Calling for the Immediate release of Joseph Canlas and Pol Viuya
Representing the peasant and the labor sector, Joseph Canlas and Pol Viuya are veteran people’s organizers, development and humanitarian workers, human rights defenders, and activists that have served the marginalized in Central Luzon with utmost sincerity and unflinching commitment. They have been walking alongside the toiling masses in the most vulnerable of communities throughout people’s issues on land, wages, job security, livelihood, environment, food security, housing, education, disaster risk reduction, response, and management, and yes, even and most especially public health. Their decades-long lifeworks include working hand-in-hand with the grassroots community in coming up with resolutions, be it by building communities and people-powered development, or marching through the street parliament, or shaking the powers-that-be, in advocacy and campaign—shaping policies, and making appeals and petitions on paper.
The regional peasant group Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL), has been alongside our farmers, farmworkers, and even indigenous people in the region. They empower our food security front lines, in the assertion of their collective rights to land, food, and resources. As AMGL’s chairperson, Jose Canlas, better known as “Ka JC”, has been outspoken about the rampant land-use conversion in the region and even likened the Central plains of Luzon to that of a “kalamay” that is being outrightly cut into pieces, and seized by politicians for their personal interests and in favor of foreign investments.
Serving as the vice-chairperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), he helps in masterfully weaving and uniting the struggles of the peasantry in our region on the national stage and the national scope of state neglect to the entire peasant class. It includes the hastening of land conversions thru worsening state-sponsored land-grabbing, wholesale sale of natural resources and sovereignty, and rampant disregard for people’s rights such as increasing incidence of extrajudicial killings, threats, harassments, intimidation, and vilification among others. Ka JC’s determined leadership has been the source of renewed hope and the building blocks of stronger courage, for the regional peasant and peasant national minority in the region.
Long before the pandemic left thousands economically worried and insecure, Workers Alliance in Region III (WAR-III) and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan - Gitnang Luson (BAYAN-GL) have long sought to address the issues prevalent to our workers and our urban poor communities.
Holding the Chairmanship of two (2) equally gargantuan responsibilities, one can only fathom, the depths of his commitment as he remains tireless in organizing laborers across different settings that faced the same fight for livable salaries, benefits, and better working conditions while also tackling the issues of housing amidst increasing rampant demolition and displacement of urban poor communities.
First organized while being a worker in PLDT, Ka Pol has been asserting the democratic rights of fellow workers and soon even that of the broader masses. His lowered voice resounds his sharp and firm stand that remains unwavering all throughout the years.
Ka JC and Ka Pol are fearless defenders of people’s rights and liberties. Up against the very State—the Duterte administration and its alter egos in the form of department agencies, their armed groups, and the entire state resources and apparatus, they have not wavered in the fight for the better interests and welfare of the people. This has earned them the ire of NTF-ELCAC, and the PNP-AFP. They became literal poster boys of people’s organizers-development and humanitarian workers-human rights defenders-and activists in the region, red-tagged, vilified, demonized, and labeled as terrorists in tarpaulins, flyers, and in social media videos and publications. Whilst, choosing to advocate for people's rights and welfare is not a crime—and not a terrorist activity!
Last March 31, the State has once again proven that its number #1 enemy under the worsening public health and economic crises are its activists and critics. In simultaneous and synchronized regional operations, combined elements of regional NICA, TF ELCAC, AFP, and CIDG raided the office of AMGL and the private residence of BAYAN-GL’s chairman in an attempt to serve dubious search warrants to Joseph Canlas and Pol Viuya. Resulting in the arrest of the two, and also of May Arcilla, a paralegal of Karapatan - Central Luzon.
Adding salt to injury, the State forces also planted firearms and explosives in the raided office, and private residence—a cliché tactic, way too worn-out through a long list of PNP’s absurdity and busted lies, which resonated in several previously conducted simultaneous illegal arrests and detention, and filing of trumped-up charges.
The illegal arrests of Joseph Canlas and Pol Viuya are a clear attempt of the State to deliver a huge blow to the assertion of the collective democratic rights of the peasantry, workers, urban poor communities, and the rest of the basic sector in Central Luzon. But the State failed to understand that the struggle will continue, despite seemingly hard setbacks, as history has been teaching us.
And as Pol Viuya puts it, in his message, even behind the bars of state fascism, “…sa nangyari mga kasama, hindi dapat tayo panghinaan ng loob… nasa tamang direksyon tayo na ipaglaban ang ating mga karapatan lalo na sa panahong ito. Ang pakikibaka sa politika at pang-ekonomiya ay haharap talaga sa pasismo ng estado, subalit walang iba tayong dapat panghawakan kundi yung pagkakaisa natin, dahil alam nating tama ang ating ipinaglalaban… tunay na reporma sa lupa at pambansang industriyalisasyon… kaya tuloy ang laban, wag panghinaan, sulong mga kasama, hanggang sa tagumpay!” (in the advent of what they have done to me, we must not falter… we are in the right direction to fight for our rights especially in these trying times. The political and economic struggle is always faced with state fascism, but we have nothing to hold on to except our unity because we know that we are correct in what we fight for… genuine land reform and national industrialization… so, let us continue fighting, do not falter, onwards until victory!).
We call on fellow development and humanitarian workers, human rights defenders, activists, and peace-loving individuals to join us in raising the ante to free the CL2 and all other political prisoners. We also invite international civil society groups and the UN human rights bodies to raise the ante in holding the Duterte regime liable for its gross human rights violations. Let us together campaign, and advocate, to stop the attacks, stop the killings, stop the criminalization of legitimate dissent. We ask for solidarity with those who believe in the cause that Ka JC and Ka Pol have vigorously upheld.
Support the call to FREE JOSEPH CANLAS AND POL VIUYA Campaign!