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IP Mainland ARMM Implications of Mamasapano on the Peace 1

Framework Agreement hailed by IAG

Philippine Daily Inquirer | October 27, 2012


The Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) welcomes the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). It commends the government and the MILF negotiating panels for their hard work, creativity and perseverance in overcoming the contentious issues that have been hounding the long-drawn negotiations. 

Expelling banshees

Juan L. Mercado | Philippine Daily Inquirer | July 23, 2012


The new final Book of Voters is still ahead. But a consensus on making honest elections the centerpiece of ARMM reforms exists, notes Institute for Autonomy and Governance ’s Fr. Eliseo Mercado, OMI. The new technology of biometrics will be used to ensure honest polls.

Hope despite chainsaws

Juan L. Mercado | Philippine Daily Inquirer | June 4, 2012


“The new public forum in choosing leaders has never been done in the region known for a culture of silence and of impunity,” notes director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance , Fr. Eliseo Mercado. “For the first time, the voices (of people) were heard. (These) are truly elements of a Bangsamoro ‘spring’.”

Civil society on GPH-MILF agreement on principles: “let us be vigilant and do a devil watch”

Carolyn O. Arguillas | MindaNews | April 26, 2012


“People should not pretend to be more ‘orthodox’ than the central leadership of the MILF or the principal negotiator of the GPH. We now have the 10 decision points between the GP H and the MILF and the said document is a MOVE forward,” said Fr. Eliseo Mercado, Jr., executive director of the Cotabato City-based Institute for Autonomy and Governance , a former head of the Independent Fact-Finding Committee, a quick reaction team investigating alleged violations of ceasefire violations from the late 1990s to the “all-out war” waged by the Estrada administration.

Ghost-busting at the ARMM

Cielito F. Habito | Philippine Daily Inquirer | January 23, 2012


The Cotabato-based Institute of Autonomy and Governance (IAG) had organized a three-day team-building workshop for the incoming ARMM officials in Davao City, in an effort to get the new regional government off on the right footing. In consultation with the governor, IAG also formed a small group of not-so-old “senior” advisers, all of us volunteers who will serve pro bono. IAG head Fr. Eliseo “Jun” Mercado had planned for us to meet with Hataman only once every two months; instead, the governor asked to meet the group twice a month. He needs all the help he could get, he explained. We were all only too glad to oblige.

ARMM Cabinet backs peace talks

Ali G. Macabalang | Manila Bulletin | October 24, 2011


“We have had enough troubles with militaristic solutions to the Mindanao problem. Let us keep sobriety and sustain peaceful solutions to the prevailing issues,” Fr. Eliseo Mercardo Jr., an avid peace advocate and executive director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance here, said.

ARMM needs a ‘ghostbuster’ to clean up regional bureaucracy, says peace activist

Edwin Fernandez | Philippine Daily Inquirer | August 8, 2011


Father Eliseo Mercado of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance said the officer-in-charge governor must be able to bust ghost teachers, ghost employees, ghost projects, ghost schools, ghost roads and bridges, ghost voters and many other ghosts working in the region and raking in people’s money. 

The Hamlet dilemma

Noralyn Mustafa | Philippine Daily Inquirer | March 21, 2011


Fr. Eliseo Mercado, Jr., OMI, executive director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance , and a recognized expert on autonomy, said the continued congressional interventions on the resetting of the elections in the ARMM have made a mockery of autonomy and self-determination and the spirit and letter of the Organic Act (creating the ARMM).

Aquino cautioned over appointing ARMM officers-in-charge

Edwin Fernandez | Philippine Daily Inquirer | June 11, 2011


President Benigno Aquino III should exert extreme caution in appointing officers-in-charge in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) because he might pick individuals, who would drive the region to its final demise, Father Eliseo Mercado Jr. said. Mercado is considered an expert on Mindanao autonomy and is executive director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) based here. 

Joker Arroyo: Leave autonomy alone

TJ Burgonio | Philippine Daily Inquirer | March 17, 2011


Catholic priest Eliseo Mercado Jr., executive director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance , said elections in the ARMM had been reset eight to 11 times if you count the few weeks or months of extension of the incumbents.

