But the crucial question remains: Why did Yongyong Afable resign from the post? What caused the sudden shift from his high level of confidence in the prospects of peace talks with the MILF to his departure from the position he had held with credibility and faithfulness for the last three-and-a-half years?
And what happened in the case of Fr. Jun Mercado’s appointment, where one day he was speaking of the President’s expression of trust in his capacity to negotiate peace with the MILF, and the next day Secretary Bunye pronounces that Fr. Mercado had, in fact, not been appointed and that the search was still on for the replacement of Afable as Chair?
More crucial than the question of whether or not Senator Magsaysay is fit for the job is the question of what brought about these sudden, controversial, and still unresolved developments in the leadership of government’s peace negotiating team at this very critical and sensitive juncture of the peace process.
From the different stories circulating about how this unexpected situation came about, we cannot help but suspect the large play of manipulation and deception behind this sudden changing of the guards. It is necessary to unravel the real story behind Afable’s resignation and replacement as chief government negotiator to understand where the government wants to bring the peace process, who is now making the decisions, and in whose interests.
The crucial question is whether or not government is serious and has the will in seeking peace and in delivering all that a durable peace requires – or is it just playing games?
In deciding whether or not to accept the position, perhaps it is best for Senator Magsaysay, whose search for truth and accountability over the last two years has been steadfast and unwavering, first to carefully discern whether or not this government, under its present leadership, can be trusted to look beyond its own interest of survival to abide by and uphold the commitments it will make at the negotiating table, even if it means exacting sacrifices from its political allies. If it has treated its own designated negotiators, two highly respected and exemplary peacemakers, with manipulation and deceit, then it is only right to ask if this government can be counted on to stand by its word – to not lie, to not cheat, to not steal – in the conduct of peace negotiations and in the implementation of any peace agreement it may conclude.
Teresita Quintos Deles
Former Presidential Adviser
on the Peace Process
22 June 2007