Iqbal: Even heroes used aliases

MANILA, Philippines – Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal on Wednesday, April 8, defended his use of an alias before lawmakers, arguing that the practice was common among revolutionary groups. 

Answering questions from Ang Nars Representative Leah Paquiz, Iqbal said: "I have so many names. That's natural in revolutionary organizations."

The MILF chief negotiator, who also heads the commission that drafted the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, said even heroes such as Marcelo del Pilar used pseudonyms during the revolution against Spanish colonization.  

Del Pilar used at least 9 aliases over the course of the revolution, Iqbal told lawmakers on Day 3 of the House probe into the Mamasapano clash that killed 67 Filipinos. 

The controversy over Iqbal's use of a pseudonym stemmed from a post on Facebook by former Interior and Local Government Secretary Rafael Alunan III, citing information from an anonymous source accusing Iqbal and MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim of holding Malaysian passports. 

In response, Iqbal released a copy of his Philippine passport and admitted that the name "Mohagher Iqbal" was only his alias. Malaysia has since denied that the rebel leaders were Malaysian citizens.

Iqbal has used another pseudonym in the past. He published two books under the pen name "Salah Jubair."

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission chairperson told lawmakers his passport uses his real name. 

Asked to divulge his real name, Iqbal refused to do so due to "certain sensitivities." 

His real name is known to the government, Iqbal said.

Government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer also said during Tuesday's hearing that the government does know Iqbal's birth name.

Despite signing a peace agreement with the government in 2014, the MILF still considers itself as a revolutionary group until the peace accord has been fully implemented. 

The MILF broke away from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) at the height of the conflict in the 1970s due to leadership differences. They dropped their fight for an independent state in exchange for full autonomy in Muslim-majority areas in Mindanao when they entered into talks with the government.  

Use of alias illegal?

During Tuesday's hearing, Davao City 1st district Representative Karlos Alexei Nograles accused Iqbal of violating the Anti-Alias Law, which bars individuals from using pseudonyms in public documents. 

At a later part during Wednesday's hearing, Antipolo City 2nd district Romeo Acop raised the matter anew and asked Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to weigh in on the issue. 

De Lima said Republic Act 6085 prohibits the use of aliases "especially when it is publicly used" but should also be considered if the pseudonym was used in good faith and not to conceal a crime.

"(We should also) consider the fact that there has been tacit recognition by the government or by the state or by concerned sectors about the use of aliases especially given the fact that I know that is a common practice among revolutionaries," De Lima said. 

Asked if Iqbal's use of an alias invalidates documents he signed under the name in his capacity as the MILF chief negotiator, De Lima said she does not "think so" but would have to study the case further. Iqbal has been the MILF's chief negotiator for 17 years. 

De Lima said the fact that Iqbal does not deny his alias and admits to using a pseudonym should be considered. – Rappler.com

WATCH: CONGRESS HEARINGS ON THE MAMASAPANO CLASH

House of Representatives

April 7, 2015: VIDEO

Senate of the Philippines

February 9, 2015: VIDEO | TRANSCRIPT

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