Malacañang urged Tuesday Roman Catholic priest Rev. Fr. Amado Picardal to file a writ of amparo to prove that there are basis for his fears amid his claims that his life is in danger.
“His remedy is to file a writ for amparo with the Supreme Court or any court. It can be filed even in the lower courts and it will be acted upon expeditiously,” said Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque in a Palace press briefing Tuesday afternoon.
“So, to Fr. [Picardal], stop declaring that there’s a threat in your life. Use the legal remedy, it’s the writ of amparo. That’s easy to get, you will be given protection if such threat to your life is evident,” he added.
Picardal, an outspoken critic of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, said Monday that he went into a “more secure location” following reports of motorcycle-riding men observing the Catholic monastery in Cebu that he regularly visits.
“I couldn’t go out for biking, running, walking due to security concerns,” Picardal said.
“I have left my hermitage in the mountain and transferred to a more secure location to continue my life as a hermit far away out of reach from the death squad,” he added.
Picardal shared that the monastery gardener was approached by two unidentified individuals who asked of his whereabouts. He even said that the security aides reported that six men on motorcycles had watched the compound’s entrance on Aug. 11.
“I am ready to accept martyrdom if they catch up with me, but I do not seek it nor do I make myself an easy target,” Picardal said.
“Thus, I have decided to temporarily vacate my hermitage up in the mountain and continue to spend my life of silence, solitude, prayer, and writing in a more secure location. I will continue to speak out against evil in society through my writings and will fast and pray that the Lord will deliver us from evil,” he added.
The 63-year-old priest, who confessed that he helped document the Duterte administration’s alleged extrajudicial killings, said he would still criticize Duterte’s crackdown on drugs despite the threats he received.
Picardal said he also changed his routine the past two weeks.
In his blog post, Picardal recalled that Aug. 6 and 11, he learned from their gardener and security guard at Redemptorist Monastery in Cebu that unidentified men wearing full-faced helmets were looking for him in the area.
Picardal, who is also a martial law victim, said it was good for him that he did not step outside the monastery when the motor-riding men waited between 5 pm to 6 pm in those times.
Since his retirement in 2017, Picardal chose to live a hermit-life of prayer and silence on top of the mountain overlooking the Cebu City and twice a month he would go down to bond with his fellow priests, check his social media accounts, get his food supplies and visit a coffee shop before heading for a dinner.
“At first, I didn’t realize this routine would put my life at risk,” said Picardal.
“That was usually the time I would go out to the supermarket and the coffee shop. I immediately concluded that they were the death squad and I was the target. Had I gone out, there would have been no escape for me. I recognized their modus operandi—that’s what I learned from a former member of the Davao Death Squad when we were documenting the extrajudicial killings years before,” he said.
“I am already in an undisclosed location,” he told Manila Standard.
He also thanked God for protecting him.
“Why am I being targeted by the death squad? Who is behind this “project”?” Picardal asked.
Picardal has, in the past 20 years, claimed that his assignment in Davao City where Duterte was the longtime mayor may be the reason why he will be the next target of the infamous “Davao Death Squad.”
“I was the spokesperson of the Coalition Against Summary Execution which monitored these killings and assisted the Commission on Human Rights (headed by Leila De lima) and the Human Rights Watch to investigate the killings. I also posted the Collated Report of these killings carried out by the Davao Death Squad (1998-2015) which was included in the complaint submitted to the International Criminal Court by Atty. Jude Sabio.
“I also helped provide sanctuary to former members of the DDS who will be the witnesses in the ICC case. I was one of the convenors of the Network Against Killings in the PhiIippines. I granted interviews to the media – both local and foreign. I have also gone around the country and in the US to give talks on EJK and the Church’s response,” Picardal said in his blog entry.
The activist priest also alleged that Duterte had been angry over his criticism against him since his assignment in Davao.
“He lambasted me three times in his TV program ‘Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa,’” he said.
“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,” Picardal he added.
The priest, however, warned that whatever happens to him, he had nothing to blame except the current administration of Duterte.
“Whether the order came from him or not — the blame will be placed on him for under his regime the culture of death has claimed the lives of over 25,000 people. This regime has nothing to gain in creating a martyr, so those behind the project should think twice before carrying out their evil plan,” he said.
Despite the threats over his life and security, Picardal said he has already accepted his fate, saying that this is “a consequence of fulfilling my prophetic mission.”
The three other priests previously killed under Duterte’s watch include Father Richmond Nilo, Father Marcelito Paez, and Father Mark Ventura. Their cases remain unsolved to date.