A group of six Filipinos who were posing as pilgrims bound for the Holy Land were detained at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
Authorities from the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said the passengers were about to board a Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight to Amman, Jordan when they were stopped at the NAIA Terminal 1.
The group, when questioned, stated that they were traveling together for a religious pilgrimage but were unaware of their planned travel. Additionally, all of them are unfamiliar with each other.
The BI said that two of the passengers were previously stopped from boarding their flight last September after the bureau officers deferred their departure for having numerous inconsistencies in their statements and documentation.
"Our I-PROBES (Immigration - Protection and Border Enforcement Section) found that the two passengers were supposed to join a group of 14 'pilgrims' who left the country last September 17. Ten of them never returned and are now presumably working abroad," BI Commissioner Norman Tansingco bared.
It was later confirmed that the group was traveling to Jordan in order to find work. The individuals mentioned during interviews that a supposed male pastor had organized their travel, and each member had given him a substantial amount of money, varying between P75,000 and P150,000.
The BI added that the said pastor was the same person who was pinpointed by the 'pilgrims' who left last September as the one who arranged their purported pilgrimage.
According to Tansingco, the case has been submitted to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT). The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which is a member of the IACAT, will proceed with the investigation into the crime.
It can be recalled that in 2011, six Lebanon-bound Filipino women were intercepted by the BI after posing as nuns. They were reportedly told by their recruiter to dress up like nuns to evade questioning. They admitted that they were actually departing to work as household workers in Lebanon.
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