HomeCommentaryWhen the prophetic voice of Father Picx spoke out

When the prophetic voice of Father Picx spoke out

The Filipino people and especially the Christian churches have to take a truthful examination of conscience when faced with the shocking truth that at least 30,000 Filipinos were victims of summary execution and 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,” he 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, and that number is 20,322 persons killed in the war on drugs,” he said.

“This is found in the 2017 year-end accomplishment report of the Office of the President and cited in the resolution of the Supreme Court of April 3, 2018,” he said. Diokno added that of the 20,322, “3,967 Filipinos were killed by police in police operations,” according to the OP report, while 16,355 were “killed by riding in tandem and other unknown persons.” The Manila Times reported this last 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? A right to life for all 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. The Christian churches in general remained silent.

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 and peace and human life.

- Newsletter -

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 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 the brave few Filipino Catholic priests, Albert Alejo, Robert Reyes, Flavie Villanueva, and many 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 Father Amado Picardal who was known as Father Picx.

This brave and courageous missionary of the religious order of the Redemptorists saw clearly 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. 

Father 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, Father 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 he brought together the information gathered by the members of the Coalition Against Summary Execution (CASE) and his facts and findings were adopted by the International Criminal Court in their ongoing investigation of former President Rodrigo Duterte. Father Picx died peacefully at his hermitage in Cebu last 29 May 2024.

But 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. Father Flavie Villanueva was quoted as saying at the time “What’s left to be seen is the change of heart, is that collective voice on how to specifically respond to the growing evil.”  Father Albert Alejo said, “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 and 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. Yet more and greater crimes were committed. They had released a terrible tiger from its cage, the death squad. May good people take action so that it will never happen again.

Irish Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sex abuse. The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of LiCAS.news.

© Copyright LiCAS.news. All rights reserved. Republication of this article without express permission from LiCAS.news is strictly prohibited. For republication rights, please contact us at: [email protected]

Support LiCAS.news

We work tirelessly each day to tell the stories of those living on the fringe of society in Asia and how the Church in all its forms - be it lay, religious or priests - carries out its mission to support those in need, the neglected and the voiceless.
We need your help to continue our work each day. Make a difference and donate today.