It’s perpetually saddening to learn about Philippine Hajj Pilgrims being held at the Manila International Airport for reason that they were not able to secure Hajj Visas, the Parliament Speaker of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) said today.
The function of catering to the needs of Philippine Hajj pilgrims belongs to the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) under which, the Bureau of Pilgrimage and Endowment (BPE) operates.
BARMM Parliament Speaker Ali Pangalian Balindong, author in Congress of Republic Act No. 9997, creating the NCMF, said under that law the commission was designed in such a way as to ensure that decisions are made by a collegial body and not just by one person head of an Executive Office.
He said previous laws providing the mandates of BPE are enhanced with a provision in the NCMF law which creates the position of Philippine Hajj Attaché to Saudi Arabia.
Hajj is not the orthodox religious journey done merely in pursuit of spiritual fulfillment alone. The Hajj (Fifth Pillar of Islam) also constitutes a people-to-people diplomatic representation in a converging community of nations in that annual event in Saudi Arabia, home to two of the world’s Holiest Places of Worship. To some extent, Hajj is also a trading and economic venue in a largest single-annual assembly of humanity.
Speaker Balindong said all other previous laws on the creation of offices attending to Muslim Affairs were executive issuances, including one that once placed the Cultural Communities’ Affairs under one roof with those of the Muslims, being also in the Minority segment of the country that is largely Catholic.
He said only a law passed by Congress can take that function off the NCMF-BPE and transfer it to BARMM, in case the regional government intends to assume operational supervision of the annual Hajj.
Balindong said he hoped whispers around the grapevine were untrue that corruption in Hajj has gone the level of a syndicated crime in which Hajj visa slots granted by the Saudi Arabia government were allegedly being “sold” covertly during this season to Indonesian businesspersons for their citizens’ to use.
Then President Benigno Aquino III reported that the King of Saudi once vent his ire upon Filipino Muslim pilgrims authorities concerned. when alleged anomalous practices were discovered during his time.