Military clueless of Iqbal’s real name, Catapang admits
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Gregorio Catapang admitted before senators Monday that the military did not know the real name of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal.
During the resumption of the hearings on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in the Senate, Catapang said the military did not have any record of Iqbal’s real name in spite of the him engaging in peace talks with the government for 15 years.
“To my knowledge, we don’t know the real name of Iqbal,” the Armed Forces chief of staff said.
An alias all along
Iqbal, head of the MILF’s negotiating panel talking peace with the government, has admitted that he had been using an alias — a nom de guerre — all along.
Senator Francis Escudero found it odd that the military never found out Iqbal’s real name in the four decades of the Moro rebellion.
“Sa 42 years na pakikipaglaban ng Moro rebels sa Mindanao, the AFP never thought it is relevant to find out the real name of the leader of the revolutionary group?” Escudero said.
Senators critical of Iqbal’s use of alias said the nom de guerre put to question the sincerity of the MILF in the peace process that will be implemented by the BBL.
This developed as Senate President Franklin Drilon joined calls for the MILF chief negotiator to reveal his true identity.
No effect on peace deal
Drilon, a former justice secretary, made the appeal even as he said that the issue on Iqbal’s identity would not affect the peace agreement between the government and the MILF.
“The use of a nom de guerre by Iqbal in signing the peace agreement does not constitute any legal violation, for both parties involved fully recognized Iqbal as the MILF’s chief negotiator in the peace process,” he said in a statement.
“What is important is that the MILF will honor and fulfill its obligations under the peace agreement,” the Senate president added.
He pointed out that in the Senate itself, several senators have signed official documents, committee reports and bills using nicknames. Among these are Senators Jinggoy Estrada, whose real name is Jose Pimentel Ejercito, and Ramon Revilla Jr., who was born with the name of Jose Marie Mortel Bautista.
Still, the Senate leader urged Iqbal to reveal his real name in order to help address misconceptions about the MILF’s commitment to the peace process.
Drilon said this could be an “important confidence-building measure that can alleviate doubts on the organization’s sincerity and commitment towards peace.”
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 is also rife that Iqbal is a Malasyian. An allegation that Iqbal has denied.
The peace panel and even Justice Secretary Leila De Lima have said Iqbal’s use of an alias does not invalidate the peace deal documents.
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