Pilgrim priest Amado Picardal, outspoken critic of EJK; 69

Pilgrim priest Amado Picardal, outspoken critic of EJK; 69

MANILA, Philippines — On the 48th anniversary of the declaration of martial law in 2020, Redemptorist priest Amado Picardal posted a photo of him on social media showing his left arm tattooed with a clenched right fist that conveys defiance and the number “1081.”

Picardal, known to many as Father Picx, wrote: “This tattoo always reminds me: NEVER FORGET, NEVER AGAIN!”


He recalled that on Sept. 21, 1973, exactly a year after then President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. imposed martial law through Proclamation No. 1081, he was arrested and, during his seven-month incarceration, experienced torture. Picardal was then 18 and was drawn into activism amid the mounting social injustices at the time.


READ: Priest’s diary: They hit me in the chest, kidneys …

This episode of his youth would shape his persistent advocacy for truth and justice, a mission that had largely defined him as a man of the frock.

Picardal died of cardiac arrest at 1 p.m. on May 29, near the retreat house garden just a few meters away from his hermitage in Lahug, Cebu City. He was 69.

“Today is the 47th anniversary of my religious profession of the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience as a Redemptorist… Three more years to go before my golden jubilee of profession. I thank the Lord for the grace and strength to remain faithful to the solemn promise I made through the years. I am celebrating this in silence and solitude with my dog,” Picardal posted on social media, just hours before his death.

Fr. Edilberto Cepe, the provincial superior of the Redemptorists in the province of Cebu, described Picardal as “brilliant and courageous missionary.”“He was a passionate advocate of peace and social justice and a professor of theology who had touched and transformed the lives of many,” Cepe said in a statement.

Pilgrim priest Amado Picardal, outspoken critic of EJK; 69

JOURNEYING WITH SOCIETY In his 43 years as a Redemptorist priest, Amado Picardal had not only journeyed with the Catholic Church but also with the communities, taking the cudgels for issues that spell life and death for ordinary people, such as the destruction of the environment and extrajudicial killings. —PHOTOS FROM FACEBOOK PAGE OF FR. AMADO PICARDAL

Groups and individuals mourn the passing of Picardal, one of the most outspoken critics of extrajudicial killings (EJKs), known during his youth as “salvagings,” and who almost lost his life in 2018 to assassins had he stuck to his routine.


Among others, he was remembered as coconvenor in 2004 of the Coalition Against Summary Execution (Case), an organization that spoke up against the summary killings of suspected drug addicts and criminals in Davao City.

“Case, as an organization, did not only monitor and document the salvagings or EJK cases in the city but also provided assistance, even sanctuary, to the relatives of the victims in their quest for justice. Fr. Picx has always been a source of guidance, inspiration and strength of the members of Case, especially the relatives of the victims brutalized by the bloody war on drugs, not only in Davao City, but elsewhere,” said former Bayan Muna Rep. Karlos Zarate, who used to be president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Davao Chapter.

Report on ‘death squad’

Pilgrim priest Amado Picardal, outspoken critic of EJK; 69

Picardal helped document the killings in Davao when former president Rodrigo Duterte was still mayor, earning the latter’s ire.

In 2017, the priest wrote a detailed report on the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS) from 1998 to 2015, which he said became part of the information submitted to the International Criminal Court, which is now investigating Duterte’s bloody campaign against illicit drugs in Davao when he was mayor, and in the country when he was president.

Picardal’s unwavering stand against EJKs almost cost him his life. On Aug. 26, 2018, Picardal recounted how, 15 days earlier on Aug. 11, six men on three motorcycles, with full-face helmets, were seen near the entrance of the Redemptorist monastery and the church between 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., the usual time for him to go out to the supermarket and coffee shop.

Picardal was already living the quiet life of a hermit on top of a mountain in Busay (in Cebu) during that time and would go down to the monastery only once in every two weeks to meet other priests and church workers, check messages and browse the internet, and buy food.

In an account he wrote in his web journal, he said it was the security guard who informed him about the presence of the six men. “That was usually the time I would go out to the supermarket and the coffee shop. I immediately concluded they were the death squad and I was the target.

Had I gone out, there would have been no escape for me,” he wrote.

Days before the incident, the gardener had informed him that, on Aug. 6, a man on a motorcycle, his face in full helmet, asked him if he knew Picx Picardal. “Is he here?” the man asked. Seeing that the man did not take off his helmet, the gardener denied that Picardal was around. The gardener also remembered being asked the same question by two men on a motorcycle a month earlier, on July 7.

Picardal wrote that he had been receiving information since 2017, even when he was still about to start his hermitage, that he was on top of the list of priests that the then administration allegedly wanted to be killed.

Even when he failed to show up on Aug. 11, the group of suspicious men continued to keep watch for several days, according to priests and staff who noticed them. Picardal said his superiors advised him not to go back to the hermitage and to move to a more secured place.

This was why he was exiled abroad, and would quietly return to the country from Rome in July 2022.


Picardal was born in Iligan City in 1954, the eldest of eight children. He was a student activist while studying Philosophy at the University of San Carlos in Cebu from 1971 to 1975.

After college, he lived among the poor in the slums of Cebu for six months, training as a community organizer. He professed religious vows as a Redemptorist in 1977. He finished his theological studies at the St. Francis Regional Major Seminary.

In 1981, Picardal was ordained priest. As a member of the Redemptorist mission team, he helped form and strengthen the Basic Ecclesial Communities in different parishes and dioceses in Mindanao. In 1989, he spent some time as a hermit in the mountain of Busay before taking higher studies at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California. Later, he pursued higher studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, where in 1995, he earned his doctorate in theology.

He was in Davao from May 1995 to March 2011, where he was a professor and dean of academic studies at St. Alphonsus’ Theologate, later renamed St. Alphonsus’ Theological and Mission Institute, a school of theology for Redemptorists in the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Indonesia, and for other religious communities in Davao.

Picardal was a prolific writer, setting into words his thoughts about social issues and matters about the Catholic Church through articles in different publications.

He also wrote the books “A Vision of a Church Renewed,” “A Priesthood in a Church Renewed,” and “Journeying Towards a New Way of Being Church: Basic Ecclesial Communities in the Philippines.”

‘Sacred journeys’

Last year, he finished the draft for the book “Sacred Journeys: Pilgrim Diaries of a Long-Distance Runner, Cyclist and Hiker” which he had planned to publish just before he turned 70 this year.

This yet to be published book chronicled his over four-decade love affair with running, hiking and biking which he had creatively used to call attention to his advocacies for peace, protection of life, human rights and the environment.

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Pilgrim priest Amado Picardal, outspoken critic of EJK; 69

“For me, long-distance running, biking and hiking have become means to promote my advocacies (peace, pro-life, human rights and the environment). At the same time these satisfy my thirst for adventure and go on a spiritual journey. On the road I discovered inner strength and endurance that enabled me to transcend my limitations grounded on a spirituality—a contemplative and pilgrim spirituality,” Picardal wrote on the preface of Sacred Journeys.

“On the road I became aware of the presence of the One who has always accompanied me on my journey through life and the source of my strength,” he said.

TAGS: drug war killings, EJK, Martial law, Redemptorists

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