the country today, most of them victims of arbitrary arrests, torture and trumped-up criminal charges. More than 90 of them, including Ericson Acosta, were arrested under President Aquino’s watch,” she said.
UP professor Judy Taguiwalo said yesterday’s event, which was attended by former political prisoners, should remind Filipinos that human rights abuses continued to be committed in the Philippines decades after the Marcos dictatorship.
“Forty years after martial law, there are still political prisoners and human rights abuses continue,” she said.
Human Rights Watch, a New York City-based organization, last week called on the United Nations to direct the Philippines to honor its commitment to punish rights abusers.