Kin of Joseph Canlas file raps vs police, jail authorities for ‘criminal negligence’

Lawyer Ericson Dela Cruz represents the family of Joseph Canlas in filing the complaint with the Ombudsman against police and jail authorities. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea/ Bulatlat)
In their 26-page complaint, Canlas’s children Jennelle and Joseph narrated how their father was denied immediate access to emergency medical care despite their repeated pleas.


MANILA — The family of Joseph Canlas filed criminal and administrative charges against officials of the police and jail management this morning, May 19, stating that the death of the peasant leader “resulted from the inaction of the respondents.”

The Canlas family filed criminal charges through reckless imprudence resulting in homicide and violations of R.A. No. 11332 or Law on Reporting Communicable Diseases against Colonel Edwin Balles, regional chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Regional Field Unit 3 (CIDG RFU 3), Major Alfredo Agbuya Jr., chief of the Investigation Branch of the CIDG RFU 3, Superintendent Lyndon Torres, regional director of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology Regional Office-III (BJMP Region 3) and Superintendent Rebecca Manalo-Tiguelo, warden of the Angeles District Jail Male Dormitory.

Also named respondents are Caroline Sanchez, chief nurse of the Angeles City District Jail, and Ma Christine Boucher, jail staff nurse of the Angeles City District Jail.

Respondents were also charged with administrative offenses of grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, gross ignorance of the law, inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of official duties, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

Ericson S. Dela Cruz, one of the lawyers of the family, told the media in Filipino, “We will hold them [respondents] accountable to the tragedy that befell Joseph Canlas.”

Canlas’s children, Jennelle Tenessy and Joseph, are demanding for the respondents to be dismissed from service and the forfeiture of their benefits.

The two were not able to go to the Ombudsman as they are still under quarantine. They were represented by Dela Cruz.


In their 26-page complaint, Canlas’s children narrated how their father was denied immediate access to emergency medical care despite their repeated pleas.

Since his arrest on March 30 until before he was rushed to the hospital on May 8, Canlas, who was diagnosed with hypertension, was not tested for COVID-19 despite the high risk of contracting the virus inside the correctional facility. Worse, he was placed in a quarantine facility with 90 to 100 other inmates for 22 days, as admitted by jail authorities.

“The officers of the CIDG RFU 3, charged with the health and safety of Canlas, failed to ensure that the detainees under their custody and care were not exposed to COVID 19 when they neglected to have their detainees tested and treated when necessary, before and during their containment at a single detention cell prior to their transfer to a jail facility,” the complaint read.

The complaint includes the timeline of the incidents:

On May 7, around 2 o’clock in the afternoon, Canlas called his wife. Immediately upon talking to him, Mrs. Canlas noticed that his voice was barely audible, and that he was stuttering and mumbling.

The following day, May 8, Jennelle received a message from a relative who is detained in the same facility saying that his father was having difficulty walking and eating by himself. Jenelle called the BJMP to inform them about his father’s condition. The jail nurse, however, said that her father was fine, adding that his vital signs were normal.

Dead worried, Jennelle and Joseph decided to go to ACDJ to see their father. They insisted on seeing their father, fearing that he might be suffering from stroke as his speech was rapidly deteriorating. They were preparing to meet their doctor at the jail and have their father checked. Again, they were told that there was nothing wrong with their father, and that they could talk to him through video conferencing instead.

When they were finally able to talk to their father through video call, they saw that their father’s physical appearance had significantly deteriorated. They saw that medical oxygen was already attached to his nostrils, he was very pale, and he had pronounced difficulty in talking and staying conscious.

Canlas disclosed that he was having recurring fever while on quarantine.

Complainants then insisted that their father be immediately brought to the hospital. The jail staff nurse said that Canlas’s blood pressure was stable, and that he only needed to be administered with medical oxygen as his oxygen level was low. The jail warden also told the family that there was nothing wrong with Canlas.

It was only at around 7 p.m. of May 8,  after his oxygen saturation has dropped below the normal level, that the jail officers finally agreed to bring Canlas to the hospital. Canlas was rushed to Rafael Lazatin Memorial Medical Center (RLMMC), also known as the Ospital ning Angeles (ONA), due to acute respiratory failure secondary to community acquired pneumonia.

While at the ONA, the complainants were informed that the x-ray results of their father highly indicated that the findings would be COVID related. Despite being nebulized with steroids, Canlas’ oxygen level remained critically low and necessitated that he be immediately intubated.

Because there were no available mechanical ventilators at the ONA for their father, Jennelle and Joseph had to transfer him to an intensive care unit in another hospital. Canlas was transferred to the Jose B. Lingad Memorial Regional Hospital on May 9, at around 4 a.m. At the JBL, Canlas was given the swab test, which later turned out positive for COVID-19.

Canlas died on May 11, at 6:35 a.m.

“The inaction of the BJMP officials from the time he showed signs of serious illness on May 7, 2021 until they brought him to a hospital in the evening of May 8, 2021, was fatal to Mr. Canlas, and are indications that BJMP officials committed criminal negligence for their said inactions,” the complaint read.

CIDG personnel also denied the complainants and their lawyer Luz Perez the opportunity to check on Canlas while detained at Camp Olivas.

Anakpawis Partylist President Ariel Casilao said Canlas should not had been arrested, stating that the charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives were fabricated.

The filing coincided with the ninth day since the death of Canlas. Members of the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) led a liturgy in front of the Office of the Ombudsman. (


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