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Freedom For Political Prisoners

by staff |
July 17, 2002
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(Fight Back! News/Staff)
Donato Continente playing with his child
Take action:

Call or Write the Philippine Ambassador to the United States.

Demand Freedom for Donato Continente and All Filipino Political Prisoners

Mr. Albert F. Del Rosario
Embassy of the Philippines
1600 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20036

Tel: (202) 467. 9300
Fax: (202) 467. 9417

The Philippines is a country of extremes. There are very rich people and wealthy U.S. corporations in the Philippines. But most people, millions of them, are very poor. The Philippines is also a country that has been at war for over thirty years-a war between the haves and the have-nots.

Those who fight for people's rights - trade unionists and peasant leaders - are often killed by the government. Many in the poor people's movement have been forced to take up arms against the government. They have joined the New Peoples Army and are fighting for a country that is free of exploitation and foreign domination. The government of the Philippines is brutal. It denies basic rights to people and tortures prisoners. Here is the story of one person who dared to fight the system.

Donato Continente worked as a technical staff member at the Philippine's State University. One of eight children, Donato helped his parents in supporting the family. He also was active in the community, organizing poor youth. He organized out-of-school youth to help them stay out of the street and away from drugs, and he educated them on the national issues. Because of his outspoken activism, Donato was targeted for a crime he did not commit in 1989, and, thirteen years later, despite evidence that the he was not even at the crime scene, Donato remains in jail.

On June 16, 1989, Donato was abducted and taken to a station of the corrupt Philippines military where he was tortured for months. He was accused of killing a U.S. military operative, Colonel James Rowe. His captors struck his testicles and rubbed pepper on his anus. They took to beating him for 'fun.'

While he was undergoing torture, Donato's brother was killed by the military and Donato was told that others in his family would be killed if he did not admit to the crime. Unable to see more of his family members killed, Donato confessed to a crime he did not commit.

The charges against Donato are so flimsy that even the Supreme Court of the Philippines has been forced to reduce the charges. The court found Donato's confession was coerced and that he was not even at the crime scene.

However, Donato was not released from prison. Why? Because, unfortunately for Donato, the United States government has been pressuring the Filipino authorities to keep him in jail. And when the U.S. government says, "jump," the Philippines government asks, "how high?" The U.S. has a long history of messing in the affairs of the Philippines, starting in 1898 when they killed a million Filipino peasants and made the Philippines a colony.

Political prisoners in the Philippines continue to fight for their freedom. On Feb. 22, 2001, Donato joined the nationally coordinated hunger strike of more than 200 political prisoners, pushing for the immediate implementation of the release of their comrades. Human rights groups continue to push for the release of all political prisoners, especially of Donato.

Fight Back! urges all of our readers to contact the Philippine embassy. Tell them to let freedom fighter Donato Continente out of jail now!