Students' groups seek justice as peasant leader Joseph Canlas dies

Published May 12, 2021, 10:40 AM

by Gabriela Baron

Two students’ groups are seeking justice for detained peasant leader and land defender Joseph Canlas who succumbed to complications due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Joseph Canlas (Photo courtesy of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas)

Canlas, 59, passed away Tuesday morning, May 11.

The National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) on Tuesday night mourned the death of Canlas.

“Malinaw na hindi lamang sa sakit siya namatay, bagkus ang primarya nitong dahilan ang paghahasik ng pasismo ng rehiment Duterte sa hanay ng mga nakikibaka para sa tunay na reporma sa lupa (It’s clear that he did not just die of illness, but because of the facism of the Duterte regime among those fighting for genuine land reform),” NUSP National President Jandeil Roperos said.

Canlas, Vice Chairperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, was arrested in Barangay Sapang Maisac, Mexico, Pampanga on March 30.

Roperos likewise called for the release of ailing and elderly political prisoners.

The College Editors Guild of the Philippines said Canlas expressed that his health is deteriorating on May 6, but was dismissed by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology Angeles District.

“Due to the officials’ neglect, he was rushed to the hospital in Angeles City because of a possible stroke and a low oxygen level of 74% and was put in the hospital’s intensive care unit because of acute respiratory and COVID,” CEGP said.

“[He] died not just because of COVID, but because of the inhumane treatment of the Duterte regime. Ka Joseph does not deserve any of this. We must not ignore the grave neglect and deprivation of necessary health and medical attention of the government officials.”

Meanwhile, Canlas’ lawyer, Atty. Luchi Perez of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, said they will file charges against the jail management and the police for the tragic death of Canlas.

Perez said around 90 to 100 detaining sharing the same quarantine facility in the Angeles City Jail have not been tested for COVID-19.

Canlas was a prominent peasant leader who led campaigns against land grabbing and the displacement of farmers in Central Luzon.

He also led campaigns for the repeal of RA 11203 Rice Liberalization Law and opposed the importation and the increase in palay farm gates.