MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario confirmed on Wednesday, April 15, that the controversial chief negotiator of a Muslim rebel group carries a valid Philippine passport.
Del Rosario, however, could not state the real name of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal.
Del Rosario told journalist Karen Davila on her news program Headstart on ANC: “My knowledge, Karen, as of this morning, before I spoke with you, is that he carries a valid Philippine passport that is supported by his personal record. I will stop there because that’s the extent of my knowledge.”
Iqbal earlier admitted he is using an alias and has “so many names.” (READ: Iqbal: Even heroes used aliases)
Philippine laws prohibit the use of an unregistered alias in public documents.
Senator Francis Escudero on Monday, April 13, said he has asked the Senate to summon the DFA “to present documents that will show the real identity of Mohagher Iqbal.”
When asked if he knows Iqbal’s real name, Del Rosario said, “I wouldn’t know right now.” He added, “I have not seen the passport.”
Iqbal released to Rappler a scanned copy of his passport on March 16. Ballpen ink covered some of his personal details, including his legal name.
The scanned copy shows the DFA office in Cotabato issued Iqbal’s passport.
Mocking peace process?
Del Rosario said the DFA, in any case, “would know” Iqbal’s real name.
Iqbal is facing criticism for using an alias while engaging in a peace process with the Philippine government.
Iqbal negotiated with the Philippine government to sign a comprehensive agreement to end a 4-decade-old Muslim secessionist movement.
Negotiators from both the Philippine government and the MILF expected the agreement to lead to the signing of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which aims to create a more powerful autonomous Muslim region.
A clash between an elite police force and Muslim rebels on January 25, however, stalled the BBL. The bloodbath that killed 44 members of the police Special Action Force, 18 Muslim rebels, and 5 civilians in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, also thrust Philippine President Benigno Aquino III in his worst crisis.
One of Aquino’s staunchest critics, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, said Iqbal’s use of an alias “mocks” and “jeopardizes” the peace process.
The Palace, on the other hand, said there is no “deception” in Iqbal’s use of an alias.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles added that the use of pseudonyms “has been a practice in many peace negotiations around the world.” – Rappler.com