Iqbal refuses to confirm or deny he is ‘Datucan M. Abas’

DAVAO CITY: Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal declined to confirm or deny that his real name was “Datucan M. Abas,” as Senator Allan Peter Cayetano claimed.

Speaking to the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone, Iqbal said his counterparts in the government knew his real name but still, he would not make it public, at least for now.

“I was interviewed on radio and I would not confirm or deny that,” he said.

Talking to Radyo Inquirer 990AM, Iqbal said, “We can imagine what Senator Cayetano’s real objective is.”

Iqbal has admitted to the Senate that he has been using many aliases to protect himself and his family.

Meanwhile, in an article that appeared on the online news site of the Cotabato-based Notre Dame Broadcasting Corp., former North Cotabato Gov. Emmanuel Pinol identified Iqbal as “Datukan Abbas.”

Pinol said he talked to former MILF spokesperson Eid Kabalu, whose real name was Mutapha Kabalu, and found out the names of top MILF officials.

“The real name of Chairman Murad Ebrahim, Al Haj is Ahud Ebrahim. Mohagher Iqbal is really Datukan Abbas, while Ghadzali Jaafar is Salik Abu,” Pinol, quoting Kabalu, wrote on March 19.

But Iqbal said he could not confirm the claims of the former governor because the information did not come from him.

He said he was puzzled by Cayetano’s motive for trying to reveal his name.

“What is his motive? Was it to derail the peace process?” he asked.

The government and the MILF signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in March last year after 17 years of negotiations. However, the BBL has become stalled in Congress, especially after the deadly Mamasapano operation.

“Pero hindi naman siguro mahalaga kung ano yung personal life ko. Ibubunyag ko pa ‘yan. ‘Di ba dapat intindihin ‘yan?” (My personal life is not important and should not be revealed. He should understand that) Iqbal explained.

He maintained that his real identity was a non-issue and several lawmakers, including Senator Franklin Drilon agreed with him.

Iqbal said he had been with the revolutionary movement in Mindanao for 42 years and that the government knew that he was not hiding anything.

The MILF peace negotiator said he was willing to meet Cayetano and reveal his real name at a “proper time and proper venue.” However, he said it should be between the two of them only.

He said Cayetano should not engage in personal attacks.

“Dapat hindi personalan ang usapan. Dapat dito mas mataas ang usapan (We shouldn’t be talking about personal issues here. We should be talking about bigger issues),” Iqbal said.

Asked if Cayetano has gone too far, Iqbal said he no longer wanted to respond to “childish matters.”

“Tayo ay matanda na, (ang) mga bagay na ganyan ay parang usapang bata ‘yan (I’m already old, things like that are childish matters) he said.