What’s in a name?


THE stretch of time that has been spent by our good lawmakers talking about Mohagher Iqbal’s name has surprised me. I thought it was merely one of those (many) things that were being used to grandstand, the way we’ve seen Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Sonny Trillanes do it by way of the anti-Binay Senate Hearings.

The discussion on Iqbal’s name has also gone on way too long and revealed more about our senators than about Iqbal himself. Because all this time spent on discussing a name is time wasted not discussing the Bangsamoro Basic Law, and what to do with it now, how to revise / reconfigure it at this point, how to continue on the path to peace?

Legalities and repercussions
One gets it, that there are legal repercussions to having Iqbal sign with his alias on government documents, and more importantly signing onto a peace agreement with that alias. Senator Ping Lacson has said on radio: “What I know is there is a law prohibiting the use of aliases in official documents. … Kung alam na iyan nina Ferrer at Deles, maaaring may pananagutan din sila.” (Politiko, 10 Apr).

He is of course talking about Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles and Chief Peace Negotiator Professor Miriam Ferrer, and pointing a finger – the way too many in the Senate have – at these two women.

Yet it makes sense to me that both women would respect the fact of an alias, given that Malacañang itself knows that Iqbal is using one, and has allowed him to negotiate with and sign on to this peace agreement (Inquirer.net, 11 Apr). It makes sense that if the Palace itself had no problem dealing with the man called Mohaguer Iqbal, that the negotiating panel would not have reason to question it either.

After all, there are more important things to discuss, more critical and pressing matters to occupy their time, especially since this is an agreement that seeks to bring peace in a geographic space and for a people that has suffered long enough living with war and violence.

There is also this: not only has Secretary Deles cited other peace agreements elsewhere in the world where aliases have been used (Inquirer.net, 13 Apr), Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has explained that this is not extraordinary, that a rebel leader would use a nom de guerre during peace negotiations (BusinessWorld Online, 10 Apr). It’s a security precaution and not cause to distrust someone like Iqbal.

Certainly not reason to dismiss the BBL, or scrap it altogether.

Aliases and fictions
But Senator Bongbong Marcos, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Local Governments is not accepting any of these explanations, and seems to be the Cayetano of these hearings. Senator Marcos has taken it about as far as Cayetano has the Binay hearings, skewing the discussion to the point of: duh.

“This is entirely the first peace agreement in the world which a government negotiated with a fictitious person!” Senator Marcos exclaimed (Inquirer.net, 9 Apr). Yet it’s pretty clear that an alias does not make a person a fiction. A person using another name, for reasons that are valid, makes that a real person who carries multiple names.

Neither is he a ghost, which is also what Senator Marcos has claimed, saying of Iqbal: “…As Filipino citizens, they are … bound by the laws of the Senate, and therefore, place themselves under the jurisdiction of this august chamber. As such, this Senate has the power to ask, nay require, in aid of legislation, those who appear before us to reveal their true identities. The Senate wants to know if we are negotiating with a ghost or a true person” (Inquirer.net, 9 Apr)

In aid of what legislation exactly, one wonders. Ah, the BBL! The peace agreement they have yet to discuss.

Certainly an alias is a valid point to raise. But the explanations so far, from Deles, Ferrer and de Lima all make sense, and only the Senate would imagine that they might be speaking to a ghost.

Or that this remains “an august chamber.”

Because there is nothing that reminds us of how dignified the Senate is, than having Senator Tito Sotto walk out on a hearing that is about discussing the BBL. Nothing that reminds us of the eminence of the Senate than Senator Chiz Escudero equating the name Mohaquer Iqbal with Snow White and Cinderella, and agreeing that the name is a small thing – but why is it that Iqbal cannot give it to the Senate? (GMANewsOnline, 13 Apr)

One wonders if the Senate realizes that the past week has revealed a lack of compassion and kindness, if not understanding, about the repercussions of revealing Iqbal’s real name at this point in time. Secretary Deles has explained how Iqbal’s public persona puts his family in danger. Which makes sense: Iqbal’s real name would reveal who his children are, and in the context of a peace agreement yet to be made into law, this would put their lives at risk.

But Senator Marcos: “The gentleman is sitting here in front of cameras. So many people are seeing his face. The question of security is no longer part of the context” (Inquirer.net, 13 Apr). Which makes no sense at all, and reveals only the lack of compassion for the family and children of a rebel negotiating with government for peace.

As I write this, news articles have come out not just with Iqbal’s alleged real name, but also other aliases.

Now who pays for the danger we have put Iqbal’s family in? Will any of the good men from the august chamber raise their hands?


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  1. Name? It is just a concoction of modern man. It is a combination of letters being affixed to an existing physical being. In the US, you can choose a name of your preference when applying for your SS number and your preference may not even be the same nomenclature that may have been attributed to your person by some legal document at birth. In some culture, the name is a combination of words to indicate the progeny of the individual. It can mean being the son or daughter of an individual.

    Regardless of any existing law, the more important issue is the name your friends or associates know you at the first instance of introduction. We all have our own ecosystem and so long as each in that ecosystem recognizes you with that appendage to your person, the law does not matter. At the end of the day, it is how the person will treat each one in its own ecosystem that will matter. For example, I can be John to one society and Paul in another society but if I have observed all norms of proper behavior in both societies, what will be more instilled in the minds and hearts of those people are the good deeds I have done for them.

  2. The Alias disclosed late in the game is ominous. That’s exactly why it became an issue.

    Doing due diligence on every part of the BBL is the moral way to go.

