Are we negotiating with a ghost or a true person?”
Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr joined Davao City Representative Karlo Nograles in criticizing Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal’s use of an alias in signing a historic peace deal with the Philippine government.
The chairman of the Senate local government committee handling the crucial Bangsamoro Basic Law, known as BBL, said Iqbal’s admission that his name is a mere alias “mocks” and “jeopardizes” the peace process.
In a statement dripping with sarcasm, Marcos referred to the rebel leader as “the person known as Iqbal,” and put his name in quotation marks. He said senators will look into the issue at the resumption of the hearings into the Bangsamoro bill on Monday, April 13.
“The MILF leadership claims to be led by Filipino citizens. Even ‘this person who is known as Iqbal’ claims to be Filipino and ‘Bangsamoro’ by identity …. As such, this Senate has the power ask, nay require, in aid of legislation, those who appear before us to reveal their true identities,” Marcos said on Thursday, April 9.
The senator’s statement came a day after Iqbal defended before the House of Representatives his use of various aliases, refusing to divulge his real name. Iqbal argued that using a nom de guerre (war name) is common among revolutionary groups, and even heroes.
Like Nograles in the House hearing into the Mamasapano tragedy, Marcos questioned the impact of the alias use on the legality of the peace agreement Iqbal signed last year on behalf of the MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group.
“By using a nom de guerre, and claiming to represent the MILF, this person known as Iqbal places the entire peace process in jeopardy because he lacks the legal status to even represent and negotiate with the government,” Marcos said.
He added: “What is the civil status of this person?”
Marcos wants to know who notarized the peace deal and the documents Iqbal signed. The senator said that Philippine law requires that notarized documents be signed by persons using real names.
“This is entirely the first peace agreement in the worl which a government negotiated with a fictitious person. Even that negotiated by other governments, those rebel leaders used their real names when signing peace pacts. This mocks the entire process and puts in serious question the very sincerity of the rebels to enter into peace with us,” he said.
The controversy over Iqbal’s use of pseudonyms started with a Facebook post of former Interior Secretary Rafael Alunan III, who cited information from an anonymous source that Iqbal and MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim supposedly hold Malaysian passports.
Iqbal responded by releasing a copy of his Philippine passport, but covered the portion showing his real name.
Malaysia also issued a statement denying that Iqbal and Murad are Malaysians.