ILIGAN City--The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) ordered on Wednesday (August 14) an investigation on the reports that some pilgrims were not accommodated in their tents in Mina, Meccah during the last days of the Hajj from August 9-11 due to overcrowding.
Dr. Dimapuno Alonto Datu-Ramos, Jr., public relations and information head of the NCMF, said that initial reports reached the attention of NCMF Secretary Saidamen Pangarungan about some regular pilgrims who were not being accommodated in their tents because hundreds of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the kingdom were “illegally smuggled inside” to occupy beds supposedly for the regular pilgrims.
“Last night (August 13), I was performing my Tawaful Ifda (SA-I) in Masjid Haram, some 30 OFWs approached me for a picture-taking. They confirmed to me that they joined the Hajj in Arafa-Muzdalifah-Mina with the regular pilgrims in their buses and tents,” Pangarungan said in a statement released by Datu-Ramos.
These OFWs admitted that about 300 to 400 of them managed to sneak in for a fee of 2,000 to 2,500 Saudi Riyal and this practice has been going on since the previous Hajj allegedly in connivance with some Sheiks and some employees and officials of the NCMF who issued the OFWs “fake identification cards (IDs)” in exchange of the said amount.
“We in the NCMF will get to the bottom of this illegal practice which is stiffly punished under Saudi laws. For this infractions, many OFWs were caught in the past and are languishing in Saudi jails,” Pangarungan said.
“While we commiserate with our OFWs in their desire to join the Hajj, we cannot tolerate this unlawful practice at the inconvenience and expense of our regular pilgrims,” he added.
Pangarungan said the NCMF is working hard to reform and improve the Hajj operations and paid the full food and tent accommodation for this year’s 7,234 pilgrims in Mina.
The NCMF arranged for a five-star hotel accommodation in Madinah and Meccah and worked hard for the reduction of the Hajj fees and airfare ranging 10 thousand to 30 thousand pesos per pilgrim.
For the next Hajj, Pangarungan said, the NCMF will consider a good quality hotel in Misfallah nearer Haram in response to the clamour of sheiks and some pilgrims.
Datu-Ramos and other two NCMF directors were directed to submit an investigation report of this within 30 days from August 14.
Meanwhile, the NCMF announced on Monday (August 12) that there were five mortality in this year’s Hajj.
The fifth pilgrim, who died two days before the Hajj would end on Wednesday, August 14, is identified as Macapalao Rasuman, 62, from Lumba Bayabao town in Lanao del Sur.
He died inside his tent in Mina and the only mortality during the Mashair or the last three days of the Hajj.
Like the other four mortalities, Rasuman died due to cardiopulmonary arrest secondary to massive myocardial infarction or heart attack.
The pilgrims who died while performing the annual Hajj in Meccah were buried in a cemetery in Saudi Arabia.
Datu-Ramos said many Muslims preferred to die while performing Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam.
In 2018 Hajj, eight mortalities were recorded and most of those who died were in their senior years.
Datu-Ramos said that the NCMF is trying all the best to serve the pilgrim but mortalities cannot be avoided as many pilgrims are already in their senior years.
Even before pilgrims arrived in Saudi Arabia, the medical team of the NCMF was already in place since July 10 working continuously.
The NCMF reported that more than 200 pilgrims were served daily by eight to nine health workers per shift that composed of medical doctors, nurses and clerical staff.
The Filipino pilgrim will start returning to the Philippines on August 17 to 31.
Receive email updates from Mindanao Daily News.