Today, here at the Shrine of Our Mother Perpetual Help, I start my 1,500 km Bike for Life & Peace across Southern Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Northern Mindanao. This is the fifth bike advocacy I am doing. In 2000 I biked for peace across the Philippines. In 2006 I biked for life and peace around Mindanao. In 2008 I biked for life and peace around the Philippines. In 2014, I did a climate ride from Manila to Mindanao.
During this ride, I will be fasting during the daytime and preach in the parish churches where I will stay overnight.
1. Stop the killing, start the healing
2. Resume the peace talks between the Government and the National Democratic Front
3. End Martial Law in Mindanao.
Stop the killing. This is the appeal of the CBCP which echoes the cry of so many people in our land. Since the start of the War on Drugs under the Duterte administration, over 16,000 have died, many of them suspected drug users and pushers, most of them poor. The miserable condition of the families of those who were killed have worsened.
EJK has been a strategic component of this war on drugs which has been proven to be ineffective. I join my voice to the appeal of the church and civil society for respect of human rights - especially the right to life - and the rule of law. The solution to the drug problem should focus on healing, on the rehabilitation of addicts. The problem of poverty, violence, dysfunctional families, psychological trauma and alienation that breed addiction should be addressed.
Resume peace talks. President Duterte promised that a peace agreement with the NDF will be reached during his term. There have been progress especially in the substantive talks regarding social and economic reforms that would address the roots of armed conflict. The collapse of the peace talks attributed to NPA tactical operations that claimed the lives of civilians and subsequent declaration of the government of the communists as terrorists have made peace elusive once again. I join my voice to the clamor to resume the peace talks and come with a comprehensive peace agreement. There can be no military solution to the age-old insurgency problem.
End Martial Law in Mindanao. The basis for the declaration of Martial Law was the Marawi siege. The forces of Maute- ISIS have already been defeated. Yet Martial Law has been extended all over Mindanao even in the absence of actual invasion and widespread rebellion, simply on the basis of the threats of ISIS resurgence or expansion and the ongoing communist insurgency. Martial Law will lead to further human rights violation, the escalation of the armed conflict and the spiral of violence. It closes the avenue to peace and will fail to address poverty, injustice, the destruction of the environment and underdevelopment.
Extrajudicial Killings, total war and martial law will not solve the basic problems of our people. Thus, I make this appeal to all concerned -- especially to President Duterte, government officials, the police and military: Stop the Killing start the healing. Resume Peace Talks. End Martial Law in Mindanao.
Someday we will face the judgment of God. We will have to give an account for our deeds and behavior. The basis for judgment will not be how much power and wealth that we have accumulated but how much good we have accomplished for the people. We will be judged by our love, mercy and compassion for the poor and the weak, by our respect for life, by our efforts to bring about peace, justice and progress in the land.
This will probably be the last long-distance advocacy `ride that I will do. I am already a senior citizen - I will be 64 this year and I am starting the final phase of my life -- a life of solitude, silence and prayer as a hermit. I know that my bike advocacy will not make a lot of difference. I am just a tiny voice or a mere point of light in the dark. But I believe and hope that even small acts that we do will add to the collective efforts to awaken the conscience of the nation and bring about goodness and decency in our country.
I am doing this fully aware of the risks and the danger I am facing. I am aware that I too can be a target of extrajudicial killing. In my youth, I was almost “salvaged” having undergone torture and imprisonment under Martial Law. I will not cower in fear. I will not back down. I believe that there is still goodness and humanity within each one no matter how sinful. Even hardened killers can change. I have seen this in the former members of the DDS that I have met and who have gone through a process of conversion. I pray for the day when we recognize each as siblings and friends.
So as I bike and preach the Gospel of Life and Peace, I put my trust in God to whom I have given my life.
Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR
March 14, 2018