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MILF leadership still an issue

A MARANAO leader, whose family was deeply involved in the Bangsamoro movement, questioned on Wednesday the legitimacy of the leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front even as lawmakers questioned the true identities of the people who are seeking a historic agreement with the Philippine government.

Lawyer Firdausi Abbas, a member of a Maranao royal family that was among the founders of the Moro National Liberation Front, questioned whether the incumbent MILF chairman, who now calls himself Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim, was even the true leader of the organization.

The hearings continue. MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal
takes his oath during the resumption of the hearings on the
Mamasapano encounter on Jan. 25, in which 44 police
commandos were killed, at the House of Representatives.
Manny Palmero
“There was an irregularity in the MILF chairmanship after the death of MILF founder Salamat Hashim on July 13, 2003 in Lanao del Sur,” Abbas told The Standard. “Al-Hadjj Murad Ibrahim assumed the leadership without the concurrence of Salamat himself.”

Abbas said Salamat actually wanted Abdul Asiz, the second most senior MILF official, to succeed him in the event of his death and “the appointment of Asiz in the top leadership was contained in Salamat’s last will and testament.”

But Murad, who was then the No. 3 MILF leader as vice chairman for military affairs, assumed leadership of the organization without the concurrence of the MILF Central Committee, accrording to Abbas who was at the wake of Salamat until he was buried in Butig, Lanao del Sur.

“Murad was present at the time of death of Salamat and they hurriedly buried him and Murad subsequently assumed the position of Salamat without respecting the will and testament of Salamat appointing Asiz as chairman,” Abbas said

“It should have been Asiz. This was the instruction of Salamat that the MILF leadership would be given to a Maranao,” Abbas revealed, referring to one of the largest Muslim tribes in Mindanao along with the Tausugs of Western Mindanao and the Maguindanao of Central Mindanao.

Abbas said Asiz, who was deeply offended by Murad’s supposed betrayal, opted to remain quiet and stay at Camp Busra in Lanao del Sur until his death three years ago.

“Asiz was terribly saddened by the events, but he remained quiet because he did not want to destroy the MILF,” Abbas said.

Asiz, according to Abbas, even saved Murad when President Joseph Estrada ordered a massive military offensive against the MILF that led to the fall of all MILF camps. “Only Camp Busra survived the hostilities.”

Abbas questioned the credibility of Murad, Ghadzali Jaafar and Mohagher Iqbal because “They were not even revolutionaries. I don’t know where these people came from. [But] now they are claiming to be revolutionaries.”

“They were not in Mindanao when the bloodiest battles erupted in the 1970s so how can they claimed they are revolutionaries,” Abbas said.

Abbas made the remarks as congressmen, who are conducting an investigation of the Mamasapano incident, questioned why the MILF leadership could not use their real names in what could potentially be the most important peace agreement in Mindanao.

The real names of the MILF leaders became a key issue after MILF peace negotiator Iqbal admitted using aliases but refused to reveal his real name to congressmen.

“I have so many names and that is natural in revolutionary organizations,” Iqbal said during a joint hearing of the House committee on public order and safety joint and committee on peace, unification and unity on the Mamasapano incident.

Replying to a question from Ang Nars Rep. Leah Paquiz, Iqbal compared himself to Filipino hero Marcelo del Pilar, who used nine aliases during his lifetime, but he insisted that he is a Filipino citizen and a Bangsamoro “by entity.”

Negros Occidental Rep. Jeffrey Ferrer then asked Iqbal to show his passport, but Iqbal declined claiming certain “sensitivities.”

“Because of security reasons, my name on the passport is known only to the government. I travel a lot -- maybe hundred times. But I’m not hiding my name on my passport,” he said.

Instead, the MILF executive said he will ask the Department of Foreign Affairs to provide the Lower Chamber with information regarding the name indicated on his passport.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles, for her part, affirmed that Iqbal uses a Philippine passport issued by the DFA in leaving and entering the country.

Earlier, Professor Miriam Coronel Ferrer, chair of the government peace panel, admitted Iqbal is using an alias but she also declined to reveal his real name

Justice Secretary Leila also defended Iqbal’s use of an alias and said that did not mean that the documents pertaining to the peace process were not valid.

De Lima’s statement came upon the inquiry of Antipolo City Rep. Romeo Acop who sought an explanation from members of the government peace panel on the supposed government stand on the use aliases in public documents.

“We’re dealing with the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, which is based on documents signed by Iqbal in using this nom de guerre. This is a ticklish issue and I hope government can come up with a stand in terms of legality with the use of noms de guerre,” Acop said.

In response, De Lima said the only exception to the prohibited use of aliases is if it is for literary purposes and if the person has admitted that the alias is his nom de guerre.

“If the person using the nom de guerre does not deny, that his nom de guerre is in fact the one who signed the document, then I don’t see the validity of the document becoming an issue,” De Lima said.

But De Lima was quick to say that the law does not authorize the use of different names in public documents.

She also echoed Iqbal’s position that the use of aliases is a common practice among revolutionary groups.

 

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