Fake Filipinos nabbed at Naia
ALMOST 200 foreigners, mostly Indonesians, who disguised themselves as Filipinos and used Philippine passports in an attempt to join the Hajj in Mecca were arrested at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) yesterday.
The Bureau of Immigration (BI) said five Filipinos even escorted the group of 177 Indonesians and 10 Malaysians who had an early morning flight to Madinah, Saudi Arabia.
A source from the BI said the foreigners were intercepted by the antihuman trafficking task force at around 3:30 a.m. before they got on a Philippine Airlines flight to Saudi Arabia.
What gave their identities away was their inability to speak Filipino, or the Maranao, Cebuano or Maguindanao dialects when interviewed by immigration officers.
The Inquirer saw that all the foreigners’ baggage were marked “Sheik Omar Abdulaziz,” who could be the organizer of their group.
BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said the foreigners, who could only converse in English, later admitted that they were posing as Filipinos with Philippine passports.
“I have ordered the immediate filing of immigration charges against these foreigners for misrepresenting themselves as Filipinos and for being undesirable aliens,” said Morente.
The foreigners were rounded up and brought to the Immigration main office for investigation.
Also arrested were the five Filipinos who escorted the Indonesians to their flight.
Recovered from the Indonesians’ possession were genuine but fraudulently obtained Philippine passports.
The passports were allegedly provided by their Filipino escorts who organized the pilgrimage.
Morente said each foreigner paid $6,000 to $10,000 to join the Hajj, a sacred pilgrimage for Muslims in Mecca.
The BI did not reveal the names of the Indonesians and the Filipino escorts because investigations by law enforcement agencies are in progress.
It was revealed that the Indonesians used the quota reserved for Filipino pilgrims to the Hajj given by the government of Saudi Arabia, since there were no more available Hajj slots for Indonesians.
The foreigners admitted that they arrived individually as tourists in recent weeks, with the Filipino escorts organizing the pilgrimage.
Morente said the BI’s Intelligence Division learned that a group of Indonesians with Philippine passports were supposed to leave on Aug. 18 and 19, with Filipino escorts. TVJ
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