Autonomy advocate opposes deferment of ARMM polls

Ali G. Macabalang | Manila Bulletin | February 7, 2011


In a roundtable discussion dubbed “ARMM at the Crossroad: Election or No Election” held at the Notre Dame University (NDU) campus here, Father Eliseo “Jun” Mercado, executive director of Institute for Autonomy and Governance , said the 2011 ARMM polls should proceed as scheduled since it is mandated by law – Republic Act (RA) 9054 or the organic act of the present ARMM setup.

ARMM elections: the clock is ticking

Manila Bulletin | February 23, 2011


Fr. Eliseo Mercado of Cotabato City, executive director of the Institute of Autonomy and Governance, also does not agree with the President's plan to appoint OICs. In his blog, Fr. Mercado said that "Appointment of OICs will further weaken the autonomy of ARMM. Elections are essential to strengthen the autonomy of ARMM and give it its rightful self-determination. The government should instead focus its role in ensuring that ARMM elections are conducted fairly, accurately and peacefully."

Debate on ARMM polls heightens

Ali G. Macabalang | Manila Bulletin | February 16, 2011


Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco, wife of President Aquino’s uncle, former Tarlac Rep. Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr., had declared in public at a February forum her family’s opposition to the deferment of the ARMM elections to 2013 as embodied in the pending bills. At the forum sponsored by the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, Cojuangco said proposals to defer the ARMM polls and allow the President to appoint OICs in the posts for regional governor, vice governor, and 24 assembly members were unconstitutional and against the law.

ARMM polls issue divides Aquino, kin

Gil C. Cabacungan, Jr. | Philippine Daily Inquirer | February 15, 2011


In the forum sponsored by the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, Cojuangco said proposals to defer the ARMM polls and to allow the President to appoint officers in charge in the ARMM posts were unconstitutional  and against the law.

Showdown seen on plan to defer ARMM elections

Manila Bulletin | February 15, 2011


Former Tarlac Gov. Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco, aunt of Aquino, declared in a forum that the cancellation of the elections defeats the purpose of her nephew’s “daang matuwid” (right path) vow. During a round-table discussion facilitated by Fr. Eliseo Mercado, executive director of Institute for Autonomy for Governance, last Feb. 11, Mrs. Cojuangco categorically stated before Muslim leaders and other stakeholders that she upholds the rule of law and strongly opposes the postponement of ARMM elections on that basis.

New head of peace panel with MILF: No surprises

Christian V. Esguerra, Edwin Fernandez | Philippine Daily Inquirer | July 16, 2010


Catholic priest Eliseo Mercado, a peace advocate and director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, said Leonen was very competent. “I have confidence in him”, Mercado, who has followed the peace process with the MILF since Day One, told the Inquirer.

Philippines massacre trial targets Ampatuan clan

Simon Montlake | Christian Science Monitor | January 22, 2010


The Philippine election commission, known as Comelec, has come under national scrutiny. Three weeks before the massacre, Comelec switched the location for filing candidacy papers to Shariff Aguak, forcing the Mangadadatus to enter their rival’s stronghold and setting up a fatal confrontation.That decision was taken by Comelec in Manila and shows that the writ of the Ampatuans runs all the way to the top, says Eliseo Mercado , a Catholic priest who runs the Institute for Autonomy and Governance in Cotabato City here on Mindanao. Like many here, he singles out the clan’s ability to deliver votes to Arroyo, particularly in a close 2004 race that was dogged by allegations of vote-rigging.

3 more towns created in Maguindanao

Jesus F. Llanto | Newsbreak | March 12, 2009


Benedicto Bacani of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance told Newsbreak in a previous interview that the division of existing LGUs and the creation of new ones are viewed as a way of avoiding rido or clan war that may stem from political rivalries over local government positions.

Philippines Supreme Court halts Muslim land deal

Manny Mogato | Reuters | August 4, 2008


Camilo Montesa, lawyer and a consultant for the Institute for Autonomy and Governance at the Notre Dame University on the southern island of Mindanao, said the delay was bad for Arroyo.

Peace talks collapse – MILF

Philippine Daily Inquirer | July 26, 2008


Analysts say opposition among powerful Christian and Muslim families in the south and government hawks to a formal peace deal with the MILF and Arroyo's reliance on their support mean Manila's negotiating strategy is wobbly and easily thrown off course. "Government has to get its act together," said Camilo Montesa, policy adviser at the Institute for Autonomy and Governance at Notre Dame University on the southern island of Mindanao. “It must have a more comprehensive and coherent strategy on how to deal with the Muslim problem in the south and do away with its more tactical approach on the peace negotiations."

