By EMILY VITAL
MANILA — Peasant leader Joseph Canlas died around 7 a.m. today at the Jose B. Lingad Hospital in San Fernando, Pampanga, according to Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Central Luzon.
Canlas, 59, chairperson of Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson, showed symptoms of COVID-19 on May 7. The result of his swab test has not been released as of this writing.
Canlas was arrested March 30 during simultaneous raids in Central Luzon. He was charged with illegal possession of firearms and exposives and detained at Camp Olivas in Pampanga.
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilpinas blamed the Duterte administration for Canlas’s untimely death.
“The state’s brutal fascism killed Canlas who was exposed to COVID while in detention and under the custody of the BJMP [Bureau of Jail Management and Penology]. His unjust detention led to the swift deterioration of his health condition,” the group said.
According to KMP’s timeline, Canlas was placed in the jail’s quarantine facility with 100 other detainees on April 22 and was tranferred to a regular cell after 14 days. He was rushed to a hospital only in the evening of May 8. The day before, relatives noticed that Canlas was stuttering during a phone call. He also had difficulty walking. On May 10, he was intubated and in a state of coma.
“We point our fingers to the NTF-ELCAC [National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict] that subjected Canlas to constant red-tagging, Angeles City RTC Executive Judge Ma. Angelica T. Paras-Quiambao who issued the search warrant against Canlas; the PNP-CIDG that executed the defective warrant and carried out the illegal arrest last March 30; and the BJMP for consciously neglecting Canlas’ health condition,” KMP said.
Before his arrest, Canlas was publicly red-tagged by state security forces. He was also under heavy surveillance.
Wife of peasant leader in Central Luzon recalls threats before his arrest
Hero for Central Luzon farmers
Farmers organizations mourn the death of Canlas. According to Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women, Canlas led campaigns against land grabbing and displacement of farmers in Hacienda Luisita, Hacienda Dolores, Pantabangan Dam, Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Nueva Ecija, Camp Gregg in Pangasinan, New Clark City, CLEX, TPLEX and SCTEX, among others.
He also led campaigns for the repeal of RA 11203 Rice Liberalization Law, against importation and the increase in palay farm gate prices.
Progressive groups will hold an indignation protest at 5 p.m. today at Commission on Human Rights (CHR) compound.