Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The BBL deserves congressmen’s terrible English

By Victor Avecilla
Many members of the House of Representatives should take a refresher course in basic English.  The hearings held last April 7 and 8 over the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) revealed the kind of English spoken during legislative sessions conducted by the lower house.
Three representatives said “we are here to get the truth from everyone here.”  Unless they were to use torture to extract information from their witnesses like Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas and top officials of the Philippine National Police, they should have said “we are here to get to the truth.”
One representative who wanted the house rules applied strictly to the proceedings should have said “we should not apply our rules liberally.”  Instead, he remembered General Douglas MacArthur and declared, “we are not liberated by our rules.”
If an office is held by just one person, it is absurd to call him the “chief” of that office.  A solon who wanted to stop the House from questioning President Benigno Aquino III referred to President Aquino as “one chief executive,” as if there were many incumbent presidents.
The sector of the army which uses cannons and mortar is called the artillery  (pronounced ar-TEE-leh-ree).  Many solons repeatedly pronounced this word ar-TIL-yeah-ree, like the double-L in Trillanes.  Worse, they had a plural form of the word – ar-TIL-year-rees. 
There many other mispronounced words – committee (accent on the second syllable) became KO-mee-tee; negligence (accent on the first syllable) became neg-LEE-jehns; and circumstance (accent on the first syllable) became sehr-KOM-stans.
A representative familiar with military concepts said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) must end all forms of terrorisms.  Huh?  We heard of international terrorism, but we never realized that the House uses a plural form of the word.  Maybe the international terrorist threat has worsened.
Still another representative insisted on a votation.  There is no such word in the dictionary.  We found election, but no votation.
The presiding officer was something else.  He – said he intended to give every congressman a chance “to ask question,” directed certain witnesses to “please response,” and announced brief breaks by saying, “hearing is suspend.”
Surprisingly, the only person who spoke proper English during that time was an outsider – Undersecretary Evan Garcia of the Department of Foreign Affairs. 
Opponents of the BBL should ask the House of Representatives to hold more hearings on the controversial draft law.  If the BBL is exposed long enough to the congressmen, their terrible English may just kill the bill outright without need for judicial scrutiny.  
Iqbal’s pseudonym raises eyebrows, problems
Mohagher Iqbal of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) never fails to surprise everyone. 
First, he said the Mamasapano massacre was not a massacre because the 44 slain policemen had firearms with which to defend themselves.  Next, he said that while the MILF will give Malaysia a copy of the full report on its findings in the Mamasapano massacre, the Philippine government will only get an “executive summary” of the same findings.  Although Iqbal promised the MILF will return all of the firearms stolen from the slain policemen, only a handful were returned, and they were cannibalized for parts!  When the AFP proved the MILF had been operating training camps in Mindanao for its commandos – in violation of the ceasefire it signed with the government – Iqbal claimed these camps were just “orientation centers” where MILF personnel conduct seminars on the BBL.  
Now, it turns out that Iqbal was using a pseudonym all the while.  His excuse – it is his nom de guerre (war name) which he uses because he is a revolutionary.  Nonetheless, the name Mohagher Iqbal is still a false name, a pseudonym, an alias.  He is not who he claims himself to be.  Worse, Iqbal admitted that he has many aliases.
Since this stealthy man is not who he claims to be, legal problems will necessarily arise.  For one, the validity of the so-called Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro which he signed on behalf of the MILF and which led to the drafting of the BBL can be repudiated.  The Republic cannot be bound by an agreement with an individual who is not who he says he is.   
If a person can be made criminally liable for the illegal use of an alias in a private transaction, there is greater reason for filing a criminal case against one who uses a false name in a transaction with the Philippine government itself.  As expected, the Secretary of Justice has a contrary opinion, one in accord with the mental template of her boss, President Aquino.  At the end of the day, what matters is what the law provides, and what the courts have to say. 
The law governing the use of aliases is clear.  It is illegal to use an alias unless it is for a legitimate literary purpose, like when an author uses a pen name to maintain privacy, or for the performing arts, as what many film and television actors and actresses do to protect their privacy, or to make their names sound more appealing at the box office.     
Is Iqbal authorized by law to use an alias?  No such law has surfaced.  Therefore, his use of an alias is illegal, and he must be made to account for it.  Since the law must be obeyed, he should also be prohibited from holding public office under a false name. 
In the meantime, congressional debates on the BBL should be held in abeyance until presidential adviser Teresita Deles and panel chairman Miriam Coronel Ferrer can provide satisfactory answers as to why Iqbal was allowed to use an alias – or more specifically, one of his many aliases.  Moreover, Deles and Ferrer must disclose if they were aware that Iqbal was using a pseudonym from the start of the negotiations.  Their answers will indicate if they are mere stooges of the MILF, or it they just forgot to do their homework.  In either instance, they have a lot of further explaining to do.

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