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Peasant leader’s death sparks outrage, calls for justice

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Longtime peasant leader Joseph Canlas, who had been detained over trumped-up charges, has passed away today, May 11, after he was rushed to a hospital three days ago, according to peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

“We condemn in strongest terms the jail authorities’ neglect and the Duterte government’s unjust incarceration of Ka Joseph which led to his untimely death this morning,” Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women national chairperson Zenaida Soriano said. “We express our deepest condolences to his family.”

Canlas, chairperson of Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon, was arrested March 30 by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police in Mexico, Pampanga. He was charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives — a criminal case that human rights groups called the “standard” charges fabricated against activists under the Duterte administration.

The peasant leader was rushed to an Angeles City hospital due to low oxygen level and possible stroke. The following morning, he was transferred to an intensive care unit due to acute respiratory failure and COVID-19.

On May 10, Canlas had lapsed into a coma despite being intubated and connected to a mechanical ventilator.

Human rights groups earlier decried “unjust treatment” of Canlas under custody of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology. They said the land reform advocate was subjected to severe conditions that made him vulnerable to ailments like COVID-19. Hospital records showed his cause of death as pneumonia.

Peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), where Canlas served as vice-chairperson, noted that he was in stable condition prior to detention. His health would soon deteriorate under jail custody as proven by his complaints of difficulty in breathing and stuttering speech.

“If jail authorities thoroughly checked Canlas’s health condition, they would have known that he has hypertension and diabetes which makes him more vulnerable to COVID infection,” KMP said.

“If he received proper medical attention while in detention, then the risks could have been lessened,” the group added.

A day after his arrest, Canlas was transferred and put under quarantine at the CIDG Region 3. He was not allowed to receive visitors, including family members and counsel.

According to KMP, Canlas was transferred after two weeks to the BJMP Detention Center in Angeles City after an X-ray examination. Since the BJMP’s facility was full, he was listed to be placed under quarantine.

The peasant advocate was put in BJMP’s quarantine facility along with 100 or more detainees as of April 22. He was transferred to a regular jail after two more weeks.

Who is Joseph Canlas?

Canlas was known in Central Luzon for his decades-long struggle against land grabbing and displacement of farmers in Hacienda Luisita, Hacienda Dolores, Pantabangan Dam, Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Nueva Ecija, Camp Gregg in Pangasinan, New Clark City, and expressways CLEX, TPLEX and SCTEX among others.

He finished BS Forestry at Pampanga Agricultural College and became an employee at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. He soon became exposed to corruption in the government agency, especially in the implementation of environmental projects.

Canlas eventually resigned from government work and formed the group Anak Gubat to continue his advocacy of protecting the environment. He became a member of the peasant group Aguman dareng Maglalautang Capampangan (AMC) in 1997. During this time, he was also elected as an officer of  Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Pampanga.

In 2003, he became the chairperson of the AMGL and led a membership reaching up to 10,000 farmer-members. According to a Bayan-Gitnang Luson, Canlas led successful people’s campaigns in Central Luzon such as the agricultural workers’ strike in Hacienda Luisita, and against infrastructure projects like the New Clark City, Balog-Balog Dam, Aboitiz Geothermal Powerplant, massive land use conversion and the displacement of farmers and Aetas.

In the middle of the pandemic while he was being constantly red-tagged and harassed by state security forces, Canlas was still at the forefront of relief efforts and calls for sufficient health services and economic assistance to peasants and Aetas in Central Luzon.

His organizations KMP, AMGL, Bayan, as well as other progressive groups have denounced the injustice against the peasant leader. In a statement, the KMP said “we could only blame the Duterte administration for his untimely death. His unjust detention led to the swift deterioration of his health condition.”

“We point our fingers to the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) that subjected Canlas to constant red-tagging, Angeles City RTC Executive Judge Ma. Angelica T. Paras-Quiambao who issued the search warrant against Canlas, the PNP-CIDG that executed the defective warrant and carried out the illegal arrest last March 30, and the BJMP for consciously neglecting Canlas’ health condition,” the peasant group said.