Lack of consultation, transparency on Moro homeland accord hit

Isagani de Castro, Jr. | abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak | July 24, 2008


In a forum last Monday organized by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and the Cotabato-based think-tank, Institute for Autonomy and Governance, the panelists said it is going to be hard to build public support for the agreement since many groups, including Mindanao peace advocates, were not consulted.

Philippines eyes plebiscite to okay Muslim homeland

Manny Mogato | Reuters | July 17, 2008


"It's definitely a positive development, giving the peace process a big push forward," Benedicto Bacani, executive director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance at the Notre Dame University, told Reuters.

SC urged not to ‘kill’ peace process with MILF

Isagani de Castro, Jr. | abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak | May 8, 2008


In an interview on ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) Tuesday, Camilo Montesa, an adviser to the Philippine government's peace panel with the MILF, said that if the SC makes its TRO permanent, then the "SC effectively kills the peace process." "I guess the Supreme Court will have to rethink its decision on this because it can effectively kill the peace process," Montesa, also a policy adviser of the Cotabato-based think-tank, Institute for Autonomy and Governance, said.

Fears of fighting in s. Philippines seen overblown

Manny Mogato | Reuters | May 4, 2008


Analysts believe such threats to the fragile truce in the area might increase in the weeks ahead, but the danger of another full-blown conflict, last seen in the early 2000s, seems remote.

"I am optimistic that the ceasefire will hold even without the Malaysians as long as both sides remained committed to the peace process," said Benedicto Bacani, executive director of Notre Dame University's Institute for Autonomy and Governance.

Prospects not good for Philippine talks with rebels

Manny Mogato | Reuters | August 22, 2007


Benedicto Bacani of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance at the Notre Dame University, also said Arroyo must show greater political will to end the conflict in the south.

‘Pocket wars’ and peace in Philippines

Simon Montlake | Christian Science Monitor | March 14, 2007


"The government is a victim of its own success. Now they want to unite the MNLF and MILF, but for many years they just wanted to divide and rule," says Benny Bacani, who runs the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, a public-policy think tank in Cotabato City.

Philippines offers Muslim movement self-determination

Douglas Bakshian | Voice of America | March 13, 2007


Benedicto Bacani heads a policy research organization called the Cotabato Institute for Autonomy and Governance. He calls the new offer a significant development. 

Hundreds flee fighting in the Philippines

Reuters | June 30, 2006


"Only the president can stop the fighting and save the peace negotiations," said Benny Bacani, executive director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance in Cotabato City. "If there's no political will displayed here, violence may escalate, threatening the ceasefire and may break the confidence of the peace talks."  

 "The government is a victim of its own success. Now they want to unite the MNLF and MILF, but for many years they just wanted to divide and rule," says Benny Bacani, who runs the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, a public-policy think tank in Cotabato City


Atty. Benedicto R. Bacani

Executive Director

Mary Jacqueline C. Fernandez

Deputy Executive Director

Prof. ReyDan C. Lacson

Program Manager, EnPolD Bangsamoro

Jo Genna Jover

Program Manager, IP Project

Narciso Jover

Training Expert/Project Coordinator

Myrna S. Cestina

Admin and Finance Officer 

Ramie P. Toledo

Communications Manager

Hazelyn A. Gaudiano

Communications Officer, EnPold Bangsamoro

Charline Jane Tan

Admin and Finance Assistant

  Ibrahim Kumulang

Logistic Officer


Fr. Eliseo “Jun” Mercado

Senior Policy Adviser

IAG is a service provider of the following programs:

 Political Party Building and Development

The Political Party Building Course is a short-term course conducted by IAG in association with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) to orient groups and individuals on “genuinely principled” political parties and help them build it.

IAG believes that a genuinely principled political party is the basic building block and catalyst for change in the current and future political system in the ARMM and the Philippines as a whole.

