Priest who exposed Duterte’s killings recalls ordeal in poem

48 years ago, on September 21, 1973 – the 1st anniversary of Marcos’ martial law declaration (PD 1081), I was arrested, tortured and imprisoned until April 15, 1974. This poem is based on my experience and those of other detainees.
A Prisoner’s Psalm
Amado L. Picardal
From this dark and damp cell
I cry out to you —
Lord, can you hear my groaning?
All day long and into the night I cry out
But you seem to be distant or absent.
My throat is sore, I cannot scream anymore
Day and night they ask me all sorts of questions,
they strike, punch and kick me when I do not answer.
My fingers are swollen, I cannot clench my fist
My ribs seem to be broken, I cannot stand erect
My whole body is inflamed, it is getting numb.
I was thirsty and they forced me to drink rum.
to loosen my tongue and reveal to them the truth.
They stripped me off my clothes and my dignity.
They are preparing the machine that will electrify my body.
And now I dread the sound of footsteps and the opening of the door.
I prefer this darkness than face the glaring light.
They said only I can end my suffering
If I confess to them everything and betray those
Who oppose this dictatorial regime.
How much longer, do I have to suffer?
How much longer can I hold on?
How much longer can I maintain my sanity?
Will I ever see again the sky and the sun?
Will I ever see again the faces of those I love and serve?
Or will they make me disappear forever?
Lord, do not abandon me?
Deliver me from these kidnappers and murderers
who are trying to maintain peace and order.
Deliver me from these mercenaries
whose obsession is to defend national security
the security of this blood-thirsty and power-hungry dictator
the security of his cronies and their big business interests
the security of his alien lords and their bases and investments.
O, Lord my God,
I know you are neither blind nor deaf.
Your mercy and compassion endure forever.
You have always been a subversive God
you depose the mighty from their thrones and raise the lowly.
I cry out now to you: subvert this dictatorial regime!
Let your Spirit fill the hearts of those who are struggling to build a kingdom
of justice, peace and freedom.
From this dark and damp cell
I cry out to you, Lord can you hear me?
Into your hands I commend my broken body
and my wavering spirit.
Editor’s note: Fr. Picardal has been targeted for assassination and has been in hiding, even becoming a ‘hermit’ in the hills of Cebu City. When he was warned that his pursuers were close on his heels, he left the Philippines in 2018 and is now on self-exile in Rome where he remains to this day.

Threats to Fr. Amado Picardal, a Filipino Redemptorist after criticizing Duterte

(Manila, Philippines) – Fr. Amado Picardal, fearing for his life, a Catholic priest and Filipino activist, employed in the Episcopal Conference, was forced to hide, following threats received for criticizing the President Rodrigo Duterte. The Redemptorist priest Fr. Amado L. Picardal, 63, a human rights activist and the president critic, especially for his “anti-drug crusade,” helped document extrajudicial killings when Rodrigo Duterte was mayor of Davao City.

Fr. Picardal, a professor of theology and the official of the Episcopal Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), was one of the first critics of the deadly repression launched by President Duterte. The priest told Fides on August 27, that he was forced to retire “to a safer place, out of public view” after some men on a motorcycle, suspicious presence, began to monitor the monastery in the city of Cebu, where the religious lived. His safety was at stake: “I could not go out to ride a bike, run or walk because of security problems,” said Fr. Picardal. “I left my hermitage on the mountain and I moved to a safer place to continue my life as a hermit far from the death squads”. The Redemptorist added that he will continue to criticize “state killings” in spite of his security problems, and has confirmed that he is willing to testify before the International Criminal Court, where a proceeding is underway that sees President Duterte as the defendant, in report on the killings of the anti-drug campaign which, according to official data, has made more than 4,500 deaths by the police, and over 16 thousand victims, including innocent children and civilians, by bands of unidentified killers.

The Human rights organizations have reported numerous incidents in which policemen have killed unarmed suspects, and other evidence to confirm that the “vigilantes” gangs are in the pay of the military to do “dirty work”. The president’s spokesman, Harry Roque, said that Fr. Picardal should file an official complaint, referring to a High Court petition seeking to protect the human rights of anyone who feels threatened by state forces. In recent months, the priest has attracted the attention of the public and the mass media thanks to a long bicycle ride, which he carried out, to protest against extrajudicial killings.

In Davao, Fr. Picardal said he drew up a report on drug killings from 1998 to 2015 years in which Duterte was mayor of the vast port city and helped the Commission on human rights investigate the dead. Fr. Picardal said the investigations failed to block Duterte, because the witnesses “had been threatened”. The Redemptorist helped to provide shelter to former members of the repentant “death squads” of Davao, who could testify before the International Criminal Court. “This is probably one of the reasons why I was targeted by these vigilantes today,” Fr. Picardal told Fides. Before Duterte was elected President of the Republic, Picardal had defined the hypothesis of his “terrifying” election, warning human rights groups to closely monitor and document any violation, convinced that Duterte wanted to replicate his style of crime as “anti-terrorist” in the rest of the country.

“I am aware of the danger I have been running since I began to defend human rights. I am ready to accept martyrdom, in defense of life and the Gospel. But I do not look for it nor will I be an easy target for them,” he said. Now the cleric is in hiding and has received full solidarity from the Filipino Church, also in the forefront of criticizing President Duterte’s violent and repressive approach.

(Fides Agency)


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