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By what name does Iqbal draw govt pay?

The Court of Appeals has reversed the conviction of two army officers for the Oakwood Mutiny. Acquitted, First Lieutenants Lawrence San Juan and Rex Bolo are hereby reinstated to military, with back pay. Reason: they merely exercised their “right” to protest.

The effect of the verdict is deafening. Military officers may now take over a posh private hotel in the country’s central financial district, take hostage the guests, and demand media coverage – to gripe about whatever it is they don’t like about the supreme civilian authority.

That’s just what the Magdalo officers did in July 2003, at five-star Oakwood Hotel in Makati. Three hundred-strong, they booby-trapped the perimeter, ransacked the rooms and cupboards, and with assault rifles ranted to reporters against generals’ corruption under then-Commander-in-Chief Gloria Arroyo. Twenty hours later they returned to barracks.

In the aftermath most officers applied for amnesty, which Arroyo herself granted in 2008. The rest sought presidential clemency in 2010 from Noynoy Aquino. No military corruption ever was proved. From behind bars the ringleader Antonio Trillanes IV even became senator in 2007. Three pardoned officers won congressional seats in 2013.

San Juan and Bolo chose to fight in court — eventually to gain CA clearing last month. The CA saw three reasons to exonerate. One, the prosecutors failed to prove the elements of coup d’état, particularly the damage to the state. Two, San Juan and Bolo’s right to equal protection of law was violated, because the justice department never indicted the supposed mastermind, Sen. Gregorio Honasan. Three, what they did was “a valid and legitimate exercise of their constitutional freedom of speech and expression.”

No one questions acquittals. The CA ruling in effect nixes the constitutional provision on military acquiescence to civilian rule. So there: officers unite, you have nothing to lose but your military chains.

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I write not to contest the verdict. I take it to mean that mutinying would be less risky than combatting military corruption with the pen. A year after the Magdalo affair, I exposed the P302-million plundering by the Armed Forces comptroller-general. Harassment suits and death threats befell my family and me. In 2010 the Ombudsman even secretly struck a plea bargain with the general, which I again exposed. Oh well....

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Mohagher Iqbal himself confirms it. It is a nom de guerre. By it he signs peace deals as Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief negotiator. It is but one of many aliases, to which he claims privilege as “revolutionary” (see Gotcha, 6 Apr. 2015).

The government peace panel knows about Iqbal’s false name. The foreign office issued him a passport in another name merely presumed to be his real one.

Iqbal declined to reveal that name this week to the House of Reps. He invoked supposed “sensitivities” but gave no details.

Yet he is now not just an outsider rebel, but a government official – the state-salaried chairman of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.

Lawmakers worry about the implications of the aliases. For, they are weighing to grant the MILF a sub-state, in light of its massacre of 44 police commandos in Mamasapano.

Rep. Leah Paquiz (Ang Nars party) says the government and public must know with whom they’re dealing. Rep. Karlo Nograles (Davao City) adds that the law forbids signing of official documents with an alias, unless the real name is inserted. No true name is stated in the many peace papers Iqbal has been signing since 2005.

Presumably it’s the same with the Bangsamoro Commission documents, including fund releases, that Iqbal now also signs.

Malacañang is rushing Congress to enact the sub-state by June. At the House hearings with Iqbal, Justice Sec. Leila de Lima justified the rebel’s use of noms de guerre. There’s no problem, so long as Iqbal acknowledges the aliases to be him, she opined.

So far Iqbal does own up to being, well, “Iqbal.” But that’s not the issue, Rep. Celso Lobregat (Zamboanga City) says. Problem is, what if the MILF, with its feeble control of field commands and propensity to factionalize, disowns Iqbal? What happens then to the political terms by which he commits the Moro separatists?

Former interior minister Rafael Alunan, who first exposed Iqbal’s false identity, airs the same fear in his personal blog. Being once with his mom Cory’s Cabinet, is national security expert Alunan one whom President Noynoy Aquino can afford to ignore?

What a tangled web they weave...

...P-Noy blames the killings on the commandos’ officers. Yet he extols them for mission accomplished in taking down an international terrorist in Mamasapano. Interior Sec. Mar Roxas twits inquiring subordinates for pinning liability in part on P-Noy. They didn’t get his side, he cries. The subs retort that they in fact had invited P-Noy – through him – to talk. Roxas, who repeatedly publicly weeps over the deaths, says he forgot to relay it. Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda joins in decrying that P-Noy unjustly was unheard. To correct it, congressmen tell P-Noy to talk at the House, or send his answers to 20 basic questions. Then Lacierda says it’s impolite to invite the President, and that he already has spoken in public four times. Duh?

Meanwhile, they are all silent on the MILF’s separate report that the 44 commandos deserved death for trespassing its camp periphery. To the issue of aliases and possible MILF officers’ use of foreign passports, they say, “Let’s move on.”

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website http://www.philstar.com/author/Jarius%20Bondoc/GOTCHA

E-mail: jariusbondoc@gmail.com


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