This course gives a chance for individuals to be able to appreciate and interact with co-participants and speakers on politics and political parties in a different perspective. IAG and KAS will seek to expose individuals and groups to the possible roles and responsibilities of joining a political party and the mechanisms that makes an authentic party work.

The course as a whole tries to steer clear from the current political system into the right track of political process: active participation in politics and the entire political spectrum through the political party. Our speakers are composed of experts with experience and advocates of change in the Philippines.

The course aims to: (1) deepen the understanding of the nature, history, concept and practice of political parties in the Muslim region and the Philippines; (2) develop a critical awareness amid the current realities of how political parties are practiced in the Philippines and consequently, here in Mindanao; (3) familiarize the participants on the important processes and principles of building and joining a “genuinely principled” political party; and (4) start a foundation of principled and sustainable political parties banking on informed minds (graduates/recipients of the course) that promote healthy political competition and citizen participation in nation building beneficial to the advancement of democracy, contributing to further democratic growth.

IAG was officially acknowledged by the Interim Committee for the Formation of the Bangsamoro Political Party of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as a prime technical assistance provider and consultant. On April 1, 2014, the Committee issued an official mandate requesting IAG in partnership with the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies to scale up its technical assistance, counseling services, and capacity building programs for United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP).

 Promoting and Mainstreaming Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in the ARMM

The project “Recognition of the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao for their Empowerment and Sustainable Development" (IPDEV) was launched in February 2012 and completed in February 2015. It was co-funded by the EU and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS).

The project worked towards the protection and promotion of rights of Indigenous Peoples (IP) in 76 barangays in the ARMM. With a cross-cutting approach, IPDEV sought to address the absence of an enabling law in the ARMM that recognizes indigenous peoples’ rights and social justice as embodied in the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), the 1987 Philippine Constitution and other existing international laws for IPs.

The activities focused on capacity building for the empowerment and strengthening of IP self-governance, advocacy for socio-legal and administrative reforms in the ARMM, as well as lobbying for the inclusion of IPs in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Overall, IPDEV is aimed at the development of IP communities in the ARMM that recognize and practice the rights of minorities at all levels and the improvement of living conditions of the most marginalized population.

For a more comprehensive context of the project, read: The Indigenous Peoples of Mainland ARMM.

Promoting Policy Environment to Secure the Rights and Welfare of Children, Youth and Adolescents in the Proposed Bangsamoro Region and Constituent Local Government Units

Launched in 2014 and in line with the UNICEF Peacebuilding component, this project aims to broaden the discourse on good governance, promote public participation, frame the issues and generate options to the end that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and the subsequent regional local government code and other local laws will entrench systems that promote good governance in local governance and a nurturing environment for peaceful communities especially for children, youth and adolescents in the region. The public policies and mechanisms generated as a result of this project will institutionalize and sustain the initiatives for the protection and welfare of children, youth and adolescents in the region.

All throughout the project, governance experts will be involved in workshops and roundtable discussions centered at creating a venue to craft better regional-LGU relations and entrench policies for children and youth. The proceedings will be timely published and conveyed to appropriate bodies.

The project implementation will also focus on creating options for Bangsamoro-LGU relations founded on good governance and securing in the BBL international standards and principles enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of Children and adequate mechanisms and resources for the protection and welfare of children, youth and adolescents.

 Promoting Political Climate and Stability for Peace in the Bangsamoro

Promoting Political Climate and Stability for Peace in the Bangsamoro (Pro PolitiCS for Peace) is a three-year project that seeks to help shape a stable political environment in support of the Mindanao peace process. It engages political leaders in dialogue, capacity-building, researches and studies to enhance their informed and principled participation in the crafting and implementation of the roadmap and processes for sustainable peace and development in Mindanao.

Pro PolitiCS for Peace is a platform to enhance the productive role and participation of political leaders and local government units in the evolution and implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). As well, it is a bridge between political leaders and key stakeholders and peace process mechanisms to promote constructive and productive inter-governmental relations in the envisioned Bangsamoro regional government.

Pro PolitiCS for Peace will provide technical assistance in institutionalizing the constructive role of political leaders and LGUS and their relations with the regional government in regional legislations such as the regional local government and administrative laws.

Pro PolitiCS for Peace is engaging Provincial Peace and Order Councils (PPOCs) to enhance their contribution to processes and programs for securing security and peace in communities. It is a platform for knowledge sharing and collaboration between the PPOCs and the normalization structures of the peace process.

