CHIZ ASKS SENATE TO SUMMON
DFA FOR IQBAL’S REAL IDENTITY
Senator Chiz Escudero has asked the Senate to summon the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in the next hearing to present documents that will show the real identity of Mohagher Iqbal, the chief peace negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Escudero made the request this week’s continuation of the public hearing on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by the Senate Committee on Local Government, during which lawmakers attempted but failed to get the real name of Iqbal.
It was revealed in last week’s congressional hearing on the botched Mamasapano operation that the MILF chief peace negotiator had been using the nom de guerre Mohagher Iqbal since talks began in 1997. Several lawmakers, however, took issue on Iqbal’s identity, saying this imperils the validity and legality of the peace agreement where the former is a signatory.
“We discuss this issue in this hearing without any allegation of deception, just information. And based on this information, Congress will act accordingly. Why is Mr. Iqbal agonizing over giving his real identity? Who is he afraid of? The military?” Escudero asked.
Escudero explained that knowing Iqbal’s identity should not be brushed aside, saying it was important to know “who we really talk to, who we deal with because this small thing has a significant effect on confidence-building which is one of the most difficult tasks in brokering peace.”
“What we’re simply asking is, tapos na iyung giyera, matagal nang may ceasefire. Nag-uusap na tayo ng harapan, inaayos na natin at isinasabatas pa nga yang mga kasunduang pinasukan at pinirmahan. Hindi ito dapat maging hadlang sa peace process. Maliit na bagay na nangangailangan lang din ng simpleng kasagutan,” he said.
Escudero also scored officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for not knowing the real identity of the MILF chief peace negotiator considering that the Moro revolutionary group has been in existence for almost 42 years now.
AFP Chief-of-Staff Gen. Pio Catapang, when questioned by Escudero, admitted they did not know the real name of Iqbal and that they had no accessible information to determine this.
“In those 42 years, the AFP never thought it relevant to find the real identities of the leaders of the rebel group they have been fighting with? This is unsettling,” he said.
Escudero also questioned the government peace panel about the real identities of other MILF peace negotiators, without any allegation of deception or fraud.
Escudero added: “Walang threat laban sa kaniya. Kaya naman siguro sabihin ng peace panel yan na walang threat nagmumula sa PNP (Philippine National Police) o AFP o sa pamahalaan. Yung may mga ayaw ng peace process, maski pa pirmahan pa yung BBL, ayaw pa rin nila yan at may threat pa rin kay Ginoong Iqbal, hindi kayang baguhin yun ng BBL. Kaya’t hindi porke’t pinirmahan yung BBL eh dun lamang sasabihin.” /MP