A total of 15 Indonesians and four others who earlier left the country disguised as Filipino citizens were intercepted by the Bureau of Immigration (BI) assigned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
The interception was the result of days of strict monitoring made on the arrival of hundreds of returning Hajj pilgrims from Saudi Arabia. The monitoring and screening team of BI personnel included Overseeing Airport Operations chief Raul Medina and intelligence officers Noly Atienza and Adel Marasigan.
A report from the office of BI Commissioner Jaime Morente disclosed that seven of the 15 Indonesians were intercepted at the NAIA Terminal 2 on September 22 while seven others were stopped at the NAIA 1 on Sept. 24.
Four Malaysians and a lone Indonesian also arrived at the NAIA 2 last Sunday.
It was learned that the said BI intelligence agents were able to identify the Indonesians after their presence aboard the planes was reported by three of their compatriots who are sheiks and who traveled with them. Said sheikhs were said to have readily admitted that they were traveling with other Indonesians with assumed Filipino names and Philippine passports.
The three Muslim elders were turned over to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) which will probe their possible involvement in the passport scam while in the case of the Malaysians, their identities were revealed after they were subjected to intense evaluation by immigration officers upon their arrival.
From the airport, the foreigners were brought to Villamor Golf and Country Club to undergo debriefing and questioning by an inter-agency task force composed of representatives from the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Justice, BI, NBI, and the Indonesian and Malaysian embassies in Manila. They were subsequently released on recognizance to their embassies which will arrange their repatriation and give them their travel documents.
A parallel investigation is now being done to determine whether or not any immigration personnel were involved in the successful departure of the said pilgrims last August. Several suspects allegedly responsible for the passport racket are now being investigated by the DOJ prior to the filing of charges in court.
It will be recalled that the passport scam involving foreign Hajj pilgrims was uncovered last August 19 when BI officials at the NAIA intercepted 177 of them as they were about to board a Philippine Airlines flight to Medina, Saudi Arabia.
Saying they were victims of unscrupulous individuals who provided them the Philippine passports that they would use to travel and join the Hajj pilgrimage using quotas reserved for Filipinos by the Saudi government, the said Indonesians were allowed to go home by President Duterte.