According to KMP, peasant organizations and land reform advocates will hold a series of protests, starting with an indignation rally at the Commission of Human Rights complex in Quezon City this afternoon, May 11.

With reports from Ratziel San Juan and Pokus Gitnang Luson 

AFP, PNP troops kill 5 mango orchard workers in Rizal

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) killed five mango orchard workers in Baras, Rizal last Thursday, December 17, human rights and peasant groups reported.

Troops belonging to the 2nd Infantry Division (2ID) of the AFP and the Region IV-A Command of the PNP killed Carlito Zonio, Vilma Salabao, Wesley Obmerga, Jonathan Alberga, and Niño Alberga, workers of a mango farm in Sitio Malalim, Barangay San Juan of the said town, human rights group Karapatan-Southern Tagalog said.

The AFP said the 2:30 AM incident was a shootout with members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

The AFP added they conducted the pre-dawn raid to serve a warrant of arrest to a certain Antonio Cule that resulted in an encounter and the death of the victims.

Brigadier General Alex Rillera, 202nd Infantry Brigade commander, said two of the victims were “Ka Sandra” and “Ka Onli” of the NPA.

Philippine Army social media accounts also alleged the victims were NPA members, one of them was even a “top spy” for the group.

But Karapatan-ST, quoting eyewitnesses and the victims’ neighbors, said Zonio,  Salabao, and Obmerga were farm caretakers and mango tree sprayers while the Albergas were guards.

The victims had been workers at the farm in the last three years.

Marco Valbuena, Communist Party of the Philippines public information officer, denied the victims were NPA members.

“We denounce the AFP’s peddling of fake news to cover up their criminal responsibility in the Baras 5 Massacre,” Valbuena said in a tweet.

PNP refuses to release cadavers

The police took the remains of the victims to the Antipolo Memorial Homes but refused to release the cadavers of three of the victims to their families.

The remains of the guards were handed over to their relatives.

The Karapatan-ST fact-finding team also complained of harassment by PNP teams when they assisted families of the three in retrieving their cadavers from the funeral home Monday night, December 21.

Police officers demanded that members of the fact-finding team alight from their vehicles and present their identification cards.

The human rights workers refused.

The harassment continued last December 22 at the Antipolo police station where a Karapatan paralegal was isolated and forced to erase photos from his camera.

In a statement, Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo (SAKA) joined Karapatan and the peasant organizations affiliated with Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in condemning “yet another state-sponsored massacre.”

SAKA said, “Instead of counting presents this holiday season, the Filipino people are counting corpses.”

The murder of the so-called Baras 5 raises the peasant death toll under President Rodrigo Duterte to 295, SAKA added.  # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘October Resistance’: Farmers protest human rights violations

Hundreds of farmers and activists commemorate Peasant Month with a series of activities they call ‘October Resistance,’ in obvious reference to the so-called Red October plot the military tried selling off as a plan oust President Rodrigo Duterte.

Led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), a rally was held from University of Santo Tomas to Mendiola last Friday to call for an end to poverty, hunger as well “state fascism” by the Duterte government.

Protest actions were also launched in Tuguegarao City, Tagbilaran City, Laguna, Quezon, Camarines Norte, Bukidnon, Davao City and Cagayan de Oro.

The farmers said they demand genuine land reform, free land distribution and the pull-out of military troops from communities.

They also want to end land-grabbing and land use conversion schemes as well as a stop to plantations all over the country.

KMP Chairperson Danilo Ramos said that the ‘Red October’ plot scare of the government aims to justify human rights violations and intensify crackdown against peasant activists and organizers.

