Popular peace activist priest retires PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 23 September 2012 14:44

Central Mindanao’s renowned Catholic peace activist who authored dozens of reference materials on the Southern peace process has relinquished, due to health reasons, his directorship of a foreign-assisted outfit engaged in dozens of diplomatic projects in Muslim communities in Mindanao.

Fr. Eliseo Mercado, Jr., who belongs to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate congregation, stated on Friday in his Facebook account that physicians have
cautioned him against stressful activities, after undergoing prostate surgery in Makati last month.

“I should take time and begin enjoying life. I should not take any stressful activities,” Mercado said.

Mercado, who has stepped down as director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) in Cotabato City, was active in various activities meant to help Muslim leaders and local sectors in governance.

Mercado’s projects, supported by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung of Germany and the European Union, also focused on propagating public consciousness on the need for cross-section support to the Southern Mindanao peace process.

The latest program Mercado launched, with the help of the EU, is the Indigenous Peoples Development Project, which aims to politically empower non-Muslim indigenous communities in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Mercado said his post in the IAG will be taken over by its founding executive director, lawyer Benedicto Bacani.

Bacani founded the IAG in 2001, but left for a special study in the Netherlands, where he worked as director for Asia of an international funding agency that provides grants for education, justice, peace and post-conflict reconstruction projects in 13 countries in the Asian region.

Bacani is known in Central Mindanao’s media community as easy to get along with, and readily provides insights on the Mindanao peace process and the plight of the Moro communities struggling for self-rule in Southern Philippines.

Mercado said Bacani is widely regarded in the Philippines and abroad as an authority on autonomy as a political solution to ethno-nationalist conflicts.

Bacani has published monographs and books on governance, peace and conflict and politics in the southern Philippines.

Bacani, former law school dean of Notre Dame University here, also authored a 2004 book “Beyond Paper Autonomy: the Challenge in the Southern Philippines,” is regarded as most comprehensive material on the challenges and opportunities in making autonomy work for Mindanao peace.

“Surely we will miss Fr. Jun (Mercado). We ought to thank him for having helped put forward our reform agenda for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said the ARMM’s acting governor, Mujiv Hataman.

Hataman said Mercado has facilitated several round table discussions and forums and capacity-building interventions that gave him and his constituent-regional officials a deeper understanding on the need for multi-sectoral convergence to hasten the political and socio-economic empowerment of Muslim and non-Muslim communities in ARMM.