Musicians hold rights concert for political prisoners
Jess Santiago is 61, but he never tires supporting the cause of the oppressed.
The revered singer-songwriter was among dozens of musicians and theater actors who performed at “Poldet: Panata sa Kalayaan ng Mga Detenido Pulitikal”—a multimedia event held on Saturday night at Access Point Bar in Quezon City on the occasion of Human Rights Day.
The crowd loved the wit and humor of the lyrics in “Onli in Da Pilipins,” Santiago’s satirical ode to the cultural and social quirks of his native land.
He told the audience to keep on singing, a subtle message on the power of music to enlighten minds while being entertained.
Earlier, Cabring Cabrera of the band Datu’s Tribe—accompanied on acoustic guitar by Renato Reyes, secretary general of Bayan Muna—read verses written by Ericson Acosta, a poet-songwriter and former University of the Philippines (UP) Collegian editor in chief.
Acosta is currently detained in a jail at Calbayog City in Samar on charges of illegal possession of explosives.
Actor Soliman Cruz was up next, playing a military officer discussing with his two assistants the cases of activists they had locked up in jail. Noticing that most of the detainees were from UP, one of Cruz’s men quipped: “Basta taga-UP, aktibista!”
A blues number from an all-women group followed, the song’s lyrics ringing loud and clear on the urgency of letting the innocently jailed go free.
Former Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo gave a personal testimony on his experience of being a political detainee, proudly declaring that he committed no crime against his country and that he is a free man because the charges filed against him were baseless.
He read a poem and ended with the battle-cry, “Free all political prisoners!”
Dramatic monologues and a shadow play were also presented, along with videos of Acosta and others in jail.
“Poldet” was first staged on September 30 at Leandro Alejandro Hall in UP Diliman, Quezon City.
“We got good feedback and there were suggestions to take it outside the campus,” said Donna Dacuno, director of the show. “We’re doing this to raise public awareness on the plight of all political prisoners in the country … I’m personally involved because I want to see Ericson Acosta to be free again.”
Dacuno and Acosta are members of UP Alay Sining, a campus-based cultural organization.
“I never expected my son Ericson to be jailed,” Isaiah Acosta told the Inquirer. The elder Acosta, 78, recounted that Ericson—the younger of two siblings—was an outstanding student from elementary to college.
“He was best in Mathematics and English, and also excelled in art in grade school at St. Mary’s College in Quezon City. He was president of the student council and was in the debating team in high school at University of Santo Tomas. He loved to write and finished political science in UP.”
His son is innocent of the charges filed against him, the elder Acosta stressed, adding that Ericson is a peace-loving person: “What I know is he loved to help the poor especially children whom he taught to read and write. He was also concerned with protecting the environment. My son is a good person.”
The last time he went to see his son, the father recalled that Ericson told him in Filipino: “Daddy, you put me through college … You’re old but I can’t help you now. Sorry.”
But what the elder Acosta gets worried about is that he had learned that the court found probable cause in his son’s case. He issued a plea to President Aquino: “I beg him to free Ericson and all political detainees.”
Judy Taguiwalo, a professor of women’s studies and former board of regents member of UP Diliman, said that the issue of political prisoners was reflected in the country’s history, where the likes of Tandang Sora and Jose Rizal suffered the same fate.
Also present at the “Poldet” event were Dimpy Jazmines, the elder of two siblings of detained National Democratic Front peace consultant Alan Jazmines, and Lara Mendizabal of the film organization UP Sining at Lipunan, of which another detainee, Maricon Montajes, is a member.
“Every person is entitled to a fair hearing,” Dimpy said of his brother. “Look into his case. If it’s for the common good to have him freed, I support that. I miss him.”
Mendizabal maintained that Montajes was a cultural worker and was unarmed when the latter was arrested and presented as a New People’s Army member.
“Maricon has been in jail for 500 days. It’ll be a great Christmas if P-Noy would act and free her and all political detainees charged with common crimes,” Mendizabal said.