Groups denounce 'brutal slay' of poet-activist Ericson Acosta

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 3) — Various groups of writers, and peace and human rights advocates condemned the killing of poet and activist Ericson Acosta, in what the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said was a military operation in Negros Occidental three days ago.

In a statement, the Manila Critics Circle – a group of literary critics and newspaper columnists – strongly denounced what it called the "brutal slaying" of Acosta.

"We condemn such act of military violence with impunity that assumes the disguise of authority and justice in resolving perceived socio-political conflicts in our land," the group said.

"We decry the use of terror to silence the intellectuals of this sad republic," it added.

Acosta won the National Book Award in 2015 for his poetry collection "Mula Tarima Hanggang at iba pang mga Tula at Awit."

PEN Philippines on Friday called for an "urgent and transparent investigation" into the circumstances surrounding Acosta's death.

The Philippine Army earlier reported that two unidentified bodies were found after soldiers clashed with communist rebels in Kabankalan at around 2 a.m. on Nov. 30.

The Negros chapter of the National Democratic Front (NDF) later identified the fatalities as Acosta — an NDF consultant — and his companion, a peasant organizer.

NDF-Negros also claimed the two were "captured alive" by the military but were tagged as "casualties of a fake encounter" a few hours later.

On Saturday, AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar said being an NDF consultant did not make Acosta "naive and harmless."

Acosta was also a "Deputy Secretary of Regional Committee of the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) in Negros Island," according to Aguilar.

Acosta was imprisoned from 2011 to 2013 on what Karapatan described as "trumped-up charges" of illegal possession of explosives. The human rights group has called on the Commission of Human Rights to conduct an independent probe into his death.

"If found that the reports of the extrajudicial killing of Acosta and his companion by the military are true, the AFP must be taken to task for this abomination, which is part and parcel of a militaristic, 'take-no-prisoners' approach to the long running armed conflict with the CPP-NPA," advocates from Pilgrims of Peace added.