Group demands justice as peasant leader Joseph Canlas dies

Published May 11, 2021, 4:57 PM

by Gabriela Baron

The Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG) is demanding justice for detained peasant leader and land defender Joseph Canlas who succumbed to complications due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Joseph Canlas (Photo from Nadja de Vera via CPDG)

Canlas, 59, passed away Tuesday morning, May 11, according to militant group Anakpawi.s

“The government’s continuing attacks against activists and development workers even amid the COVID-19 pandemic is condemnable. We believe that the government should be held accountable because in the midst of a pandemic, it focuses its resources and powers to trump-up cases and incarcerate activists and development workers,” CPDG Spokesperson Liza Maza said Tuesday.

Canlas, vice chairperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), was among those arrested in simultaneous police operations on March 30.

Prior to his arrest, the group said Canlas was already suffering from arthritis and joint pains. He also has diabetes and hypertension.

CPDG believes that Canlas contracted the virus from his “unjust incarceration ” at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Camp Tomas Pepito, Angeles City, Pampanga.

Maza called a stop to planting of evidence and filing of trumped-up cases to activists and progressive groups.

“Activism, criticism, and dissent is not and will never be a crime as it is safeguarded by the Constitution. Instead, the government should listen and heed the calls of marginalized sectors especially during this critical situation of our economy and health crisis we are facing,” Maza iterated.

“The continuous arrests of critics and so-called rebels do not in any way contribute in defeating the virus. It only adds more possibilities of transmission which will increase the number of patients to our already overwhelmed hospitals,” she added.

Maza called for the release of elderly, ailing, and nursing detainees, stressing their continued imprisonment “only poses equal danger to their health and other prisoners.”

“We do not want another Joseph Canlas, or another Baby River.”

Baby River, who was separated from her detained mother activist Reina Mae Nasino, died at three months old on October 9, 2020.