Immediate release of sickly peasant leader sought; Duterte blamed for endangering health of Canlas

Ka Joseph Canlas with the late senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani at the Fact-finding Mission in Zambales on the impact of Chinese aggression to the small fisherfolk in September 2015.

Manila, Philippines – “Every single day that peasant leader Joseph Canlas is deprived of liberty is a ticking time bomb for his life. The Duterte government is accountable for whatever would happen to Canlas because of his unjust and prolonged detention,” according to the national fishers’ group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) on Monday, as it demanded the immediate and unconditional release of detained peasant activist Joseph Canlas over humanitarian grounds.

Canlas, arrested along with other two activists in Central Luzon in the middle of the Holy Week, is currently under critical condition as he tested antigen positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The fishers’ group maintained that Canlas, Vice Chairperson of the militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) chairperson is unjustly detained and that charges against him are based on fabricated and planted evidences.

“If not for Canlas’ prolonged detention, he would have not been suffering from the coronavirus. We pin the blame on the Duterte regime for compromising his health by placing him in a congested jail, and moreover, for his continuous and unjust incarceration,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA National Chairperson said in a statement.

In a separate statement, Anakpawis Party-list National President Ariel Casilao said the fate of Canlas exposes the miserable condition of prisons where sickly and elderly prisoners are deemed vulnerable and left exposed with the virus.

“Canlas must be released on humanitarian grounds. He was arrested on March 30 and this weekend, he showed COVID-19 symptoms, thus, it is a huge possibility that his incarceration led to his infection. This is a serious case of violation against safety and health, leading to threat of life,” Casilao said.

The former lawmaker also cited that this would be the second case involving an activist of Anakpawis to be infected with COVID-19, akin to the case of Paolo Colabres, a paralegal who was arrested in August last and acquired the virus inside Camp Karingal in Quezon City.

“Being jailed with trumped up charges seem to be death sentences, especially to those with comorbidities. Canlas is suffering from hypertension, heart enlargement and vertigo, and was taking maintenance medicines. His unjust incarceration is drastically affecting his health,” the former solon added.

PAMALAKAYA and Anakpawis in a joint statement said that Canlas and all the elderly and sickly political prisoners in the country must be granted liberty on just and humanitarian grounds. ###

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