Briones: Absconding aliens

WHAT do you know? The seven South Korean nationals who were arrested last March 4 in a beach resort in Mactan with their Filipina “partners” are back home.

Poof. Just like that.

There was so much uproar when it was discovered that Cebuanas were being “offered” online to South Korean nationals who were interested in lapping up the sun and trying out local delicacy, I would have expected their departure to merit the same noise.

But no. It hardly made news.

In fact, it appeared that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7 and Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale only found out about it over the weekend or last Monday even though the seven South Koreans left last March 7 yet.

Heck, even Bureau of Immigration (BI) 7 Special Prosecutor Ronaldo Deray could not comment on the matter because, get this, he was not informed about it.

Granted, the seven South Korean nationals are not facing a drug smuggling or murder case, but they were charged with violating Republic Act 10364, or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012.

Trust me, that’s still a crime.

I can understand the court allowing the accused to post bail. The charge is, after all, bailable. But why didn’t the court issue a hold-departure order against them? It was quite obvious they were flight risks.

Did the court naively think that it would be informed they were leaving the country, which was one of the provisions of the bail?

Well, your guess is as good as mine.

As for immigration, it had to be aware that the seven South Koreans were arrested and were charged. It couldn’t claim ignorance because the matter landed on the front pages of the local dailies. And yet, BI 7 returned their passports. Apparently, without question.

A source who asked not to be named said the South Korean consult himself was involved. But of course he was. After all, it’s part of his job to help his countrymen, who are in trouble here in the Philippines. You can’t fault him for that.

So it had to be a backroom deal of some sort otherwise the agencies and officials involved would have known about it. How else would you explain NBI 7 Special Investigator Arnel Pura or Magpale finding about the departure more than five days after the fact?

I think authorities should get to the bottom of this because it might set a dangerous precedent.

Foreigners might think that committing a crime here in the Philippines is a walk in the park. Yes, they can be arrested, even charged, but then they can always return to their own country as if the whole experience was part of the travel package.
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