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CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Malacañang has placed National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) Chairman Guiling Mamondiong under preventive suspension due to alleged anomalies related to the hajj pilgrimage in mid-2023.
Mamondiong, holding a secretary-level position, was given the three-month preventive suspension order for grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, showed a decision signed by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin on January 2, a copy of which Rappler secured on Thursday, January 11.
The 90-day preventive suspension order was also based on the findings in a December 7, 2023 audit report from the Internal Audit Service of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), pointing to grave misconduct and/or neglect of duty.
Bersamin’s order showed that there were complaints against Mamondiong “relative to anomalies in the recently concluded 2023 Hajj for Muslim Filipinos.”
The complaints included one from provincial governors in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) who brought to the attention of Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. the “extremely unfortunate situation” of Filipino pilgrims who went to Mecca in June 2023.
That month, about 7,200 Filipino pilgrims went to Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the costly pilgrimage.
In a June 29, 2023 letter to Abalos, governors Mamintal Adiong Jr. of Lanao del Sur, Abdusakur Tan of Sulu, Mariam Mangudadatu of Maguindanao del Sur, Yshmael Sali of Tawi-Tawi, and Hadjiman Hataman Salliman of Basilan, alleged that Filipino pilgrims had to endure poor living conditions during their pilgrimage in Mecca.
The governors blamed it on the NCMF-Bureau of Pilgrimage and Endowment’s “poor planning and misconduct of Hajj 2023.” The bureau is mandated by law to facilitate the annual pilgrimage of Muslim Filipinos.
The governors’ letter showed that pilgrims complained about enduring cramped tents in Mina – one of the places in the hajj journey, overpriced and tight accommodations with poor amenities in Mecca, delayed distribution and under-budgeted food provisions, and limited transportation chartered to and from holy sites.
All of these allegedly happened despite the pilgrims each paying more than P300,000 for the hajj package, covering hotel and catering expenses, flight tickets, bus charter, visas, and other associated costs.
About 1,000 pilgrims from Sulu, for instance, were made to pay a total of P350 million, and yet, the provincial government still had to shoulder their hotel and food expenses in Manila prior and upon their return from Saudi Arabia, showed the governors’ letter.
Even before the 2023 hajj pilgrimage, there were complaints from pilgrims about how the NCMF had been handling the event.
Rappler tried to reach Mamondiong for a comment, but he didn’t answer the call. We will update the story when he issues a statement. – Rappler.com