Iqbal’s use of aliases non-issue for BBL – lawmakers

MORO Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal’s use of aliases in the peace process does not worry lawmakers hearing the deliberations on the Bangsamoro basic bill (BBL).

In an ambush interview Tuesday, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said Iqbal’s use of a nom de guerre (or an assumed name) is a non-issue, especially as even public officials use aliases in the course of their service.

He added that Iqbal’s use of aliases is necessary to keep his family and himself safe.

“We know who Iqbal is. Whatever name he is, I don’t think it’s a big thing. His identity is known to government, but like all revolutionaries, he prefers that his family is protected,” Belmonte said.

“I don’t see why we’re making a big deal about it. In so far as technicality (is concerned), so many of our public officials are using aliases, but do we make a big thing about it?” he added.

For his part, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who chairs the Bangsamoro ad hoc committee hearing the bill, said Iqbal’s use of an alias would not have an effect on the deliberations over the bill that seeks to implement the peace deal with the MILF.

“It’s a non-issue. We’re looking at provisions whether they are constitutional or not, whether it would be best for the Bangsamoro, Mindanao and the entire country. Those are the focus of the BBL,” Rodriguez said.

He said though that in case the panel will invite Iqbal again for the hearings, he would require the MILF official to use his real name following the anti-alias law or Republic Act 6085, which mandates the use of registered baptismal names.

“In my committee before we proceed we’ll have to get his real name. He owed it to everyone. It’s very simple,” Rodriguez said.

The suspension of the deliberations of the chamber on the Bangsamoro bill particularly on security and defense provisions stemmed from the Mamasapano encounter last January 25 that claimed the lives of 44 SAF commandos, 18 Moro rebels and five civilians. Though the mission succeeded in killing international terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir, many lawmakers were angered by the involvement of the MILF in the incident and doubted the sincerity of the latter in the peace process. The bill seeks to implement the peace deal with the MILF to create a more politically autonomous Bangsamoro entity.

During a hearing at the Senate on Monday, Iqbal pleaded to senators not to compel him to reveal his name for the security of himself and his family who share his last name.

Senators, however, pointed out that Iqbal could no longer invoke security concerns because he is a public figure in the peace process, adding that his use of aliases puts to question the sincerity of the MILF.

Iqbal is accused of using different names in his passports, especially after the Bureau of Immigration said the name Mohagher Iqbal is not in its travel records.

Speculations were also rife that Iqbal is actually a Malaysian citizen. Iqbal has denied the allegation.

The peace panel and even Justice Secretary Leila De Lima have said Iqbal’s use of aliases does not invalidate the peace deal documents.

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