MANILA — Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila M. De Lima on Monday said that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is now in possession of the photograph of a certain “Arlene” or “Darlene,” who is allegedly part of a group that extorts from Saudi nationals who get arrested by the NBI for alleged human trafficking.
De Lima added that the NBI, which she ordered to investigate the matter, will zero in on the identity of this individual and find out whether she is with the bureau.
Likewise, De Lima said that the NBI is also tasked to find out who “Arlene’s” alleged cohorts are and make proper recommendations on whether to charge them criminally and/or administratively.
De Lima, through Department Order No. 729, ordered the creation of a Fact-Finding Committee to investigate the alleged extortion activities in the wake of a letter-complaint from the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi embassy claims that at least four Saudi nationals, namely: Majdi Abdulhamed Yaghmoor, Hassand Alharbi, Farhan Alsolobi and Ahmad Al Ghaneem, were arrested by NBI agents and later freed after paying these agents sums of money ranging from Php20,000 up to Php300,000.
The DOJ Chief said that she had to immediately act on the complaint because it may taint the Philippines’ staunch campaign against human trafficking and cause a strain on Philippine-Saudi relations.
De Lima noted that the issue may affect the plight of Filipino workers in the foreign country.
De Lima said it is a very serious accusation because several Saudi Arabian nationals were allegedly victims of this group under the guise that they will be caught for alleged human trafficking activities so the most objective thing to do is to extort from them.
“That’s why I had to act on it right away,” De Lima said in an ambush interview.
“Nababahiran po ‘yung napakaseryoso nating kampanya against human trafficking. Marami na ho tayong ginagawa dyan, marami na ho tayong operations na ina-undertake para labanan ang human trafficking. Meron nga tayong isang unit sa NBI dedicated for that purpose: the NBI AHTRAD (Anti-Human Trafficking Division) may iba ibang task forces all over the country, then here we are may ganyang allegasyon,” she added.
The fact-finding committee will be chaired by DOJ Assistant Secretary Zabedin Azis; NBI Deputy Director Jose Doloiras has been designated committee vice-chairman, with NBI Acting Regional Director for Luzon Jose Justo Yap, Assistant State Prosecutors Bryan Jacinto Cacha and Alejandro Daguiso and State Counsel Adonis Sulit as members.
The committee is also ordered to investigate “other similar incidents (regardless of the nationalities of alleged victims, if any) involving personnel of the NBI,” and submit its report on or before Nov. 15, 2014.
Aside from formally submitting a letter-complaint to the DOJ, the Saudi embassy also wrote the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Tourism (DOT).