MANILA – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Wednesday created a team that would investigate how 177 Indonesians intercepted at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) last Friday were able to secure Philippine passports.
Aguirre said the team, consisting of 16 prosecutors led by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Theodore Villanueva, was tasked to determine who should be held liable for the issuance of valid Philippine passports to the Indonesians, who were bound for Mecca, Saudi Arabia for the annual Hajj pilgrimage on September 9-14.
He said the team has begun getting sworn statements from the Indonesians before they are deported for violating Philippine immigration laws and for being undesirable aliens.
The immigration bureau has also coordinated with the Indonesian embassy for the identities, travel documents and real passports of the Indonesians, Aguirre said.
The Indonesians are detained at the bureau’s jail in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.
The five Filipino escorts who were arrested at the airport with the Indonesians have also been interviewed by the prosecutors at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) where they are detained.
Last Friday, immigration officials at the NAIA held back 177 Indonesian nationals who were found carrying Philippine passports but could speak neither Tagalog, Maranao, Cebuano or Maguindanao dialects when interviewed and could only converse in English.
According to the officials, the Indonesians were given Philippine passports by their Filipino escorts to enable them to join the Hajj, using the quota reserved for Filipino pilgrims by the Saudi government, as the slots for Indonesians have been used up. The escorts also organized the pilgrimage.