March 22, 2012

His Excellency Benigno Simeon Aquino III
Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace
Fax: +63 2 735 6167
Secretary, Department of Justice (DOJ)
Hon. Leila M. De Lima
Padre Faura Street
Ermita, Manila, 1000
Fax: +63 2 523 9548 

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,000 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our concern regarding the prolonged detention without trial of poet, journalist, and activist Ericson Acosta.

According to our information, Ericson Acosta (39) is currently detained at the Calbayog sub-provincial jail, where officers from the 8th Infantry Division of the army have been reportedly intimidating his family and other visitors. Acosta has been held without trial since his arrest by the military in San Jorge, Samar on February 13, 2011. At the time, he was investigating human rights and environmental issues in the area, and was arrested on suspicion of being a member of the New People’s Army (NPA). He was reportedly held incommunicado for three days, and on February 16, 2011, authorities charged him with illegal possession of explosives, an offense without possibility of bail under Philippine law.

We understand that under the Speedy Trial Act (RA 8493), the time limit from arraignment to trial is 180 days, but Acosta has remained in custody pending action from the investigating prosecutor for more than a year. Furthermore, in September 2011, Acosta filed a petition for the review of his case before the Philippines’ Department of Justice (PDOJ), but the PDOJ’s decision remains pending even after the 60-day deadline to respond.

Acosta is a poet, songwriter, and activist. He is a former editor of the student publication Philippine Collegian, and chairperson of the student cultural group Alay Sinin. He has also worked as a cultural writer for the Manila Times, and has acted and directed a number of theater plays.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned that Ericson Acosta is being held without trial for his legitimate human rights activities in violation of his right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by the Philippines. We therefore call for his immediate and unconditional release.

Thank you for your consideration of this urgent matter.

Hannah Pakula
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H.E. Jose L. Cuisa, Jr.
Ambassador of the Republic of the Philippines
Embassy of the Philippines
1600 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Fax: (202) 467-9417

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