In a press conference, representatives of progressive groups gave a briefer on the situation of political detainee Ericson Acosta. Acosta, they said, is a free-lance journalist conducting a research on human rights violations for the Alliance of Concerned Samarenos (ACOS) and Kapunungan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Weste han Samar (KAPAWA)
At the time of his arrest, Acosta was with Barangay Secretary Vicente Dacles of Barangay Bay-ang, San Jorge, Samar. Dacles would be released by the soldiers while Acosta would be kept in custody. He would undergo military interrogation for more than 40 hours before he would be turned over to the police at Calbayog City.
By the time the army unit turned him over to the police, they had prepared to charge him with possession of explosives (with a single grenade from out of nowhere), which is an offense without the benefit of bail. The preliminary investigation into Acosta’s case was also railroaded since no prosecutor and stenographer was available for his inquest proceedings. Acosta remains in police custody at the sub-provincial jail in Calbayog City, Samar.
The actual reason for his arrest: possession of a laptop (with drained batteries) when the soldiers chanced upon him and Dacles as they were looking for some water. Since he couldn’t speak Waray and he had some electronic equipment, the soldiers assumed that he is a member of the New People’s Army.
For someone who also often goes back-packing in the rural areas with either a full-sized laptop or netbook and several other tools for documentation, I find the reason for Acosta’s arrest troubling. This goes without saying that like him, I too conduct interviews and field research in the communities that I visit.
While Acosta’s years in the University of the Philippines may have given him his conviction of serving the people in the more progressive manner, how he was arrested, accused, and detained without any shred of evidence, is indicative of how we as a nation misunderstand the democratic principles supposedly prevalent in this country.
Progressive or not, any person accused and detained without proof substantiating the accusation, has been deprived of his civil rights and due process according to the provisions of the Constitution. And that supposedly does not happen in a democracy like ours.