Farmers appeal to DOJ: Drop trumped-up charges and release sickly peasant leader Joseph Canlas

COVID hits us differently this time. Central Luzon peasant leader Joseph Canlas of the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, and Anakpawis remain in critical condition due to COVID. He is in a coma at the Intensive Care Unit of JBL Hospital in Pampanga. His oxygen saturation is still low despite being intubated and connected to a mechanical ventilator.

Canlas likely got COVID infected while in detention and under the custody of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP). He was illegally arrested last March 30 by the PNP-CIDG due to fabricated evidence and trumped-up charges. Canlas is the vice-chairperson of KMP.

“We demand the immediate release of Joseph Canlas and the dismissal of the trumped-up charges against him. While COVID infection rates remain high, political prisoners and all persons deprived of liberties could suffer the same life-threatening situation as Canlas. It is not only a matter of life and death but also of justice to give urgent reprieve for Canlas and other elderly and sickly prisoners,” says KMP and Anakpawis leader Rafael Mariano.  

KMP said miserable jail conditions and negligence of jail officers have further worsened Canlas’ health who only complained of arthritis and joint pains before his illegal arrest and detention.  As of March 2021, at least 3,500 were COVID infected in BJMP facilities nationwide.  

We hold the Duterte regime accountable for this situation. The government’s failed pandemic response coupled with the non-stop arrest and detention of activists and government critics further shows the brutality of this administration. Papatayin ng gobyerno sa lahat ng paraan ang taumbayan – sa kapabayaan at sa panunupil.

KMP expressed an urgent appeal to Department of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to issue a special ruling on Canlas’ case and release the detained peasant leader based on humanitarian grounds.

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