Duterte's Deadly Drug War Targets a Catholic Priest

Death squads are after Father Amado Picardal, an early critic of the Philippine drug war.


|||Xinhua/Sipa USA/Newscom
Xinhua/Sipa USA/Newscom

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war isn't just a threat to drug users and dealers. It's an assault on the drug war's critics too.

Sixty-three-year-old Father Amado Picardal has been forced into hiding for his opposition to Duterte's bloody tactics. The Roman Catholic priest uses his personal blog to track the crimes committed in the name of Duterte's drug war, which at one point killed more than 400 people in a single month. In a post dated on Sunday, Picardal wrote that he nearly became another victim himself.

Picardal has received warnings since 2017 that a Duterte-backed death squad is targeting him, presumably for his vocal opposition to the president's methods. A few weeks ago, a source warned Picardal that six masked men on motorbikes were asking locals to reveal his location. They also appeared to be tracking his routine.

"I am not afraid of death. 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," he writes. Should Picardal be killed, he will become the fourth priest in the Philippines to be murdered by government-linked forces since Duterte took power.

During his 2016 campaign for president, Duterte said he would kill his own child for using drugs. Just months after winning the election, he protected officers accused of murdering a local mayor during a drug-related raid. He even suggested that the child victims of the extrajudicial killings were "collateral damage." According to Picardal, Duterte has carried out "over 20,000 extrajudicial killings of suspected users and pushers – most of them poor." Though Duterte has denied condoning the slayings, official police pronouncements and other evidence have linked him to death squads like the ones now targeting Picardal.

President Donald Trump praised Duterte's drug war in May of last year. "I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem," he reportedly told Duterte in a telephone call. "Many countries have a problem. We have a problem. But what a great job you are doing, and I just wanted to call and tell you that."

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  1. The Philippines have Duterte and we have Dude Tard.

    1. The French have du Merde.

  2. Yes, it’s a problem. I just don’t understand why it seems he is Reason’s cause celebre in Asia. China’s constant attacks on freedom not important enough?

    1. Koch Bros aren’t raking in billions doing business in the Phillipines. There are maybe 20 libertarians in the Us for every reason staffer. You think they are keeping the lights turned on selling subscriptions?

  3. It’s another country so it’s none of our business

  4. Oh, cry me a river for asian drug dealers. Boo hoo.

    The only freedoms worth carrying about are American freedoms. Anything else isn’t really freedom.

  5. Dual-citizen Filipino-American here. Ever wonder for what reason majority of Filipinos support Pres. Duterte?

    The whole “death squad” allegation was long disproven during the much-watched, nationally-televised live Senate-hearings on the matter just after the 2016 Presidential Election when our Liberal Party (L.P.) lost the in the Presidency as well as majority in the House & Senate. The only thing they won was the V.P., the spare wheel that’s voted separately in the PH system. The only way they could re-gain any sense of public relevancy again was to oust the President and overhaul the Cabinet.

    Even with an L.P.-member (Sen./ex-Commission on Human Rights Chair/ex-Justice Sec. Leila de Lima) heading the initial Senate hearing, it was a humiliating disaster. The “facts” weren’t consistent, nothing made sense, and their star-witness (self-proclaimed ex-death squad-member Edgar Matabato) made a fool of himself repeatedly in national television. It was so bad, the Senate demanded a do-over, replacing the L.P.-member (with Sen. Richard Gordon, whose reputation of veracity & competency crosses party-lines) and giving star-witness Matabato all the handicaps & supports they could provide, so he could redeem himself in the public eye. Even with all that, the L.P.’s case collapsed all over again.

    1. And if anything, the Senate hearing utterly backfired (essentially ‘The pit you dig against another, YOU will fall into.’), because it soon revealed ex-Justice Sec. de Lima’s ties to the drug cartels. One of the proofs shown was from the Discovery Channel Asia documentary “Inside the Gangster’s Code” from 2013, during her term as Dept. of Justice head. While not the documentary’s main goal, it did explain the earlier, disturbing public-scandal about captured drug-lords’ smuggling into the maximum-security New Bilibid Prison complete & extensive drug labs, heavy weapons & ammunition, radio-broadcasting tower & equipment, etc. They essentially made the maximum-security prison that held them into their own armored fortress/luxury hotel? ALL under Justice Sec. Leila de Lima’s watch. (Here is the documentary televised by a major news network publicly known to be anti-Duterte.)

      1. For many Filipinos, the Duterte’s alleged ‘death squads’ allegation is long disproven. Foreign news reporters still pedaling this are being used as tools by actors in our internal politics. The L.P. tried to depose him internally with a Senate hearing and an impeachment case, but failed in both attempts. Now, they try external means like the International Criminal Court (I.C.C.) and international defamation & public pressure from abroad. L.P. Sen. Antonio Trillanes even visited some U.S. neocon Senators known for their “regime change” tendencies. The external means doesn’t seem to have born fruit? yet (though our script-hating Pres. Duterte has repeatedly blurted out in his suspicions of C.I.A. plans against him, even telling us to suspect the C.I.A. if he just suddenly dies, allegations the Presidential Palace officially disagrees with, probably due to a lack of secured, physical evidence, esp. that they can’t make public without repercussions).

        1. Reason personnel, as a fellow libertarian, I request you to not be used by our L.P. to prompt/justify regime change in the Philippines. The idea of alleged Russian interference in the U.S. political processes is repulsive to countless Americans, so please do not do the same to us. The “death squad” allegation to many of use is laughable non-issue. I can understand that foreign media would not bother to televise for hours on end foreign Senate hearings that jump in and out of unfamiliar non-English languages, while news stories were happening in their own countries. But their failure to do so can have serious implications on the people if the Pentagon/Deep State has its way.

          Sorry for the long read!

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