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Solons ask: Why the fuss over Iqbal's use of aliases?

Unlike some of their counterparts in the Senate, members of the House of Representatives do not see anything wrong with the use of aliases by Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, and believe the issue should not affect the discussion on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said Iqbal’s use of a nom de guerre is normal since the MILF remains a revolutionary organization.

“I don’t think [Iqbal’s use of an alias] is a big thing because his real identity is known to the government. But like all revolutionaries he prefers [to use an alias] to protect his family. That’s normal all over the world,” Belmonte told reporters at the sidelines of the House executive session on the Mamasapano clash Tuesday.

Asked if Iqbal’s use of an alias will invalidate the peace agreement signed by the government and MILF, Belmonte said: “I don’t think so.”

Even the progressive Makabayan bloc’s leader, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares, agreed with Belmonte’s statement, saying Iqbal’s use of aliases should not be an issue as long as the MILF commits itself to the peace pact.

“Ang crucial issues dito are if [both parties] fulfill the agreement and if it will help Mindanao achieve peace. Kasi kung ang agreement ay hindi naman makakatulong para ma-achieve ang tunay na kapayapaan, hindi siya susuportahan ng taumbayan kahit pa sinu-sino ang pumirma diyan at kung anu-anong pangalan ang ginamit,” he said.

No impact on BBL

Several senators had taken issue with Iqbal’s use of pseudonyms  at the resumption of the Senate committee on local government’s deliberations on the BBL, with panel chair Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos saying it destroys confidence in the peace process.

In response, Iqbal explained that he has to use a pseudonym to protect his family and the armed struggle because the situation in Mindanao remains volatile. He has vowed to reveal his real name after Congress passes the BBL.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the House ad hoc committee on the BBL, said Iqbal’s use of a nom de guerre “is a non-issue” because the Bangsamoro bill is authored by lawmakers.

“House Bill 4994 (the Bangsamoro bill) that we are tackling is not authored by Iqbal but by Speaker Belmonte and 23 other lawmakers. In considering the bill, we’re looking at whether its provisions are constitutional, and whether it’s best for the Bangsamoro, Mindanao and the entire country,” he said. 

Gesture of sincerity

Rodriguez, however, said his committee will have to know Iqbal’s real name should its members invite him again as a resource person “because he owes it to everyone.” 

But he added it is now unlikely for the panel to ask for the MILF executive’s presence again since lawmakers are now focused on discussing the bill’s provisions on public order and safety, and security.

The House committee tackling the BBL will discuss the measure in executive sessions starting April 20.

While Iqbal’s use of pseudonyms isn’t seen to affect discussions on the BBL, Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat believes the MILF executive should reveal his true identity to show his sincerity in the peace process.

“Dapat nang ilabas ni Iqbal ‘yung kanyang tunay na pangalan para ipakita ang kanyang sincerity lalo na ngayong nahihirapan na ang BBL [sa Kongreso]. His insistence not to reveal his name will just prolong the issue. Nagpapatagal lang ng usapan,” he said. - JJ, GMA News