Farmer rights, anti-corporate control activist dies in detention — MASIPAG

May 11, 2021

Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) and the Stop Golden Rice! Network Philippines vehemently condemns the prolonged detention and mishandling of the case of peasant leader Joseph Canlas, which eventually led to his death. Canlas’ family notified the facility’s officials of his situation as early as May 7, but was only brought to the hospital at night time of May 8; it was confirmed that Canlas contracted COVID while in detention. Canlas was detained since March 30, where he was arrested at the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) office at Sapang Maisac, Mexico, Pampanga.

AMGL and its legal counsels describes the arrest as absurd and that the evidences surfaced by police officers were planted. Joseph Canlas, and their organization, Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luzon(AMGL) has been calling for the stoppage of Golden Rice field test and commercialization as this would spell disaster to our rice, the staple crop of Filipinos and primary means of livelihoods for farmers in Nueva Ecija and provinces in Central Luzon. In 2018, AMGL along with SGRN trooped the city hall of Munoz Sangguniang Pambayan to clarify the position of farmers against the field testing of Golden Rice in their province. This resulted in a resolution preventing any future field testing of Golden Rice in the city on the basis of safety and efficacy. “MASIPAG condemns this act against peasant leader Ka Joseph Canlas, who has led the peasantry in the realization for their rights to land, seed and resources. Canlas, and his organization the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon, has been very active against any form of policy or program that affects the rights of peasants in Central Luzon, including the introduction of the genetically modified Golden Rice, the Rice Liberalization Law, rampant land use conversion among others. As such, they got the ire of corporations, cartels, landlords and businessmen leading to his arrest. We in MASIPAG calls for justice on Ka Joseph death” said Cristino Panerio, National Coordinator of MASIPAG.

Canlas was remembered as a farmer-leader, championing the rights of farmers and the marginalized. He was also active in lobbying efforts for the improvement of lives of small farmers. As such, our loss comes with our call for justice to those who committed criminal neglect in his health situation, and as well as the unjust detainment in the first place.

The continued attacks against farmers, peasant-leaders, civic leaders, and activists through killings and trumped hinder advocacy and development work. More so, this culture of impunity disparages the role of the people in democratic participation in production because it legitimizes their oppression. #