BY ROGER M. BALANZA
Amnesty had put closure to charges of mass murder filed against top leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in connection with the deadly 2003 twin bombings in Davao City that killed 39 people and injured 199 others.
This is the response of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to a Senator who said that among the accused in the carnage, Mohagher Iqbal, is the chief negotiator of a Moro group talking peace with the government.
The bloody bombing of the Davao International Airport in March that killed 22 and wounded 43 and the Sasa Wharf a month later wherein 22 were killed and 143 injured has resurfaced as legislators probe the January killing of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos in Mamasapano in Maguindanao.
The MILF and the renegade Moro group the Bangsamoro Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and a private armed group were blamed for the massacre of the troopers who were on a mission to arrest two Moro terrorists.
The Mamasapano carnage happened as Congress is deliberating on a law that would create a Bangsamoro juridical entity in Mindanao. The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is a product of many years of negotiation between the Philippine government and the MILF.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano said the MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal was involved in the Davao twin bombings.
But Duterte said that members of rebel groups like the MILF usually commit crimes while fighting with the government. He said that the government usually gives amnesty to rebels, clearing them of the crimes they committed in the past.
Iqbal was among top leaders of the MILF who were charged in the Davao bombings.
Amnesty was a precondition in the peace negotiation between the government and the MILF.
The Mamasapano carnage has darkened the cloud for the BBL that would galvanize a final peace agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF. Pending approval in Congress, the BBL is seen as the ultimate solution to the Moro problem in Mindanao which in more than four decades of violence has killed an estimated 200,000 people.
Cayetano has expressed doubt over the sincerity of the MILF to strike a final peace deal, and is the most vocal senator who assailed the MILF following the killing of 44 SAF commandos.
The Mamasapano massacre has sparked national outrage and public sentiment against approving the BBL. Congress and other government bodies are investigating the carnage.
Cayetano’s mistrust at the MILF has been further sparked by Iqbal’s use of an alias in his official dealings with the Philippine government as peace negotiator of the MILF.
Cayetano said that Iqbal’s real name is Datucan Abas. A court document, Cayetano said, has ordered the arrest of a “Datucan Abas/Mohagher Iqbal” for involvement in the Davao bombings. The person named in the document is Iqbal, he said.
Duterte said there was nothing wrong in Iqbal using a fictitious name while talking peace with the government. He said Iqbal’s identity is already established.
Duterte said that being revolutionaries, it is common for a rebel to use a ‘nom de guerre.’