The group decried the recent human rights violations perpetrated by state forces. Among these is the killing of Jaime Delos Santos, chairman of the fisherfolk PAMALAKAYA (affiliated member of KMP) in Guihulngan Negros Oriental last October 6, as well as the killing of Victor Villafranca, also member of PAMALAKAYA’s HABAGAT or Haligi ng Batanguenong Anakdagat in Lian Batangas, last October 13.

They also assailed the violent dispersal of their camp out at the Department of Agrarian Reform last Thursday. # (Report and video by Joseph Cuevas with Maricon Montajes)

 

‘October Resistance’ isasagawa ng mga magsasaka

Isang press conference noong Oktubre 8 ang isinagawa nang Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas o KMP at mga kaanib na organisasyon nito upang i-anunsyo ang kanilang pagkilos na tinaguriang “October Resistance against poverty, hunger and state fascism.”

Bilang bahagi ng buwan ng mga magsasaka ngayong Oktubre, iba’t-ibang aktibidad ang kanilang isasagawa bitbit ang panawagang tunay na reporma sa lupa, libreng pamamahagi ng lupa sa mga magsasaka, pagkontrol sa mga presyo ng bigas at iba pang bilhin gayundin ang pagtigil sa militarisasyon at paglabag sa karapatang tao sa kanayunan.

Ayon naman sa Amihan (Pambansang Pederasyon ng mga Kababaihang Magsasaka), lumalala ang kalagayan ng mga magsasaka at kababaihang magbubukid. Imbes na ibigay sa mga magsasaka ang lupain, inilaan pa ito sa ekspansyon ng mga plantasyon, malawakang pagmimina at land use conversion ang iba sa mga malaking kumpanya at panginoong maylupa.

Giit pa ng Amihan, walang plano si Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte para sa pagpapaunlad ng agrikultura at pamimigay ng lupa sa mga magsasaka.

Mariin naman nilang binatikos ang pakanang ‘Red October’ ng gubyernong Duterte at Armed Forces of the Philippines at sinabing layunin lamang nito na takutin at pahupain ang tumitinding galit ng sambayanan dahil sa walang-awat na taas presyo ng mga bilihin at serbisyo dulot ng Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law o TRAIN Law.

Binigyan nila ng halimbawa ang patuloy na pampulitikang panunupil at “red tagging” sa mga organisasyon at aktibista.

Patuloy din ang pagsasampa ng mga gawa-gawang kaso laban sa mga lider magsasaka kabilang na ang tagapangulo ng KMP sa Northern Mindanao na si Ereneo Ubarde at 33 iba pang lider sa rehiyon, gayundin ang pag-aresto kay Gerry Basahon, lider ng Misamis Oriental Farmers Association na kaanib ng KMP noong Oktubre 4, ani ng mga grupo.

Kinundena din nila ang pinakahuling kaso nang pamamaslang noong Oktubre 6 sa tagapangulo ng PAMALAKAYA sa Negros Oriental na si Jaime Delos Santos.

Dagdag pa ng KMP, kapag patuloy na tumindi ang atake nang rehimen tiyak na tatapatan ito ng paglaban nang taumbayan. Nakatakda ang kanilang malakihang pagkilos ng mga magsasaka sa Oktubre 19 sa ibat-ibang panig ng bansa. # (Bidyo at ulat ni Joseph Cuevas/Larawan ni Jinky Mendoza-Aguilar)

Group launches book on land grabbing in the Philippines

Campaign and advocacy group Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes (PNFSP) launched a book on the festering injustices on land grabbing in the Philippines in a ceremony in Quezon City last May 17.

PNFSP said the book “Land Grabbing Cases in the Philippines: Greed, Hunger & Resistance” is the first ever book that documented such cases suffered by the peasant and indigenous peoples sectors it serves.

The book looked at how powerful interests affect communities and how their actions translate to hunger and evolve to resistance by the affected communities, PNFSP said. # (Videography by Ivan Dexter Tolentino and Esther Anne Cabrillas / Editing by Jo Maline D. Mamangun) Read more