Achieving Happiness

February 18, 2011

Ericson Acosta’s Journey from ‘Troublesome’ Artist to Political Detainee

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 4:20 am

MANILA – Two days before the resumption of the peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the Armed Forces of the Philippine AFP captured an individual it later tagged as another ranking official of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

Ericson after he was captured by the military. Photo from the AFP

In a report posted on the government-run Philippine Information Agency, a spokesman of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division said that it apprehended and captured a certain Ericson Acosta in the vicinity of Barangay Bay-ang, San Jorge town in the province of Samar at 10 am on Feb. 13. The announcement came after reports that Alan Jasminez, a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), was captured in Bulacan.

According to the report, which was based on military dispatches, a platoon from the 34th Infantry Battalion under a 2nd Lt. Jacob Madarang was conducting routine security patrol when they intercepted Acosta. Acosta , the military report said, was “acting suspiciously” as he prepared to board a pump boat toward the town proper. Acosta allegedly gave “conflicting and confusing answers” when questioned. The military also said that he “appeared nervous” and that he attempted to draw a hand grenade from his pocket.

At that point, the report went on to say, a soldier immediately grabbed Acosta’s arm and the explosive in his hand.

Acosta in a photo released to the media by the military.

An informant has allegedly also squealed to the military that Acosta, 37, is originally from Cubao, Quezon City, and that he was working under the Instruction Bureau of the National Education Department of the CPP-NPA-NDF’s Central Committee.

According to the report quoting the informant, Acosta bears the alias August Lim and that he was in charge of producing various propaganda materials.

The military took from Acosta a laptop with complete accessories and spare battery, an external hard drive, a USB dongle, a phone, six SIM cards, money amounting to P4,800, and various personal belongings.

The 8th ID’s Major General Mario Chan said Acosta’s rights were respected during and after his apprehension.

“Acosta was treated very well by the apprehending troops. As we’ve done so in the past, we assure our people that we will always be observant of human rights. Acosta will be accorded his right to counsel and be given his day in court,” the commanding general said.

Criminal charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives have already been filed against Acosta at the Regional Trial Court Branch 41 in Gandara under Criminal Case No. 11-0501. He is now under the custody of Gandara Municipal Police Office.

Ericson, Eric, Spinky Lampaso

To the military, Acosta is a terrorist as defined in the Aquino government’s military campaign Oplan Bayanihan. But to many friends and colleagues from the University of the Philippines, he is nothing of the sort. Acosta — or as he’s affectionately known to friends alternatively as “Eric,” “Green Bird” and “Dingbat” — is a poet, songwriter, and activist.

He was the culture editor of the Philippine Collegian in 1993, UP Diliman’s official student publication, and a member of Amnesty International. He dabbled in the theater, acting in a play staged by one of the campus’s main theater groups. It was for his music and poetry, however, that he was most known for.

Bayan Muna secretary-general Renato Reyes, in a blog post, reminisces about Ericson with whom he spent many a night in jam sessions on the fourth floor landing of Vinzons Hall where the Collegian’s office was. Reyes also went to UP Diliman and was at the time chairman of the League of Filipino Students (LFS).

“Our repertoire consisted of Binky Lampano, Eraserheads and The Doors tunes. We would then move to the grandstand at around 2 am to sing some more to an unsuspecting audience at Sunken Garden,” he said.

Filmmaker Sigfreid Barros-Sanchez said that because of Ericson’s love for the Lampano Alley lead singer’s music, Ericson was sometimes jokingly called “Spinky Lampaso.”

When Seattle grunge genius Kurt Cobain committed suicide, Acosta went around singing songs by Nirvana at the top of his voice. On nights when he got too drunk, the younger “probees” or probationary writers at the Collegian would get worried that Ericson would throw up on the mats in the sleeping room. He was also notorious for “borrowing” plates from the University Food Service, which he brought back to the Collegian office. There was a time when there were at least a dozen of the white ceramic plates in the Collegian’s make-shift pantry.

It was also a time when Lucky Me! instant noodle was first introduced in the market and Ericson, always mysteriously short on cash, often resorted to eating it when he couldn’t wheedle friends into lending or giving him money for better food. One time, after running out of money, he took off his shoes, folded his pant legs and waded into the wishing fountain at the back of the Shangri-la Plaza EDSA mall to get enough coins for bus fare.

The Jollibee branch in Philcoa was still being built back then, and in solidarity with community protests against the demolitions that attended the establishment of the fastfood place, he renamed the iconic bee “Jolibag.”

Ericson was not overtly political then, and to his fellow writers in the collegian, he was something of an “artistic troublemaker”: he and another editor were usually the ringleaders of drinking sessions, extorting money from staffers to buy either Tanduay rum or Ginebra San Miguel which they would then serve mixed with Sunny Orange or cola in a plastic pitcher.

A Personal Political Upheaval

Ericson’s transformation came on the heels of the massive political upheaval in UP Diliman in 1994 that was an echo of the greater changes in the ideological spectrum that swept throughout the country from the countryside to the cities. In UP Diliman, campus activists were forced to re-examine their beliefs and commitment to the cause of national democracy.

When others chose to let go of their activism saying that they were demoralized, Ericson chose to step up. It was like a switch was thrown and, overnight, Ericson took charge of his happy-go-lucky self and became serious in his political advocacies.

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