SENATOR Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos on Sunday rejected the reason given by Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal for using an alias when his separatist group entered into a peace agreement with the government of the Philippines.
“I’m asking them why the need for an alias and they answered it was due to security reasons. But I cannot fully comprehend that it was for security reasons because he has been coming out in television, in public. So if he wanted to hide from somebody, using an alias would be useless,” Marcos said in an interview over radio DZBB.
While the MILF said it was their practice to use a “nom de guerre” to hide their true identities, Marcos insisted this is a different situation because Iqbal has already came out in the public.
The senator said this was the first time he heard of a peace agreement in
which a signatory used an alias. He said he has already done research to determine if this is the case in other countries.
Marcos said that in other countries, once rebels came out in the open and they’re no longer fighting the government, they declare who they really are. And they sign peace agreements using their true names, he added.
“So it is surprising why we had a different case here,” said Marcos, whose Senate committee will resume hearings on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law today.
Marcos noted that Moro National Liberation Front chairman Nur Misuari did not use an alias when he entered into peace talks with the Cory Aquino government, which led to the creation of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao.
“Nur Misuari is famous. We know him by that name. We have known him from before because he was a professor and he has had many involvements in various projects, not only in the MNLF. I have not yet seen him sign a peace agreement using an alias,” Marcos said.
He said it was the current Aquino government allowed the MILF to do what they wanted to do, including the use of aliases.
Malacanang deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte admitted that the administration knew the real names of MILF members who used aliases in
conducting peace talks with the government.
“Perhaps, that can be done [legally], but we are talking here about peace, peace talks. It’s the reason why they came out with everything, their grievances, their needs. What if [Iqbal] is not a Filipino, how can he sign [for the MILF]?”
On the assertion of government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer that Iqbal can use an alias since he belongs to a revolutionary government, Marcos noted that the MILF is no longer fighting the government “and they’re talking peace.”
The senator said that if Iqbal continues to use an alias once there is already a Bangsamoro government, he can no longer sign using a different name.
Marcos said he will ask questions about Iqbal’s use of an alias during the resumption of the BBL hearing.
But if Iqbal refuses to answer, Marcos admitted that the Senate cannot do anything about it because he cannot be forced to reply.
“So we will just carry on. This is really is a tangential, this is just a side issue. What is more important to me and, I suppose, this is important to the BBL, is the ceasefire in case of an encounter.”
But Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel said he does not consider Iqbal’s use of an alias a big deal.
Since this is contract between the the government and MILF and not Iqbal, Pimentel said it does not matter what name Iqbal uses.
“He is just a representative of an organization. He signed as chief negotiator, gave his signature and thumb mark to documents on behalf the MILF. What is important is that we know that we are talking to the MILF and that’s not an alias,” said Pimentel.
He emphasized that the peace agreement is valid because the Executive branch had already admitted that they know the real identifies of Iqbal and they allowed him to use his alias “so there’s no issue here.”
“What is more important is we look at the contents of BBL, if the provisions here are constitutional,” he added.