A TOTAL of 12 sheikhs or Muslim leaders are now being investigated in connection with the recent interception of over a hundred foreigners disguised as Filipinos who left the country to join the Hajj in Saudi Arabia.
This was learned from Bureau of Immigration (BI) spokesperson Atty. Ma. Antonette Mangrobang, who said that the sheikhs are now in the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to undergo probing for their possible involvement in the racket. They accompanied some of the foreign pilgrims in their trip back to Manila. Mangrobang said the BI agents stationed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) have already intercepted 127 fake Filipinos who returned from the Hajj pilgrimage. Of the number, 106 are Indonesians, 15 are Malaysians and six are of still unknown nationalities.
According to BI Commissioner Jaime Morente, the returning foreign pilgrims were discovered as a result of ‘Oplan Janus’, an inter-agency project that was initiated following the apprehension last August of 177 Indonesians, who attempted to leave the NAIA with genuine Philippine passports.
Authorities later uncovered the operations of a syndicate that sells Philippine passports to interested foreigners at a hefty price so the said aliens could join the pilgrimage using the Hajj quotas reserved by the Saudi government for Filipinos.
BI officers at the NAIA, led by Technical Assistant for airport Operations Leo Ferrer, Overseeing Airport Operations chief Raul Medina, BI supervisors Rico Pedrealba and Earl Ramos and intelligence officers Noly Atienza, Raffy Dimakuta and Adel Marasigan started monitoring the return of the Muslim pilgrims last month when the Hajj pilgrimage ended, even as the investigation on the anomaly is still continuing prior to the filing of charges against those who will be found involved.
Morente said that many of the foreigners intercepted returned in droves at the NAIA in the last week of September and first week of October. The intercepted Indonesians were turned over to the custody of their embassy in Manila for the issuance of their travel documents and return to their homeland while the Malaysians remain in the BI facility in Bicutan.
In a related development, the BI said that one of the five Filipinos earlier reported to have died during the Hajj was actually a 68-year-old Indonesian named Samsuddin, who assumed the Filipino name
“Murphy Rasam Sahiril” and was purportedly born in Alicia, Zamboanga del Sur. He is one of the estimated 500 Indonesian pilgrims said to have been victimized by a syndicate allegedly operating within the Department of Foreign Affairs, National Commission on Muslim Filipinos and possibly, the National Statistics Office.