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Most MILF leaders using aliases

By: - Reporter / @NikkoDizonINQ
/ 03:28 AM April 14, 2015

MANILA, Philippines–Almost all the members of the central committee of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) use noms de guerre, government chief peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said on Monday.

“The MILF central committee has said that almost 100 percent of their members are using aliases,” Ferrer said, responding to a question from Sen. Francis Escudero, who wanted to know whether the MILF leaders were using their real names or noms de guerre.

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Ferrer was speaking at the resumption of the Senate hearing on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which would complete the peace process between the government and the MILF.

Also speaking at the hearing, MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal stood firm on his refusal to disclose his real name, saying he was protecting not just his person and his family, but the cause that he has espoused for a long time.

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“This is not just security of my person. The situation is not yet normal. Let us wait for our lives to return to normal,” Iqbal said as he appealed to the senators not to force him to disclose his real name.

Escudero asked Ferrer and Iqbal if the name of MILF chair Murad Ebrahim was a nom de guerre.

Both Ferrer and Iqbal refused to answer, saying the question should be directed to the MILF chief himself.

When prodded by Escudero to be more categorical, Ferrer said she knew “personally the status” of the name Murad Ebrahim “but again for reasons of security and privacy, I cannot confirm [nor] deny.”

Real names or aliases?

Escudero then made a rundown of the names of the MILF peace panel negotiators—including Michael Mastura, Maulana Bobby Alonto, Abdullah Camlian and Antonio Kinoc—and asked Iqbal and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles if the names were real or aliases.

Deles said she knew that Mastura, Alonto and Camlian were using their real names. As Kinoc is from the B’laan tribe, Deles said she was not sure how the tribe used names.

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“We would have to get the real names of these people because we would be issuing appointments. It would serve you well to know if [these are] indeed their real names or not,” Escudero said.

Ferrer said that at the start of peace talks under the Aquino administration in 2010, the MILF provided the government peace panel an official list of its negotiators.

At the start of the hearing, Iqbal said the government should be the one to give his real name to the senators while he would give the “context.”

What his name means

Iqbal said he had been using his nom de guerre Mohagher Iqbal since February 1979.

He said that joining a “revolutionary struggle is a dangerous enterprise” such that the use of a nom de guerre “is to protect myself, my family and the struggle.”

Iqbal said that if he did not use an alias, he would not be alive today.

Iqbal later told reporters that “Mohagher” means “immigrant” while “Iqbal” stands for “something lofty.” It has been reported that the MILF chief peace negotiator has been inspired by the Pakistani poet and philosopher Muhammad Iqbal.

But Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., head of the committee on peace, reunification and reconciliation, argued that the use of a nom de guerre “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.”

There is even a “suspicion of deception,” Marcos said.

Both Marcos and Escudero, however, said there were no legal impediments to the use of an alias.

The important thing

Escudero said it was a small thing that still needed to be settled. He disagreed with Marcos that there was an accusation of deception against Iqbal.

Deles stressed that what is important to the government throughout the peace process is that it knows the MILF as an organization and its representatives who “have stood by the agreements.”

She said the MILF representatives, including Iqbal, faced Congress during the BBL consultations and answered questions from lawmakers.

“Never at any point [did they turn] their back on what they have signed nor has the MILF at any time ever said that these persons have unduly [signed] any of these papers,” Deles said.

Deles also corrected Marcos when the senator claimed that nowhere in the world has there been a peace agreement that was signed by a party using an alias.

She said final peace agreements in Nepal, Guatemala, and Colombia were signed by rebels using their aliases.

Moreover, Deles said, members of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) signed agreements when they were still in talks with the government in the late 1990s using their noms de guerre.

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TAGS: aliases, Bangsamoro Basic Law, BBL, MILF, MILF leaders, Mohagher Iqbal, noms de guerre, Senate hearing
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