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Fake negotiators

The established fact that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) official known as Mohagher Iqbal signed that alias in the pacts between his organization and this Administration is another indication of the incompetence and stupidity, or both, of President Aquino’s negotiators.

How could they have allowed an alias to be used not only in an official document – a punishable offense under Republic Act 6085 and the Revised Penal Code – but in one which commits the government to, at best, give up some of its powers, and at worst, to a path that would dismember the Republic?

That chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and her immediate supervisor, presidential adviser Teresita Deles, thought the issue trivial reveals their deep disregard for the laws of this nation or their utter gullibility, or both. Ferrer was even ridiculous in saying nonchalantly that “revolutionaries often use nom de guerre.”

We all know that. The issue is that a revolutionary can’t use an alias in signing an official document, since it is expressly prohibited by law. We can’t make an exception for one particular individual who really wants to topple the Republic.

Even the communists no longer use aliases when they go into peace talks, as Luis Jalandoni and his associate Fidel Agcaoili do. Aliases are used only to evade capture and detection by the enemy when a revolutionary is underground, or to spare reprisals on his family in really brutal regimes. Not in peace talks.

Competent negotiators (or a competent President) would have required that the peace pact documents be signed with a real, authentic name, with Iqbal probably just standing in the background of the singing ceremony as a “witness.”

One uses a fake name, the other two believe in the “Bangsamoro” cause.
One uses a fake name, the other two believe in the “Bangsamoro” cause.

Competent negotiators would also have documents ready that would show that so-and-so has been authorized by the MILF Central Committee to represent the organization. If Iqbal is a nom de guerre, and the MILF insisted he sign the documents, competent negotiators would prepare a document that would satisfy all legal bans on the use of aliases.

Didn’t they bother to check how Iqbal got his salaries and expenses as chairman of the state-funded Bangsamoro Transition Commission? It should have raised alarms if he insisted on being paid in cash. If through the bank, he is now liable under our banking laws, which prohibit the use of aliases in bank transactions.

Ferrer and Deles looked like a cat on a road caught by a car’s headlights, clueless on what the issue was about.

One Aquino apologist even devoted an entire column romanticizing (as we did in the 1970s over Che Guevarra) about the Mexican rebel leader who used the nom de guerre “Subcommandante Marcos.” The writer claimed Marcos “descended from the mountains” and with several other Zapatista subcommandantes and their leader Commandante Tacho signed, “with their masks on,” on February 1996 the San Andres purported peace accords with the government of President Ernesto Zedillo. The writer was in effect saying: “Well, they didn’t use their real names, did they?”

What that gullible writer didn’t mention is that Zedillo’s troops acted as though the accords didn’t exist. They intensified their campaign against the Zapatistas, with Zedillo formally throwing the accords to the wastebasket by December. I would suspect Zedillo and his successors could easily trash the peace pact as they knew that since the rebels signed using their aliases, it wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on.

Aquino’s “Framework and Comprehensive Agreements on the Bangsamoro” is the first ever peace pact signed by the Republic in which the rebel organization’s representative signed using an alias, a clear disregard for the laws of this country:

• The 1976 Tripoli Agreement was signed by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Chairman Nur Misuari, a real name, and Defense Undersecretary Carmelo Barbero, signing for the Philippine government.

• The 1987 Jeddah accord with the MNLF was also signed by Misuari and then Secretary of Interior and Local Government Aquilino Pimentel, Jr.

• The 1993 truce signed in Indonesia was signed also by MNLF Chairman Misuari and then retired general Eduardo R. Ermita, representing the government.

• The 1996 final peace agreement with the MNLF was signed also by Misuari and former Armed Forces Chief of Staff and Ambassador Manuel T. Yan.

• A July 1997 truce with the MILF was signed by then Vice Chairman Ghazali Jaafar, which wasn’t an alias, and former general Ambassador Fortunato Abat.

• A September 1997 truce agreement with the MILF was signed by legal counsel Atty. Omar B. Umpar and Maj. Gen. Joselin B. Nazareno.

• The 1998 truce with the MILF was signed by its official, the late Aleem Abdulaziz Mimbantas, which wasn’t an alias, and retired Gen. Orlando V. Soriano;

• The Mach 2001 agreement with the MILF on security issues was signed by then Vice Chairman Al Haj Murad Ibrahim, which was not an alias, and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process former general Eduardo Ermita; and

• A June 2001 agreement with the MILF was signed also by Murad and Presidential Adviser Jesus Dureza.

Of course you’ve noticed something about the names I put in bold font, the negotiators of the past administrations with the MNLF and the MILF.

Most were former generals, those who led the military in the offensives against the Islamic insurgents. The civilian negotiators, Barbero and Dureza, were men of comprehensive knowledge of the Muslim insurgents. All these negotiators knew deeply not only in theory but especially through experience — even painful ones — how the Muslim insurgent’s mind worked and how they would act. They knew the politics of Muslims in Mindanao, how traditional corrupt politicians would always try to use an insurgent group for their own selfish agenda.

The MNLF and the MILF respected them as warriors, and wouldn’t even dare to fool them. No one among them accepted “Bangsamoro” as a term, knowing it was an invented one, which our gullible negotiators Deles and Ferrer even champion.

Deles and Ferrer’s very frame of mind — that it is Christian or Imperial Manila’s centuries -old oppression that the Muslims are fighting against — is in sharp contrast to the pragmatic view of the negotiator-generals, that the MNLF and the MILF were and continue to be armed organizations who would topple the Republic if they could.

No number of PhDs on “conflict resolution” nor a stint as a consultant for the East Timor peace talks can make Ferrer a competent negotiator with the wily MILF veterans. We don’t need bleeding-heart peaceniks like Deles in talks with the MILF, we need tough negotiators as these jihadists really respect only strength, not compassion.

Deles and Ferrer aren’t really negotiating for the Republic. They are merely intermediaries who’ve been striving for the Republic to embrace the MILF’s invented “Bangsamoro.”

They may have noble intentions (other than being Nobel laureates) but with the MILF, they are fake negotiators.