Fr. Picardal, priest who fought Duterte’s war on drugs, passes away

Jun. 01, 2024
Fr. Amado Picardal, CSsR (Photo courtesy of CBCP News)

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The Catholic community and human rights advocates mourn the loss of Redemptorist priest Fr. Amado Picardal, CSsR, who passed away from cardiac arrest at age 69 on Wednesday, May 29.

Fr. Picardal is one of the first critics of then-Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ in the late 1990s and became the spokesperson of the Coalition Against Summary Executions (CASE).

He was also known as the “biker priest” where he would ride his bicycle or hike through Mindanao and the Philippines for various causes from peace and human rights. 

The Redemptorist Province of Cebu announced through its Facebook post that Picardal was found dead in the hermitage he was constructing in the Redemptorist Retreat Center in Busay, Cebu. In a later post, they announced the medical findings on the priest that he died of cardiac arrest.

His fellow Redemptorist, Brother Karl Gaspar, revealed through his Facebook post that Picardal had been suffering from diabetes and had a heart ailment.

Gaspar said he was stunned by the news as Picardal earlier that day had just posted on his Facebook account that he was celebrating his 47th anniversary of joining the Redemptorists. He was ordained in 1981.

Early years

Gaspar later wrote in his Mindanews column his experiences with the priest fondly called “Father Picx”, where they first met in 1985 when he entered the Religious Major Seminary (Remase) as a seminarian.

Picardal was born in Iligan City in 1954 and graduated in philosophy at the University of San Carlos in Cebu and was involved in student activism. He was arrested, tortured, and imprisoned for seven months during Martial Law. 

Gaspar and Picardal bonded when they joined a Redemptorist mission team where they built Basic Ecclesiastical Communities (BEC or GKK in Cebuano) in San Fernando, Bukidnon.  

They helped farmers in a two-year campaign in 1987-88 to save their irrigation and farms from logging companies, which led to a logging ban declared by the local government of Bukidnon in 1989.

Both of them would reunite again in Davao City in the next decade, as the Redemptorist established their seminary, St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute. Fr. Picx was sent for higher studies in theology at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California in 1990 and later to Rome for his doctorate in theology where he graduated magna cum laude and went back to Davao to teach in SATMI.

Standing up for victims

But Fr. Picx would later be known as the priest who protected and stood for the families of the victims of the Davao Death Squad (DDS).

The priest recalls he had officiated mass for the victims, some are teenagers, way back in the 1990s. There were already reports of young people and alleged “drug users” being shot by gunmen.

In 2003, two years into Duterte’s resumption as mayor, Picardal joined child rights NGOs, lawyers, and journalists who formed the Coalition Against Summary Executions (CASE), to expose the killings perpetrated by the DDS.

CASE monitored and documented the cases and also provided assistance and sanctuary to the families of victims.

“Fr. Picx, who served as spokesperson, 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 representative Carlos Zarate, who at that time was co-convener of CASE as the president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Davao City.

In 2012-2013, Picardal was appointed executive secretary of the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC) Commission under the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) where he went around the country.

When Duterte won the presidency in 2016, Fr. Picx warned in his blog that the extra-judicial killings will multiply and bodies will pile up all over the country.

Fr. Picx later served as spokesperson of the Network Against Killings in the Philippines. 

In August 2018, while living now in Cebu in a hermitage, Fr. Picx wrote in his blog that there were threats to his life. Church staff workers warned there were motorcycle-riding men coming to the Redemptorist compound. He wrote this was the modus of the DDS when they were targeting their victims.

For this incident, the Redemptorist superiors posted him in Rome as head of the Justice and Peace office, and did occasional retreats in the US and speaking forums, wrote Gaspar. 

When the International Criminal Court started proceedings on Duterte’s war on drugs, Picardal said he was open to testify on the cases of the DDS killings in Davao.

Picardal quietly returned to Cebu early this year, Gaspar said and wanted to begin his life as a hermit, staying at the Redemptorist monastery as there were still signs he was being followed.

“(A)ll his life, he walked in the footsteps of the Redeemer,” Gaspar said of his fellow Redemptorist he has known for nearly 40 years.

The Redemptorist provincial superior Fr. Edilberto Cepe, called Fr. Picx “a brilliant and courageous missionary… a passionate advocate of peace and social justice and a professor of theology who has touched and transformed the lives of many.” (

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