Ahead of Duterte’s visit, Indonesians posing as Pinoys freed
MOST of the 177 Indonesians caught posing as Filipino Hajj pilgrims with Philippine passports were being sent home as an act of goodwill by President Duterte, who is set to visit Jakarta this week, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said on Saturday.
The BI said 168 of the 177 Indonesians who were arrested last month bearing genuine Philippine passports were to leave Sunday morning.
BI spokesperson Antonette Mangrobang said the deportation charges against them had been dropped, as they were found to be victims.
“It’s not a deportation. The board of commissioners dismissed the deportation charges. Based on the investigation, they were victims of the syndicate which issued the passports,” she said.
Meeting with Widodo
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre III said Mr. Duterte wanted to offer the release as an act of goodwill before he meets with Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
“He’s very much interested in this, he wanted to offer this release before he talks to President Widodo. He wants to establish goodwill with our neighboring country,” Aguirre said.
The secretary made the remarks during the BI’s 76th anniversary on Friday night, during which he vowed to bust the syndicate that issued the genuine Philippine passports to foreign Hajj pilgrims.
“These 177 fake passports are just the tip of the iceberg. There is a big syndicate which we are going to bust. The Department of Justice, with the help of the BI, is going to bust this syndicate,” Aguirre said.
9 witnesses vs 5 escorts
Mangrobang said the 168 Indonesians will fly out of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) on an Air Asia flight at 7 a.m. today. The Indonesians had return tickets from their aborted trip.
Nine Indonesians, however, will remain in the country as they will be witnesses in the criminal cases filed against the five Filipinos who escorted them at the airport.
The group was stopped at Naia on Aug. 19 while being escorted by five Filipinos to their Philippine Airlines flight to Madinah, Saudi Arabia.
The Indonesians posed as Filipino Hajj pilgrims, complete with Philippine passports which were genuine but fraudulently obtained.
The nine Indonesians who will remain in the Philippines will be placed in the custody of the Indonesian Embassy in Manila.
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