Sen. Magsaysay offered chairmanship of peace panel; Rodil is acting chair

Magsaysay told Newsbreak he would give the offer more thought when he returns from his two-week holiday in Europe. “It’s open-ended,” he said.

Meanwhile, Malacañang today named government peace panel vice chair Rudy B. Rodil as acting peace panel chair to ensure continuity in the peace process.


Newsbreak said that in a meeting in Malacañang early this week, President Arroyo, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales and Datu Othman Bin Abdul Razak of the Malaysian Prime Minister’s Office “agreed on Magsaysay.”


The report did not say if the MILF agreed to the choice.


MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal told MindaNews they will wait first for the official communication from the Philippine government through talks the facilitator, Malaysia, before issuing any comment.


Last Saturday afternoon, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza announced in a four-paragraph statement that Malacañang named Fr. Eliseo Mercado Jr., OMI, as the new peace panel chair to succeed Secretary Silvestre Afable whose courtesy resignation was accepted Friday night.


The MILF, however, raised objections that the talks were being downgraded as the former peace panel chairs were all Cabinet men and that while they have high regard for the peace advocate-priest-educator, there is a separation of church and state and negotiations are state matters.

Fr. Mercado on Wednesday noon announced his decision against accepting the chairmanship, citing the MILF’s objections and the “clarifications behind the objections.” He said MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim had told him they would rather see him head an independent body that would monitor the peace agreement between the government and the MILF.


“Newsbreak learned that it was Gonzales who picked Mercado for the job. He did not consult the two other parties in the talks and the Office of the President announced the replacement to the surprise of the MILF and Malaysia,” the online magazine said.


Magsaysay confirmed he received a call from Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita today, offering him the post. “I told him that I want to return to the private sector but I asked for background documents to read. It’s a complex problem that we’ve had for 30 years,” he told Newsbreak.

Fr. Angel Calvo of the Peace Advocates Zamboanga said, “I do not know him deeply but the little I know about him seems to be a respectable and honest person who can handle the negotiations.”


The Mindanao Peoples Caucus in a statement dated June 20 said the President’s acceptance of Afable’s courtesy resignation “is plain and simple dismissal of Afable who serves at the pleasure of the President. As an active participant observer in the GRP-MILF peace talks, the question that boggles us is why? Why did President Arroyo fire Secretary Afable?”

Fr. Roberto Layson, head of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate’s Inter-Religious Dialogue and vice chair of the MPC, told MindaNews he hopes “Malacañang puts Afable back if they really want to give importance to the primacy of the peace process. It has been going smoothly then suddenly Malacañang rocks the boat by changing the guard.” (MindaNews)

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