MANILA – Senator Alan Peter Cayetano claimed last Thursday that Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal’s real name was “Datucan Abas.” The senator presented court documents and school records supporting his claim.
“Who is Mr. Iqbal? His real name is Datucan M. Abas,” he said in a television interview, stressing that he was “100 percent” sure of Iqbal’s true identity.
“The identities of those who are in the military, like the National Democratic Front (NDF), New People’s Army (NPA) are kept secret because there’s no negotiation with them yet. But the chief negotiator of the MILF should have full disclosure because he is the one seen in public,” he added.
Prior Cayetano’s revelation, Iqbal admitted in a Senate hearing last Monday that the name he was using was a war name. When the committee asked for his true identity, Iqbal opted to remain mum.
Cayetano was puzzled on why Iqbal’s real name was unknown to many when it appeared many times in official documents.
“Ako ay nagtataka dahil ito naman ay tadtad sa ibang dokumento katulad ng DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) at OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process) issuances way back 2003,” he said in a radio interview.
(I’m puzzled because it appeared many times in other documents like the DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) and OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process) issuances way back in 2003.)
Cayetano presented other various evidences including a court document, a memorandum, a peace agreement letter and a school record all registering a certain “Datucan Abas Mohagher Iqbal.”
Cayetano clarified, however,that the problem was not Iqbal’s true identity but was that if the government was talking to the right person for the peace talks.
“Ang gusto kasi nila ipakita sa publiko e he is the peaceful face, sa academe niya, ito yung naniniwala sa Bangsamoro… wala kasing transparency, hindi tuloy naten alam ang kausapin natin,” he said.
(What they want to show the public is he is the peaceful face, in his academe, this is those who believe in Bangsamoro… but because there’s no transparency, we don’t know whom to talk to.)
Cayetano claimed that Datucan Abas was facing multiple murder charges in the Davao City regional trial court for the bombing of Davao International Airport and Sasa Wharf way back in 2003. Documents showed that Abas asked the court to reinvestigate the case.
Cayetano also revealed that Abas was listed among the most wanted persons in a memorandum order signed by then Interior Secretary Jose Lina Jr., also in 2003.
Justice Leila de Lima, on the other hand, defended Iqbal’s use of a war name. She said that Iqbal could not be held liable for fraud as the use of an alias was part of the government concession on safe conduct and security guarantees for rebel negotiators.
“In the first place, these people have no guarantees that the peace talks would be successful, and that failure would already mean exposure of their identity and that of their families. Thus, for them, the risk of entering into peace talks under such highly uncertain circumstances, without any compensating guarantees, might be too high…,” she said.