Justice for Ka Joseph Canlas! Free all political prisoners!

Karapatan mourns with the family, friends and colleagues of Ka Joseph Canlas, 59, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas Vice Chairperson and Chairperson of the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson, who passed away this morning of May 11, at the Intensive Care Unit of the Jose B. Lingad Memorial Regional Hospital in San Fernando, Pampanga.

He had been in the said hospital since evening of May 7, when he experienced difficulty in breathing. Yesterday, sources reported that Canlas tested positive for COVID-19, as per his antigen test. He was in critical condition with low oxygen saturation level and was intubated. He had diabetes and hypertension.

Canlas was among those arrested on March 30 in Central Luzon in the course of the police and military operations using search warrants issued by courts against activists. The arrested peasant leader asserted that the guns, ammunitions and explosives and other so-called evidence seized during the raids were planted against him. His arrest came after similar cases of highly questionable searches conducted by the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines resulted in extrajudicial killings and arbitrary arrests and detention of activists in Southern Tagalog, Metro Manila, Bohol, and Negros.

Karapatan attributes the demise of Canlas to his unjust arrest and detention as well as the deadly conditions in jail facilities, which result in cases like Ka Joseph’s. He should not have been arrested on fabricated charges in the first place, and therefore, he should not have been exposed to these deadly conditions in detention centers. The accountability for his death rests on State security forces who brazenly and shamelessly conducted the said operations.

The peasant movement in the Philippines lost another courageous leader with the death of Ka Joseph Canlas, but as we mourn with them, we stand more firmly with them in our collective journey for justice and accountability in the country. We call for the release of all political prisoners on just and humanitarian grounds.