Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has denounced the death threat against activist priest Fr. Amado Picardal who is being deliberately targeted for speaking out against extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration’s bloody war on drugs, De Lima, a known human rights defender here and abroad, said the death threat on Picardal’s life is a serious matter that should not be put on the back burner.
“It must be taken very seriously. There should be a thorough investigation of reports on suspicious men ‘casing’ out his movements and threatening his security so that these blatant threats on his life can be stopped,” she said in her Dispatch from Crame No. 369.
In his Aug. 26 blog post, Picardal claimed he found himself the target of a death squad and “almost became a victim of extrajudicial killing and the 4th priest to be killed under the Duterte Regime” because he criticized Mr. Duterte.
“Has President Duterte finally ordered my hit? Or is it just some zealous henchman trying to please him? My source informed me that that the order came from Malacanang. But I cannot confirm it. I do not have the complete answer. All I know is that there is a death squad determined to kill me,” he wrote.
Picardal, who has been in hiding for fear of his safety, narrated that some workers in a Catholic monastery that he visits in Cebu City confirmed seeing motorcycle-riding men watching the compound, including a pair who asked for his whereabouts.
According to him, he believes he also became a target of the dreaded death squad when he acted as the spokesperson of the Coalition Against Summary Execution which monitored EJKs and assisted the Commission on Human Rights-which De Lima formerly chaired-and the Human Rights Watch to investigate these killings.
Under Duterte’s administration, three priests have already been killed including Fathers Richmond Nilo and Marcelito Paez of Nueva Ecija, and Mark Ventura of Cagayan.
Despite these threats, De Lima said she remains confident that Fr. Picardal will not lose courage in challenging the death squads and their leaders, as he continues to help the families of EJK victims in their search for justice.
“Any harm that will befall him can only be attributed to the powers-that-be who are responsible for the thousands of killings of poor Filipinos. The threat on Fr. Picardal is just another manifestation of the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of EJKs in the country,” she said.
The Senator from Bicol reminded the Redemptorist priest that he is not alone on his fight, saying, “We are with Fr. Picardal every step of the way. Fr. Picx, hindi ka nag-iisa. We pray for your safety and continued strength.”
De Lima, a staunch advocate for human dignity, was the first public official who called for a Senate investigation into the spate of extrajudicial killings under the administration’s murderous war on drugs barely two weeks since she assumed office.
Even in detention, she continues to speak up against the murderous policies of the Duterte administration that resulted in the death of thousands of suspected drug offenders as well as innocent children and students.