Peace groups shouldn’t be used as smokescreen of gov’t in peace efforts

DAVAO CITY, October 12, 2008—A peace advocate and founder of Kusog Mindanaw (Strong Mindanao) has reminded peace groups and coalitions in Mindanao not to be used as “smokescreen” of the government’s real intention in peacemaking.

Fr. Eliseo Mercado said Saturday that there are groups which have been approached by the government and used in its “camouflaging tactics” in order to pursue peace and development in Mindanao.

He added that the present government is already unpopular and inept to fulfill its commitments in the controversial memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain.

Mercado said that because of its “unpopularity”, the Arroyo government is now seeking the help and assistance of highly regarded peace groups in Mindanao to mediate in its peace efforts.

“The integrity of Arroyo government in terms of peace efforts has already dropped. It has no social capital to pursue with peace efforts,” Mercado told the group of consecrated women in the Archdiocese of Davao in a gathering Saturday at the MIC Cursillo House in Torres St., this city.

That is why, he continued, “Mrs. Arroyo turned 90-degrees in saying that her government will no longer sign the peace accord with MILF. Now, she loses her credibility.”

Mercado also explained that Arroyo’s use of disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation (DDR) framework for peace negotiations with the MILF is misplaced.

“While DDR is part of the supposed entire comprehensive peace agreement of the government with the rebels, it should not be used as front in negotiating,” said Mercado, also former member of the government’s peace panel.

According to DDR in Peace Agreements and UN Peacekeeping Mandates, disarmament entails the actual collection of arms and ammunition, while demobilization is a process that separates the combatants from military service or armed troops and may include the establishments of camps and receiving areas where former combatants hand in their weapons and in return receive counseling, vocational training or economic assistance.

Reintegration (Rehabilitation as used by Arroyo) programs support the immediate and medium term social and economic inclusion of former combatants into their communities of origin or new communities. (Mark S. Ventura) (CBCPNews)

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