By Camcer Ordonez Imam
Cagayan de Oro City – A Lanao del Norte representative called on the national government to review and evaluate the performance of the National Commission on Muslim Filipino (NCMF) even as he questioned if the commission has really attained its objectives in the last 10 years of its existence.
“It is timely that we re-evaluate the NCMF to determine if it has accomplished anything significant for Muslim Filipinos, and if there is a need to amend and update Republic Act 9997, so that the Commission will be more effective in its mandate for the Filipino people,” according to Rep. Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo of the 1st District of Lanao del Norte.
Dimaporo said he noted that the NCMF was “rocked with scandal” when 177 Indonesian nationals bound for a pilgrimage to the Holy land of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, were arrested last year after obtaining “hajj” passports from the Department of Foreign Affairs, in coordination with the NCMF.
The Indonesians were reportedly made to pay between R270,000 to R460,000 so they would be issued “hajj” pilgrimage passport from the Philippines and join its Muslim delegation.
This resulted in the filing of charges against NCMF officials for violation of the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940, Philippine Passport Act, Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act and estafa, said Dimaporo, who urged that the said agency “needs to rebuild its image.”
“They have lost the faith and trust of Muslim Filipino being the lead conspirators in the 2016 hajj passport scandal. We, in the House of Representatives, can help by providing the needed legislation to prevent this abuse from happening again,” he said.
Dimaporo filed a resolution at the Lower House requesting the Justice and Foreign Affairs departments and the NCMF to provide a detailed briefing regarding their findings in the 2016 hajj passport scandal.
In 2015, Dimaporo said, the country had 8,193 pilgrims who went on a hajj in Saudi Arabia. The NCMF collected $2,020 per pilgrim to cover entrance fees, food in Arafat and Mina, hotel and housing in Mecca and Mina, and insurance.
“With 8,193 pilgrims at $2,020 per pilgrim, the NCMF mutawiff trust fund (reached a) total (of) $16,549,860. If we assume an exchange rate of R45 to a dollar, that’s equal to R744,745,700. An amount larger than the total NMCF 2018 budget,” the lawmaker said.
He said he had addressed this problem in the NCMF budget briefing under the Committee of Appropriations. The reply of NCMF was that the inadequate lodging, food, and transportation was due to supply and demand.
“Unfortunately for NCMF, they book food, accommodations, and transportation at the last minute, after they’ve collected the mutawiff fee from the pilgrims,” he said, unlike other countries, which negotiate safe service contracts for their pilgrims.
In a separate resolution, Dimaporo asked concerned government agencies to look into the proposed revolving fund for the NCMF so it could pay the 20 percent down payment required for hajj pilgrimage, so they can have a meaningful religious experience.
The amount submitted to the Department of Budget and Management for funding is R137,620,000.
Dimaporo has appealed to government leaders to strengthen the NCMF as an institution “to live up to its mission to give dignity and representation to productive members of society — your brothers and sisters in Islam, Muslim Filipinos.”