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Probe into P200-M passport scam sought

Senator Nancy Binay has sought a congressional inquiry into the alleged P200-million scam involving government officials and employees in the issuance of Philippine (Hajj) passports to foreigners, believing a syndicate with close ties in government could be behind the modus.

In filing Senate Resolution 111, Binay said the Senate should investigate the fraudulent processing and issuance of Hajj passports to non-Filipinos as it undermines national security and exposes the Philippines to increasing risk of terrorism.

The senator was referring to the recent move of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to ban 177 Indonesians from leaving the country after they were found to be in possession of fraudulently obtained Philippine Hajj passports.

Reports said Filipino escorts of these Indonesians who organized their pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, were the ones who provided them Philippine passports.

“It was reported that this elaborate scheme costs each Indonesian from $6,000 to $10,000 each and thus may involve the greasing of hands inside relevant agencies with jurisdiction over the Hajj travelers,” Binay said.

Accordingly, it was reported that the Philippine Hajj passports being issued to foreigners cost P25,000 each.

The senator said the total amount garnered in the scam could have reached about P200-million given the number of foreigners that seek to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca.

The Indonesians claimed that they wanted to acquire Philippine passports from the syndicate so they could avail of the quota for the Mecca pilgrimage allotted to the Philippines.

“It is imperative for the Senate to conduct an investigation on the alleged involvement of government officials and employees in this corrupt practice,” Binay said. (Hannah L. Torregoza)