A picture has emerged of Moro Islamic Liberation Front spokesman Mohagher Iqbal (a fake name he uses for his public appearances and representation with the Philippine government) and Bangsamoro peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer in a forum with Philippine Military Academy (PMA) cadets in Baguio City. In a photo published on Minda News the man currently known as “Iqbal” and Coronel-Ferrer are shown handing over “some books on the Bangsamoro and the Bangsamoro peace process” to PMA officials.
The irony in the very likely possibility that these cadets may one day face terrorist elements such as those that form the Moro Islamic Liberation Front hangs over this quaint affair. As if to deliver a veiled threat to future officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the man known as “Iqbal” and his sidekick Coronel-Ferrer presume to speak with authority about the horrors of war that could engulf Mindanao and imply that this will remain an on-going threat if their pet Bangsamoro Basic Law proposal fails to pass into law. Back in mid-2015 “Iqbal” warned of “dire consequences for Mindanao and the Philippines if Congress fails to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL)”…
“First, we will miss the opportunity, and it’s been said that opportunity knocks only once. That opportunity will sometimes not come up again. Second, frustration will rise above normal levels. Uncertainty will give way to lawlessness in Mindanao,” he said.Frustration over Congress’ failure to pass the proposed BBL, Iqbal warned, might worsen the peace problem in the South.
However, there are also the realities surrounding the question of whether or not “Iqbal” and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front really represent the broad-based interests of Mindanao’s Muslim community. Furthermore, there are big sums of money and vast potential resources at stake (or, more appropriately, up for grabs) in this venture. Get Real Post writer Ilda pointed out in her February 2015 article BBL: An agreement with just one Muslim rebel group will not bring peace to Mindanao…
One doesn’t have to be a genius to realize that spending time crafting and deliberating the proposed law that caters only to one rebel group is a waste of time and resources. The MILF will even get billions of pesos from the government to assist them in creating their sub state. Aside from that, all their previous atrocities will be “pardoned” after the bill is passed. This could include the massacre of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troops in Mamasapono. No wonder the number of rebel groups seems to be growing. They not only enjoy killing our troops, they also get rewarded for it.
How can the MILF speak on behalf of all Muslims in Mindanao when they can’t even convince the other rebel groups to join their cause? Is the MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal even talking to any of his counterparts in the BIFF, MNLF and Abu Sayyaf? It doesn’t look like it. How will they iron out their differences if the BBL is passed? It seems whatever Iqbal said in front of the recent Senate hearing and to the media — that the MILF is for peace — is totally different from what the MILF foot soldiers do in reality. Iqbal saying that MILF didn’t want what happened is not going to convince most Filipinos that the shooting of the wounded 29 SAF troopers, execution-style was an act of self-defence especially when the act was caught on video.
It is astounding that the Philippine government would actually bring the leader of a state enemy into the inner sanctum of its premiere military academy to meet with the future of its armed forces’ leadership. What is even more outrageous is the manner with which this man currently known as “Mohagher Iqbal” continues to use that fake name to represent himself and the interests of his group.
In light, too, of how the Philippines is also facing mounting external threats, this possibly presents an unacceptable risk to national security. Many attempts being made by the administration of Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III to prove that the man currently known as “Iqbal” is not an agent of the Malaysian government have only raised more questions.
The the government of Malaysia through its prime minister Najib Razak played a major role in the effort to broker this “peace” deal. It is interesting because the Philippines has a long-standing claim to the resource-rich Malaysian state of Sabah. So one might wonder why the Philippine government would choose to involve a foreign government with which it has a standing dispute over territory so geographically (and also culturally and historically) close to western Mindanao (where much of the proposed Bangsamoro autonomous region would be carved out) as a partner in such a sensitive undertaking.
Iqbal has since denied that he and Moro Islamic Liberation Front chair Murad Ebrahim are Malaysian passport holders and even presented what looked like a scanned digital image of his passport to “social news network”Rappler.com. However, the image had key pieces of information blotted out including Iqbal’s “real name”, his date of birth, and passport number. Ebrahim, for his part, has so far remained silent on the issue.
Though all of this information may, at first, seem to stand up as “evidence” that Ebrahim and Iqbal are neither Malaysian nationals nor Malaysian passport holders, there remains big enough gaps in the “evidence” so far emerging to give enough reason for Filipinos to doubt the veracity of all these claims. In fact, they only raise even more questions.
For one, why were Ebrahim and Iqbal unable to provide their real names to the Philippine public? The fact that they were treated as equal partners in a “peace process” in which the Philippine and Malaysian governments are parties to, makes them public figures. This means Filipinos were entitled to be privy to information of sufficient quality to fully authenticate their identities. A scanned image of a passport and Iqbal’s word that Ebrahim is “not a Malaysian passport holder” should never have been considered acceptable proof of identity.
Second, why had the Philippine government remained silent on the matter of the two men’s nationality for such an unnecessarily long period of time, to the extent that the Malaysian government had to come out with an “official statement” on the matter first? As earlier mentioned, the only “proof” that was bandied by the BBL camp that Iqbal and Ebrahim were not foreign nationals is Iqbal’s exclusive submission to Rappler of a digital image of his passport and his word on Ebrahim’s citizenship and passport use. The Philippines’ own Bureau of Immigration (BI) did not come forward to confirm that (1) Iqbal and Ebrahim did indeed have Philippine passports and (2) that they used those passports in all international travel related to the BBL “peace” process.
Does the BI’s arm need to be twisted before they cough up that information and clear the matter once and for all?
Finally, it is really not surprising that Filipinos would be quick to believe that Ebrahim and Iqbal are not Filipinos and would remain skeptical about all this purported “proof” to the contrary so far being circulated across the Net. For one thing, it is common knowledge that the Philippines remains a claimant to the Malaysian state of Sabah and has so far not made an official categorical withdrawal to this claim. The Malaysian Connection was also reinforced by the “mysterious” submission of a report on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s own investigation into the Mamasapano Massacre to the Malaysian government instead of to the Philippine government.
Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr said this report is crucial for Senate hearings investigating the incident to continue…
“But to proceed on that hearing, I really need to see the MILF report which they mysteriously sent to Malaysia instead of the Philippines. There is no point on my having a hearing, walang silbi yun na hindi natin alam kung ano ang nangyari sa MILF side,” he said.
Rather than assuage Filipinos’ doubts that they have been had by a bunch of terrorists, the Malaysian government and their own government under the leadership of President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III, every new piece of information surrounding the BBL seems to merely contribute to convincing Filipinos that there indeed exists a vast conspiracy to insult their already dwindling intelligence. When will it all end with satisfying closure?