World Bulletin / News Desk
The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported Monday that Senator Nancy Binay said, “the fraudulent processing and issuance of Hajj passports to non-Filipino undermines national security and exposes the Philippines to increasing risk of extremism.”
On Aug. 19, more than 170 Indonesians were nabbed at Manila’s international airport while carrying genuine Philippine Hajj passports believed to have been acquired through “fraudulent means” in exchange for $6,000-10,000 each.
As the recipient of the largest Hajj quota, Indonesia -- the world’s most populous Muslim country, with a population of around 256 million -- sends around 200,000 pilgrims to Mecca and Medina every year for the largest annual gathering of people in the world.
Each Indonesian pilgrim must pay a deposit of around $2,500 and there are currently more than 2 million Indonesians on the waiting list, prompting some to seek alternatives to registering for the Muslim pilgrimage from the archipelago.
Senator Binay submitted Senate Resolution No. 111, saying the case of the Hajj passports may have involved 200 million pesos ($4.3 million).
“It was reported that this elaborate scheme costs each Indonesian from $6000 to $10,000 each and thus may involve the greasing of hands inside relevant agencies with jurisdiction over the Hajj travelers,” she said in a statement.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has already launched an investigation into the matter.
Last week, Indonesia’s minister of law and human rights announced that the government was seeking the repatriation of its nationals, who he said acquired the documents through a syndicate operating in the neighboring countries.
Yasonna Laoly revealed that the government also found indications of the involvement of some Indonesian immigration officers in the syndicate.
"We are checking the information. We are investigating some immigration offices," he was quoted as saying by kompas.com, without providing details about their alleged role.
The national police’s Criminal Investigation Unit announced it was due to send a team to the Philippines as it seeks to uncover the parties that facilitated the trip of the pilgrims, who have been transferred to the Indonesian Embassy in Manila.