The Department of Justice has assigned 16 government prosecutors to probe the 177 Indonesians earlier caught by immigration authorities for illegal possession of Philippine passports while attempting to leave the country for Saudi Arabia to participate in a pilgrimage.
“We are getting their depositions/sworn statement before they are deported to Indonesia,” Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II told reporters.
Aguirre said Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Theodore Villanueva would supervise the taking of the depositions of the Indonesians.
The prosecutors have been tasked to determine how the said Indonesians managed to obtain Philippine passports.
The Indonesians were about to board an early morning flight last August 19 for Madinah, Saudi Arabia when Immigration personnel stopped them, along with five Filipinos who were supposed to accompany them in their trip.
Based on initial investigation, the Indonesians fraudulently secured Philippine passports in an attempt to join the Hajj pilgrimage from September 9 to 14, using quota reserved for Filipino pilgrims by the Saudi government.
BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said the passengers’ identities were known after they failed to speak Tagalog or any of the Philippine dialects when interviewed by immigration authorities.
Morente noted that the Indonesians could only converse in English.
The Indonesians eventually confessed not being Filipinos, and that they paid between $6,000 to $10,000 each to their Filipino escorts who organized the pilgrimage.
The Indonesians recounted that they arrived individually as tourists in the past few weeks before their pilgrimage was facilitated by their escorts.
Morente said the operation was conducted after the BI Intelligence Division gathered information that a group of Indonesians with Philippine passports were scheduled to leave the NAIA on August 18 and 19.