Makabayan bloc lawmakers on Tuesday, March 11 blamed government for the death of Joseph Canlas, a peasant leader who died after contracting 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID 19) while under police detention.
Canlas, chairman of the Alyansang Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon, was among the activists who were arrested in simultaneous raids conducted by joint military and police operatives in Luzon during the recent observance of Holy Week.
He was reportedly arrested on the strength of a court-issued warrant. A gun was also allegedly found in his possession during the raid.
Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said Canlas was healthy when arrested by police authorities last March.
He assailed Angeles City Jail Warden J/Supt. Rebecca Manalo-Tiguelo for ignoring Canlas condition no matter how critical it was a few days before his death.
Zarate said Canlas tested positive to COVID 19 through antigen test but not RT-PCR..
“He was not even tested for Covid when he was in quarantine even if the BJMP knows that Ka Joseph had hypertension and diabetes which makes him more vulnerable to COVID infection. He was only brought to the hospital when it was too late,” he said.
“We must also take note and be wary of what happened to Ka Joseph as it may be another modus, a form of “silent extra-judicial killing” via Covid19,” Zarate stated.
In a separate statement, Assistant Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Representative France Castro said the Duterte administration should be held accountable for the death of the peasant leader.
“We mourn the untimely death of Ka Joseph Canlas and we extend our deepest condolences to his bereaved family and the peasant community . He is a victim of red-tagging, trumped-up charges, harassment and now extra judicial killing by means of COVID-19,” said Castro.
The Gabriela Women’s Partylist, represented in the Lower House by Asst. Minority Leader Arlene Brosas, made the same claim that Canlas’ death should be blamed on the Duterte government.
“Ka Joseph was wrongfully and unjustly detained for his active involvement in the struggles of Central Luzon farmers for land, food and justice. He was a staunch supporter of our measure to repeal the Rice Liberalization Law and the campaign to stop the massive importation of rice,” the GWP statement said.
The women’s organization added: “His death highlights the unending brutality of the Duterte regime against farmers, peasant organizers and land reform advocates, and the fatal implications of the ceaseless red-tagging spree being unleased by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).”