Shedding light on the Philippines' darkest hour

Fr Amado Picardal was the light that came to shine in the darkness of evil and illuminated the truth.

Jun 13, 2024

Redemptorist priest Amado Picardal championed human rights and promoted peace throughout his life. (Photo supplied)

Father Shay Cullen

Fr Amado Picardal was the light that came to shine in the darkness of evil and illuminated the truth.

The Filipino people, especially Christian churches, must undertake a truthful examination of conscience when faced with the shocking truth that at least 30,000 Filipinos were victims of summary execution and more suffered harsh imprisonment without due process when the rule of law was ignored during the Duterte administration.

It was not unknown; it was announced by the candidate before the election of 2016. “I will kill them all,” Rodrigo Duterte announced, and people went wild with cheering, giving full assent to the possible program of extermination of drug suspects.

Christian values were nowhere to be seen.

These days, the extent of that murderous rampage is coming to light. Some may dispute the figures of 30,000 or more killed, but the presidential archive for the months from July 1, 2016, to Nov. 27, 2017, a period of only 17 months, shows as many as 20,322 drug suspects were shot, stabbed and killed.

This official government document presented to the House Committee on Human Rights by human rights lawyer Chel Diokno recently shows that the death toll was much higher than government estimates of 12,000 deaths.

“But there is one number that is unassailable because this comes from the Office of the President and was cited in an extended resolution of the Supreme Court [of April 3, 2018,] and that number is 20,322 persons killed in the war on drugs,” he said.

Citing the report, Diokno added that of the 20,322 recorded, “3,967 Filipinos were killed by police in police operations,” while 16,355 were “killed by riding in tandem and other unknown persons.” The Manila Times reported this on June 6, 2024.

How could it happen in a Catholic country, as writers like to call the Philippines, where the dignity and sanctity of human life are supposed to be held at the pinnacle of moral values?

The right to life for all is to be protected and fought for come what may. Yet there was but a feeble response from the institutional Catholic Church hierarchy and other Christian churches.

There was no national outrage as the bodies piled up and “death squads” went around shooting and killing with impunity and continued with state-sanctioned support and encouragement.

There were no massive Church-inspired and led processions of protest for justice, peace and human life.

There was no blocking the streets and highways like the EDSA uprising, challenging the evil of government-supported death squads and mass killings.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines in January 2019 asked for the forgiveness of the people for failing to speak out and they apologized for their silence and failure to stand for life and oppose attacks against the Church.

There were a few brave Filipino Catholic priests, Albert Alejo, Robert Reyes and Flavie Villanueva among others, five courageous bishops, and lay people who risked imprisonment and even death when they spoke out for life. They were isolated and alone.

There was hope. There were the brave voices of the prophets of peace and among the few, there was the persistent voice and protest action for human rights and peace of Fr Amado Picardal who was known as Fr Picx.

This brave and courageous missionary of the Redemptorists religious order clearly saw the threat to life, and the degradation of human dignity, and he spoke out and stood against the death squads and the violations of human rights.

Fr Picx was the light that came to shine in the darkness of evil and illuminated the truth of what was happening.

Like his friend, Jesus of Nazareth, the washer of feet, challenger of corrupt authority, and supporter of the poor and oppressed, Fr Picx bravely did the same.

A true servant of the poor, he stood with the vulnerable, with the victims and their families. He denounced the killings of suspects.

He documented many atrocities and brought together information gathered by members of the Coalition Against Summary Execution (CASE). His facts and findings were adopted by the International Criminal Court in their ongoing investigation of former president Duterte.

Fr Picx died peacefully at his hermitage in Cebu on May 29, 2024.

Some brave true Christians who believed truth and justice would overcome evil continued to speak against the forces of evil. These good people stood against the tyranny of killings.

Fr Villanueva was quoted as saying at the time, “What’s left to be seen is the change of heart, in that collective voice on how to specifically respond to the growing evil.”

Fr Alejo said that “from the top down, the clergy has been intimidated into silence.” Some clergy and religious supported the president, he said.

Today there is a history of shame, a collective sin of allowing evil to thrive, and goodness to be ignored, and a great social sin hangs over the institution. Even child-abusing priests are protected.

There was great moral corruption in a society that was duped into believing whatever they were told to believe through social media. They blindly and foolishly believed the politician who said he would give them a better life, free from crime. More and greater crimes were committed. They released a terrible tiger from its cage, the death squad.

May good people continue to act so that it will never happen

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