Iqbal pleads to Senate to not reveal his true name
MORO Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal on Monday pleaded with senators to not compel him to reveal his true identity citing security risks to him and his family.
Attending the resumption of the Senate hearing on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), Iqbal explained the situation behind his using an alias was “complicated.”
Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., chair of the Senate committee on local government, insisted that Iqbal reveal his true name to no avail.
“What is your true name, Mr. Iqbal?” Marcos asked Iqbal.
“We use nom de guerre to protect myself, my family, and the struggle. If I was harmed and killed, perhaps I would not be here in this august body,” Iqbal said.
Marcos retorted, “It does not inspire confidence in anyone, when you’re sitting across the table and you’re not sure of the identity of the person you’re talking to.”
Iqbal said he would reveal his true identity once the BBL, which seeks to create the Bangsamoro political entity, was signed into law.
“When the BBL is passed by Congress and hopefully ratified, that will be the time everything will normalize and we will disclose that,” Iqbal said.
“But at this point in time, I request the Honorable body not to compel me to reveal my identity,” he added.
Iqbal was backed by government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel Ferrer and Presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles who both said Iqbal’s use of an alias was part of his right to privacy.
“He is a very public person. He does have a family and children that carry his name. We know that the MILF still has enemies,” Deles said.
“There are privacy and security issues here (There is a) right to privacy of any public official,” Ferrer said.
Deles, however, said she did not know Iqbal’s real name, noting she had not read it in any document. For her part, Ferrer said she had known Iqbal’s real name due to her study of the Moro struggle.
“The identity does not only have to do with the name. It has also to do with biometrics. I don’t think there is any mask in his face. He can be called with different names but the fact is, he is one and the same person,” Ferrer said.
“Mr. Iqbal has been signing all the papers. He has never disappeared. Mr. Iqbal has stood by everything,” Deles added.
Issue of sincerity
Senators critical of Iqbal’s use of alias said the nom de guerre puts to question the sincerity of the MILF in the peace process that will be implemented by the BBL
Marcos said Iqbal can no longer cite security risks, saying the MILF negotiator is quite a public figure already.
“The gentleman is sitting here in front of cameras. So many people are seeing his face. The question of security is no longer part of the context,” Marcos said.
Senator Tito Sotto even walked out of the hearing, saying he would not talk to people he did not know the true identity.
“The BBL is a very important piece of legislation. I prefer discussing it with persons I know. Therefore I will just talk with you, Mr. Chairman, during the plenary,” Sotto said.
Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero said the issue of the name is easily resolved, adding that Iqbal can no longer cite security risks because he is a public person already.
“Maliit siya na bagay pero parang tinga sa ngipin na nakakairita, na dapat isantabi sa simpleng usapan,” Escudero said.
For his part, Senator Teofisto Guingona III said he sees no problem in Iqbal’s use of alias since Iqbal has remained committed to pursuing peace in his engagement with government for 15 years since 1997.
“So many years, he has used that name… I don’t see any problem with Mr. Iqbal using the present alias as long as we continue to the peace process until its final end,” Guingona said.
Iqbal is accused of using different names in his passports especially after the Bureau of Immigration said the name Mohagher Iqbal was not in its records.
Speculations are also rife that Iqbal is a Malaysian citizen. Iqbal has denied this allegation.
The peace panel and even Justice Secretary Leila de Lima have said that Iqbal’s use of an alias did not invalidate the peace deal documents.
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