Detained peasant leader with COVID-19 symptoms in critical condition

Published May 10, 2021, 12:13 PM

by Jhon Aldrin Casinas

Detained peasant leader Joseph Canlas is currently in critical condition after experiencing symptoms related to coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Photo courtesy of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said Canlas is currently in a coma and hooked to a mechanical ventilator at the critical care unit of Jose B. Lingad Memorial Hospital in Pampanga.

His daughter, Jenette Canlas, told the Manila Bulletin that the peasant leader has tested positive in the COVID-19 antigen test, and his oxygen level is still low despite being intubated and connected to a ventilator.

The peasant group suspected that Canlas likely got infected while in detention and under the custody of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).

“We demand the immediate release of Joseph Canlas and the dismissal of the trumped-up charges against him,” KMP and Anakpawis leader Rafael Mariano said in a statement Monday, May 10.

“While COVID infection rates remain high, political prisoners and all persons deprived of liberties could suffer the same life-threatening situation as Canlas. It is not only a matter of life and death but also of justice to give urgent reprieve for Canlas and other elderly and sickly prisoners,” he added.

The KMP has also appeal to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to issue a special ruling on Canlas’ case and release the detained peasant leader on the basis of humanitarian grounds.

Canlas, 59, was arrested in a police operation last March 30 in Mexico, Pampanga, over charges of illegal possession of firearms. He was then detained in Angeles City, Pampanga.

The KMP said that the “miserable jail conditions and negligence of jail officers” have worsened Canlas’ health who was rushed to a hospital on May 8 after experiencing difficulty in breathing. He has hypertension and diabetes, which are both comorbidities of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) maintained that Canlas, a vice chairperson of KMP and Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) chairperson, was “unjustly detained” based on “fabricated charges” and “planted evidences.”

“If not for Canlas’ prolonged detention, he would have not been suffering from the coronavirus. We pin the blame on the Duterte regime for compromising his health by placing him in a congested jail, and moreover, for his continuous and unjust incarceration,” Pamalakaya national chairperson Fernando Hicap said in a statement.

Anakpawis Party-list National President Ariel Casilao has also appealed for the release of Canlas on humanitarian grounds, saying that there “is a huge possibility that his incarceration led to his infection.”

“Being jailed with trumped up charges seem to be death sentences, especially to those with comorbidities…His unjust incarceration is drastically affecting his health,” Casilao said.