Civil society on Fr. Mercado’s decision: wise, best

Guiamel Alim, chair of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) said, “I think that is the best decision that he could make.”

Fr. Mercado, he said, “was just too willing to help”

“He respects the decision of the MILF. I hope the MILF will be able to find another (Secretary Silvestre) Afable,” Alim said.

It was a “wise decision in the best spirit of dialogue, a positive sign to help in the process of peace agreement,” said Fr. Angel. Calvo of the Claretian Fathers, the lead convenor of  Mindanao PeaceWeavers, an umbrella organization of several peace coalitions.

Lawyer Mary Ann Arnado, deputy executive director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue said she could only say, “Alleluia, Alhamdullilah.”

Fr. Mercado’s earlier acceptance of the chairmanship, as announced by Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza on Saturday afternoon, was greeted with mixed reactions from civil society groups and the MILF. 

Various groups had also urged him to reconsider , saying he was better off as mediator rather government negotiator.

Within the Oblates of the Mary Immaculate (OMI), the congregation to which Fr. Mercado belongs, reaction was also mixed, but most Oblates were reportedly against it.

The Oblates are assigned in mostly predominantly Moro provinces such as Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Maguindanao and parts of Sultan Kudarat.  The congregation runs the Notre Dame University in Cotabato City and the Notre Dame colleges in these areas and radio stations as well.

Fr. Roberto Layson, chair of the OMI’s Inter-Religious Dialogue, has repeatedly declined to comment since Saturday afternoon, claiming consultations among the Oblates were going on. But early Wednesday morning, he told MindaNews,  “I think Fr. Jun (Mercado’s nickname) should  politely give up the post.”

“In fact, the Oblates in Cotabato and Kidapawan, during their community deliberation yesterday, were almost unanimous in rejecting Malacanang’s appointment of Fr. Jun as chief negotiator because of its far-reaching ramifications in our apostolate,” he said.

“Personally, as a priest, I am contented with playing the role of a mediator rather than as a negotiator in which you have to take the position of a particular party. Fr. Jun represents the Church. The Church is not a party to the conflict. It is the government. The MILF should talk to the government and its representative,” he said.

Fr. Ramon Bernabe, the OMI provincial, told MindaNews early Wednesday morning they were going to issue a statement after a meeting scheduled for Thursday.

Fr. Mercado announced his decision not to accept the chairmanship Wednesday noon. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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