In its activities, Pro PolitiCS for Peace shall promote the role and participation of women, indigenous peoples and Muslim religious leaders.

Launched in 2015, Pro PolitiCS is an ongoing project implemented by IAG (lead partner) with Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID), Local Government Development Foundation (LOGODEF), and Zamboanga Basilan Integrated Development Alliance (ZABIDA). It is supported by the Australian Government.

Visit the Pro PolitiCS for Peace website to learn more about the project.

 Rule of Law

The Rule of Law program seeks to promote access to justice in a conflict and post-conflict environment. In the envisioned Bangsamoro, the justice system shall have three sub-systems: Shari’ah law, civil courts and indigenous tribal justice system. Alternative dispute resolution is a theme across the 3 sub-systems. IAG contributes to the promotion of the rule of law by strengthening the policies and practice in the 3 sub-systems of justice in the Bangsamoro.

This program adopts the following strategies:

1. Research and developing accurate and relevant baseline data on access to justice towards the formulation of a justice index in the Bangsamoro;

2. Policy research and advocacy towards progressive policies and implementation of the Bangsamoro justice system;

3. Training and capacity building for lawyers, law professors, counsellors, para-legals and court personnel;

4. Developing modules for law schools and public administration courses in colleges and universities;

5. Awareness raising on the state and measures to make the Bangsamoro justice system relevant and effective in resolving disputes.

IAG is partnering with relevant institutions such as the Supreme Court and the Philippine Judicial Academy and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), Philippine Association of Law Schools (PALS) and laws schools and centers for Shariah Law and Islamic Studies in the Bangsamoro.

Promoting good governance in the Autonomous Regional Government and Local Government Units

This program trains, mentors and provides technical assistance to promote efficiency, transparency, accountability and citizens’ participation in the affairs of the autonomous regional  government and local government units. It adopts the needs-driven, participatory and collaborative approaches in introducing, developing and entrenching good governance practices in regional and local laws and policies.

It helps LGUs optimize their potentials for local resource generation through tax mapping and efficient collection of taxes and fees, tax information campaigns and client-friendly and efficient business licensing and regulatory practices and in promoting the environment for enhanced business activities in their localities.

It trains and assists LGUs in achieving milestones in transparency and accountability such as getting the Seal of Good Housekeeping and compliance with the Anti-Red Tape Act (ARTA).

This program promotes civil society participation in local governance by strengthening local development bodies and local special bodies which by law have strong citizen participation. It orients LGUs on accreditation of civil society groups for membership in local bodies. The program provides training to civil society organizations (CSOs) on ways by which they can actively monitor ad participate in local governance. Strategic communication programs to promote dialogue and interaction between LGUs and citizens are developed with LGUs and CSOs.

Enhancing Security Governance

This program provides training and technical assistance to raise capacities of local governments in promoting peace and security in their localities. This program trains and strengthens the Local Peace and Order Councils on conflict resolution and in designing and implementing relevant and effective programs to promote local security and peace. The program strengthens local and indigenous mechanisms for conflict prevention and management.

Policy Advocacy

This program conducts researches, workshops and trainings and discussions on political, economic and security issues. It provides technical assistance in crafting public policies and local or national laws, resolution or ordinances especially on the protection and welfare of vulnerable groups such as indigenous peoples, elderly, women, children and people with disabilities. Capacity-building for lawmakers and policymakers forms part of this program. Through publications, roundtable discussions and use of traditional and social media, this program can conduct campaigns towards putting in place relevant policies that effectively address public and social concerns.

Developing Economic Clusters

This replicates the successful Iranun Development Council (IDC) project where five (5) municipalities in Maguindanao BARIRA BULDON MATANOG PARANG and DATU BLAH SINSUAT were assisted by IAG in constituting their areas as one economic development cluster. This program involves raising capacities of LGUs in alliance-building and research, survey and mapping to identify areas for economic collaboration among others. It trains local economic development managers in feasibility studies, business planning and marketing. This program also provides technical assistance in accessing loans and grants and public-private partnerships (PPP) for local economic development.

For more information about these programs, please e-mail Atty. Benedicto Bacani, Executive Director, IAG at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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