MANILA, Philippines – The chief negotiator of rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Monday, March 16, released a copy of his passport in response to allegations that he is a Malaysian citizen.
MILF negotiating panel chair Mohagher Iqbal provided Rappler with a scanned copy of his Philippine passport. Some of his personal details, including his legal name, were covered with ballpen ink. The dates of issuance and expiration of the passport are exposed, however.
The passport – issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs Office in Cotabato City – shows that his nationality is Filipino and he was born in Cotabato City.
Iqbal has denied that he and MILF chairperson Murad Ebrahim are holders of Malaysian passports. The allegations emanated from a post that former Interior and Local Government Secretary Rafael Alunan III wrote on his Facebook page.
On Thursday, March 12, Alunan wrote:
MALAMANG, ALAM NA ITO SIGURO NG NICA, DFA AT IMMIGRATION. Ano pa ba kaillangang gawin ng MILF para matauhan ang taumbayan na ang ating gobyerno ay nasa pigang kamay ng Malaysia? Tanga ba sila o traydor? “Sir si Milf Chairman Murad at Iqbal, ay walang Philippine Passport. Tuwing lumalabas sila gamit nila Malaysia passport. So sa madaling salita lahat na nangyayari ang author is Malaysia.”
Alunan’s allegations got the attention of Davao City 1st District Representative Karlos Alexei Nograles.
Citing Alunan’s Facebook post, the lawmaker issued a statement on Saturday, March 14, calling on Congress to investigate the allegations. He said Congress could be “committing acts of treason” if found to be writing the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law – a product of the peace accord between the government and the MILF – for foreign nationals.
Alunan later said in a March 15 Facebook post that what he posted on his wall was from a private message that was sent to him. Alunan said Nograles should amend his statement to reflect this but maintained that he agrees with the Davao City lawmaker that authorities should look into the information.
The former interior secretary even added that he had been “told by Mindanao sources” that Iqbal and Murad have Malaysian travel documents and national agencies “should validate this ASAP.”
Iqbal has since called the allegations baseless.
In an interview with CNN Philippines on Monday, government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferrer said the government had always known that Mohagher Iqbal was not her counterpart’s real name.
When the panels travelled to Malaysia for the negotiations, Ferrer said Iqbal and members of the MILF panel lined up under foreign citizens entering Malaysia, which serves as the third-party facilitator to the peace talks.
Iqbal has used another pseudonym in the past. He published two books under the pen name “Salah Jubair.”
Days before hundreds of MILF combatants registered as voters under the Commission on Elections, Iqbal revealed that he had been a registered voter since 2013.
A Mindanews report said he allowed the media to take photos of him with his Comelec ID but requested that the card not be photographed up close so as not to reveal his legal name. – Rappler.com