Lawmakers still don’t know Iqbal’s name after 14 hours | Inquirer News

Lawmakers still don’t know Iqbal’s name after 14 hours

/ 02:13 AM April 16, 2015

MANILA, Philippines–It would appear that the responsibility of disclosing the true identity of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal has shifted to President Aquino.

Zamboanga Rep. Celso Lobregat said members of the House of Representatives were exasperated by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s move to restrain the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) from disclosing the true name of Iqbal in an executive session on Tuesday that lasted 14 hours.

“Foreign Undersecretary Rafael Seguis was about to give the name of Iqbal but [Secretary De Lima] intervened and this started a long discussion in the committee,” Lobregat said in a phone interview on Wednesday.


Iqbal refused to disclose his real name to senators and representatives in separate hearings, citing risks to himself and his family.


He told the lawmakers, however, that they could ask the DFA, which knew his real name, as it had issued him a passport.

Privacy policy

DFA spokesman Charles Jose said Iqbal had a valid passport but information about the MILF official in his passport could not be disclosed because of the DFA’s privacy policy.

In a television interview Wednesday morning, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said Iqbal had a “valid Philippine passport supported by his personal record.”

Authorities should honor a passport as long as it is valid and even though the holder is using a different name in public, Del Rosario said.

Told that the Senate planned to issue a subpoena to the DFA to force the disclosure of Iqbal’s real name, Del Rosario said, “We have to seek counsel as to whether that is legal for us to do.”


Uncalled for intervention

Lobregat said De Lima’s intervention was uncalled for because the question was being asked in a closed-door session where participants were bound to keep all discussions secret.

“She is only shifting the burden on the President. But why involve the President? People will have something new to blame the President again after the Mamasapano incident,” he said.

Lobregat said he sought permission from committee leaders to discuss Iqbal’s refusal to give his real name outside the executive session.

By refusing to cooperate, Lobregat said, Iqbal and the government are making the issue bigger than it is.

Lobregat brushed off the government’s statement that forcing Iqbal to disclose his real name would jeopardize the peace process.

The public wants to know

He said the government had failed to consider that the public also wanted to know Iqbal’s true identity, which explains why the representatives and the senators spend hours trying to make the MILF chief peace negotiator give his real name.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said that the roughly 200 representatives have had their fill of questions and answers in three public hearings and one executive session conducted by the committees on public order and safety and peace, reconciliation and unity.

Belmonte said the ad hoc committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) could now proceed with public hearings to approve the draft bill that would complete the peace process between the government and the MILF.

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He said he remained confident that Congress would pass the BBL by June, allowing adequate time for a plebiscite.–With a report from Niña P. Calleja

TAGS: Leila de Lima, MILF

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