    This slacker government needs strict supervision as it dreams of a new

    autonomous law that is obviously below its level of competence.

  3. Another columnist said proper identification of the party you are talking to and the authorized negotiator should be presented prior to start of negotiation. The credential and authority given by the various interests claimed to be represented must also be presented. The proper thing for Iqbal to do was to disclose his real name with his aliases to prove his identity. What danger to his life and his family is he and you talking about it goes with the territory of a revolutionary.

  4. Amnata Pundit on

    Are you saying that what you think is the triviality of the fuss over Iqbal’s real identity reflects the triviality of the opposition to the BBL? Coming from a very smart girl like you, that’s a disappointment. I hope I misinterpreted your article.

  5. I wonder if which agreements do they point out that have been signed in nom the guerre? after all was there a war exsiting? His family fear who? the government? if Iqbal can walk freely in Manila without fear of being arrested muich more for his family who are not fighter (i hope so).

    Jalandoni of CPP used his real name given the fact that CPP members and their families are being treated harsher than the MILF. Nur Misuari signed with his real name, Fr. Balweg of CPLA negotiated with his real name.

    After all if there would be any person who wants to kill Iqbal they dont need to know his name, but rather his face who appears on television and news paper every now and then. Why then many rebels use nom de guerre? simply to mislead law enforcement people. The revolutionary documents are signed by their nom de guerre, which is known to the rebels only but not to the government. Nom de guerre is EXACTLY to mislead government. But to tell you no revolutionary document would be signed with a nom de guerre with a photo of that person attached.

    Now Iqbal is out in the public and is dealing with the government, no more misleading, no more hiding, if they really truthful in their quest for peace then puting a real face on the name that sits on the other side of the table would be essential.

    Now I have a PROPOSAL, will MILF agree if by virtue of reciprocity, the government would sign all the agreements using nom de guerre. Deles would sign using Larry Bird as nom de guerre and Coronel would sign as Tweety, and the Republic would signed as Banana Republic. Lets come up with a document which is all signed in Nom de guerre and find out if its worth the paper it was written, and maybe we could ask “what’s in a name”?

  6. Using an alias in a government document is prohibited by law except on certain instances which unfortunately do not apply to Iqbal’s case. The security reason he is saying does not hold water; he has been in the media for so long and anyone serious enough to harm him or his family need only to research deeper or ask around. But to sign on a formal agreement using not your legal name (and I am assuming he did not sign his true name with just an AKA appended to it but that the peace agreement contained his signature as Iqbal) is a violation of law. If an act violates the law, it violates the law. No if’s and but’s about it.

    • Talaga lang ha. So hindi pwede gamitin ang pera na meron naka sulat na Estrada kasi Ejercito naman talaga sya at hindi rin pwede gamitin ang US Dollar na meron Bill kasi William ang tunay nya pangalan. At lalong hindi pwede gastusin ang salapi na may nakasulat na Rizal kasi ang tatay nya ay Mercado at ang salitang Rizal ay isa lamang imbensyon ni Paciano. Kaya mali din mga tinuturo ng mga paaralan at mangmang lahat ang mga naging estudyante dahil ang alam nila ay pambansang bayani ang Rizal na isa palang “ghost”?

  7. Madam Katrina, how about violating a law of the land on use of aliases? Does that not bother you? I wonder why? If you cannot equally apply the law then what’s the use of those laws? Did you not just transform our nation into a truly banana republic with your wonderful justification that sets aside the application of a duly constituted law? Now that it has come to light that the reason Iqbal has been using an alias is because of the fear for the discovery of a bombing case that was filed against him early on, can you still afford to be too melodramatic fearing for his family? How about the need to be transparent where transparency is a valid gauge for sincerity and integrity? How can you with your stature brush aside such important data and issues? What for? How can you allow for a selective application of a law? Maybe because you don’t like the senators exposing the issues? Meron ka rin sariling batas katulad ni PNoy? These (MILF, Deles etc) people have been making a fool out of all Filipinos? How on earth can you have the nerve to justify / treat so lightly their outright lies just so they’ll be able to get what they want? I am so deeply disappointed maybe because I’ve become a fan of your column before.

    • Hijo, mas maganda siguro na magbasa basa ka pa ng mga aklat ng kasaysayan at makinig pa sa mga kwento ng matatanda upang lalo mong maintindihan ang mga katotohanan ng buhay na wala sa mga aklat at patotoo lamang ng mga may karanasan sa mga bagay bagay. Alam mo, hindi dahil ito ay batas ay kailangan na ang istriktong pagsunod sa mga itinatakda nito. Kung lahat sana ng tao ay susunod sa itinatakda ng lahat ng batas, masasabi ko na halos lahat ng gagawin mo ay may batas na nilalabag. Kun susundin mo din lahat ng sinasabi ng doktor na mga pagkain na masama sa kalusugan ay wala ka ng kakainin.

  8. It doesnt seem to bother you that we didnt know his name. But its of the utmost importance, but names seem to mean very little here. I have 3 step grand daughters & they wre all given names at their birth. Then immediately after they started calling 2 of them by a different name. I cant get my head around this as if you wanted to call her by a different name they give her that different name. To any foreigner thats the obvious but to the filipino it all seems to easy. It seems you people think differently to the rest of the world.

  9. Leodegardo Pruna on

    Everything that is good is in the name. But, when a name is misused or abused, then it losses its value. Ms. Santiago I hope values her name so much that she would fight of it. God bless the Philippines.

  10. its ok to use an alias unless of course once his true identity is revealed, it turns out he’s an axe murderer, then all of a sudden you question his being your peace partner.