Priest as lead negotiator?
Why not? He is qualified and also deeply-rooted, according to the comments of those who support his appointment.
While there are mixed reactions to the appointment of Fr. Eliseo Mercado, OMI, as the government panel’s chief negotiator with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, there is no grand rule blocking his acceptance. Even the MILF says they have high regard and respect to the priest when they considered his appointment as a setback.
There has been mixed reactions before and there are more to it in this story where most of those who said their pieces stress he might be best as mediator, not as negotiator.
Right now if I am not mistaken, the mediator, or at least the formal one as there are other informal mediators like the third party monitors, is the Government of Malaysia.
Anyway, in my opinion, too, a negotiator plays not only a functional role but also a symbolic one. The Catholic community might be happy to see a priest in the realm but they might be turned off by the idea that a priest taking a partisan role could be risky especially in a peace process marred before with religious colors.
I may not have the wisdom yet or the objectivity required in looking at this situation, but maybe a priest could be more acceptable in negotiating with the New People’s Army, not with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
The question now rolls on: if not him, then who?