Day of the Imprisoned Writer

On behalf of Habi Arts, we would like to appeal for the release of Ericson Acosta—an artist, poet, writer, cultural worker, and human rights activist—who is illegally detained at the sub-provincial jail of Calbayog City, Samar province.

We call for his immediate and unconditional release for we believe he is held solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed under Article 19 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, ratified by the Philippines.

Today, November 15, also marks the “Day of the Imprisoned Writer”—an annual, international day intended to recognize and support writers who resist repression of the basic human right to freedom of expression and who stand up to attacks made against their right to impart information.

It is a shock to us that Ericson Acosta still languishes in jail without trial and due process after more than one year and nine months.  He is no criminal and no legal proceedings have taken place.  Instead, bogus reasons have been used to keep Acosta in illegal detention—away from his family, friends, and the community in which he has dedicated his time to serving.

Acosta was studying the human rights situation in marginalized and militarized communities in Samar when he was arrested without warrant by members of the 34th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army on February 13, 2011.  The military alleged that a grenade was found on Acosta and then accused him of illegal possession of an explosive, which is a non-bailable offense.

We urge Philippine authorities to free Ericson Acosta immediately.  We demand that harassment toward Acosta’s family stop.  We urge all to oppose attacks on artists and cultural workers—especially those facing repression and imprisonment—who use their talents and work to express the voice and struggles of the people.  Art and activism is not a crime!


Poem submission by a Habi Arts member for the “Day of the Imprisoned Writer” action for Ericson Acosta. Other submissions can be found here:

You Tell the Stories They Are Afraid You Will Tell
by Melissa Roxas

for Ericson Acosta

You tell the stories they are afraid you will tell
because of this they take your freedom
your hand strums the guitar
your songs break the silence of the harsh afternoon
the people working in the fields hear them
the mother breastfeeding her child under the tree hears them
the child yet to know the weight of the world hears them
the child knows the songs are about her
she knows the songs are about her brother
she knows the songs are about her mother
she tastes the salt from her mother’s breast
and the sweetness from the earth
this is the earth you sing about—
this is you, Ericson,
telling your truth
and the stories that they are afraid you will tell
for this they take your freedom
for this they wanted to plant a grenade in your pocket
it’s true you carried a weapon
it was no grenade
they were only words to your song
your hands in your pocket strumming a tune
it was your bag full of poems
your pens waiting to touch the page—
they try hard to erase
the parts of you that love
that know the ache of people
fighting to death for freedom—
they took you, Ericson,
into their prison walls
made your body suffer
the weight of many burdens
but what lives in you
is more than a thousand songs
what lives is a rhythm the length of fields


Find out how you can support the Free Ericson Acosta campaign here:

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