CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/19 April) — It is good that the truce with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has held fast thus far, prevailing more or less throughout the negotiation process (although marred by the Mamapasano incident).
As the process is now at the delicate stage of crafting the needed legislation, great care should be taken by both sides to avoid unnecessary irritants or misunderstanding; for the negotiating platform is wider now, no longer confined to the few who sit around the negotiating table and their principals. And all of society is involved.
Thus, nothing is more momentous than the issue of trust and confidence. The people as well as their representatives in Congress need to be satisfied about the integrity of the process as well as of the negotiators.
They are entitled to be reassured about the bona fides of the process and the main actors. No one can begrudge them for expecting such assurance.
Thus, it behooves the MILF to address the issue of aliases and be circumspect about its continued use. Whatever their reason for using an alias, it cannot be helped that people do view it as a sort of deception or subterfuge—something to be wary about, something suspicious, something that smacks of trickery.
Justifying the continued use of aliases by insisting that the MILF is a “revolutionary movement” merely conjures what sinister motives necessitated the use of subterfuge and dissembling.
Using an alias is a form of denial. It camouflages one’s character or nature. It can be interpreted as a ruse to make one appear to be something other than he is. It enables one to hide behind a façade or a false image of reality.
Thus, using an alias goes to the issue of trust and confidence. It is only human to doubt a person using an alias, fearing trickery or bad faith. What is he hiding?—is a normal reaction. What if negotiating is merely a strategy for achieving a larger objective such as secession?
These questions go to the heart of trust and confidence, the essential foundation for any agreement.
One can tolerate the use of an alias by an entertainer, movie star, or a spy; they make a living in an industry that trafficks in fantasy, frivolity, pretense, or make-believe. It is why literary courses teach that the enjoyment of fiction or fantasy requires suspension of disbelief.
In other words, one must lay aside realism or truth and play along with the pretense and the make-believe performance.
Unfortunately for Mohagher Iqbal, negotiating for peace requires realism, candor, and truth. Peace negotiations deal with harsh, deadly reality, where lives are at stake—with no room for fantasy or wishful thinking.
Either the agreement is honorable, sincere, and credible, or there’ll be hell to pay for its consequences.
And either the main signatory is real, honest, and a man of his word, or we bargain away a huge slice of the Republic, society’s honor, and much of the people’s birthright at the stroke of a pen if the agreement unravels.
To justify the continued use of an alias is to persist in concealing one’s real identity. It reeks of bad faith. And to use it to formalize a momentous agreement poses a question of validity and effect.
For example, does it appear anywhere in the formal text of the agreement that Mohagher Iqbal is merely an alias but that the person he purports to be is in fact the real signatory—and that his presence and act of signing binds all parties to it?
What happens if only the alias appears and his real name isn’t mentioned, then at some future time he reassumes his real name and abandons the alias—or other aliases, which he admits he has?
Such alias by a “revolutionary” merely provokes speculations about what sinister motives necessitated its use as a subterfuge, as a “nom de guerre”.
The fact is, there is no war now. There is no need for a nom de guerre. It’s time to use real names. At the least, let the use of aliases be accompanied by a modifier—supported or qualified parenthetically by mentioning the real name as well as other aliases that may be invoked.
It’s only reasonable to expect this of the signatories of an instrument that binds all of society and the generations to come. Given the liberality of the government representatives in agreeing to generous terms that assign large shares of the nation’s resources to them, the MILF should now revise its attitude: the government is their partner, not their unilaterally declared adversary.
Continued use of revolutionary rhetoric does not conduce to mutual trust and confidence. Not especially in light of persistent reports about continued arms production, arms-acquisition, and arms-buildup.
One does not talk peace while brandishing weapons. It is distracting and counterproductive. It hinders mutual understanding, sympathy, or harmony. It impairs credibility and undermines trust. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asia Publishers Association; director, development academy of Philippines; member, Philippine Mission to the UN; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Govt’s Peace Panel; awardee, PPI-UNICEF outstanding columnist. An author of books on governance, he is chairman/convenor ofGising Barangay Movement Inc. [email protected])