[Nationwide indignation today] Joseph Canlas led farmers’ campaign against land grabbing prior to arrest

Peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) demanded the urgent release of its vice-chairperson Joseph Canlas, 59, who was illegally arrested by elements of PNP-CIDG this morning in Barangay Sapang Maisac, Mexico, Pampanga. Canlas is also the chairperson of Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL-KMP) and National Vice President of Anakpawis Partylist. 

Canlas was nabbed in a nearby peasant community at around 8:30 AM, Tuesday. Fabricated evidences were planted against him according to initial reports. The peasant leader was brought to Camp Olivas in San Fernando Pampanga.

The simultaneous and orchestrated police operations also nabbed trade union leader Pol Viuya of BAYAN-Central Luzon and Workers Alliance in Region III, in Bamban, Tarlac. Both Canlas and Viuya were previously red-tagged by elements of the NTF-ELCAC. According to KARAPATAN-Central Luzon, the entire Pampanga province was placed in household lockdown, and checkpoints were positioned in major highways and routes.     

KMP and BAYAN will lead a nationwide indignation today at 5 PM to protest the arrest of the activist leaders.

Staunch defender of land rights 

KMP said Canlas leads numerous campaigns and struggles for the welfare of farmers in Central Luzon. Before his arrest, from January to March this year, he actively campaigned against the demolition and eviction of farmers in Orion, Bataan whose lands were grabbed by corporate executive Federico Pascual.

Canlas is most vocal against the conversion of farms and agricultural lands as Central Luzon transforms from the country’s “rice granary” into the land conversion hotspot for the Duterte government’s Build! Build! Build! program. Canlas and AMGL are strongly campaigning against the displacement of farmers and indigenous people as a consequence of projects such as the 9,450-hectare Clark Green City, Bulacan Aerotropolis, Pampanga Megalopolis, and Balog-Balog Mega Dam project, among others. Canlas previously asserted that these projects will displace farmers, further wreck the country’s rice supply, and endanger the food security of Filipinos. 

Last year, Canlas actively criticized the Department of Agriculture’s P272-M overpriced fertilizer fund scam and Plant, Plant, Plant program amid the pandemic. He also resolutely campaigned for higher palay prices as he scoffed at the Duterte administration’s Rice Liberalization Law, and importation policies affecting farmers and food producers across Luzon. He also joined protests against the Anti-Terrorism Law. In a February mobilization outside the Supreme Court, Canlas was seen holding a placard with the sign “Magsakaka kami, hindi terorista.” #

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