Redemptorist priest Amado Picardal, left, receives a blessing from fellow priests before setting off on his last cross-country ride in Manila on March 14 before retiring to live as a hermit. (Photo by Vincent Go)
An opposition senator in the Philippines is seeking an investigation into reported threats against the life of a priest who has been a vocal critic of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The legislator said the threats against the 64-year-old priest, who went into hiding early this month in fear for his life, should be taken seriously.
"There should be a thorough investigation ... so that these blatant threats on his life can be stopped," De Lima said Aug. 29.
Father Picardal earlier claimed that six men on three motorcycles inquired about his whereabouts at a Redemptorist monastery in Cebu province.
The priest, who was visiting the monastery, said he could have become "a victim of an extrajudicial killing."
In March, Father Picardal made a 1,500-kilometer bicycle ride to the southern Philippines to dramatize his call for an end to a wave of drug-related killings, which the priest blamed on the government's "all-out war" against illegal drugs.
Human rights groups have claimed that more than 20,000 suspected drug users and peddlers have been killed in the ongoing campaign against narcotics that began two-years ago.
"We express our deep solidarity with Father Picardal as he continues to speak against extra-judicial killings," De Lima said in a statement.
The legislator said that if any harm befalls the priest it "can only be attributed to the powers-that-be who are responsible for the killings of thousands of poor Filipinos."
"The threat against Father Picardal is just another manifestation of the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of [extra-judicial killings] in the country," said the senator.
Before the 2016 presidential election that swept Duterte to power, Father Picardal published a report containing details of killings allegedly perpetuated by a death squad in the southern city of Davao while Duterte was mayor there.
The priest said he wanted to warn the public that if Duterte was elected president, there would be more than 70,000 killings by the end of 2022.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, however, advised the priest to file a petition for a "writ of amparo" in court to ensure his safety instead of speaking to the media.
The petition for a writ of amparo is a remedy available to any Filipino whose right to life, liberty, and security is violated or threatened. Through it a court can order police to provide the petitioner protection.