Last October 9, Samantha Lo, who was set to represent the Philippines in the Miss Grand International 2019 pageant in Venezuela, posted a picture of hers in her Instagram. There, she was seen posing with the Philippine flag at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport shortly before her departure.
Her picture was captioned: ‘See you soon, Venezuela.’ Since then, nothing had been heard of her, until rumors began swirling that the pre-pageant activities for the said event have already kicked off in Venezuela with the Philippines’ bet representative nowhere to be found.
It later turned out —and this was subsequently confirmed by the Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc., the very organization that sent Lo to compete in the said pageant— that Lo was ‘detained’ by immigration officials in Paris because of ‘issues’ with her passport.’
Rumors also have it that she was sent back to Manila after her passport was found to have been tampered with and/or altered.
The said international competition is slated to take place on October 25, 2019 and nothing had been heard from Ms. Lo herself.
An online report said that during a meeting between BPCI officials with Samantha and her parents, the latter admitted that her passport was secured through a ‘fixer.’
Presently, Bureau of Immigration-Ports Operations Division (PoD) chief Grifton Medina had ordered an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Lo’s departure and passport. An initial probe of entries into the BI records showed that Lo had been using her US passport.
Sources said Lo is a dual citizen and as such, has a US passport. As a member of a Philippine contingent to an international event, Lo is expected to have in her possession and use legal travel documents which includes her passport.
Immigration personnel at the airport cannot be faulted in any way. Since Lo belongs to a contingent traveling under VIP status, there is naturally, a presumption of regularity specially with regard to Lo, who is traveling in her capacity as the country’s official candidate to a prestigious international beauty pageant, no less.
While an investigation is still being done, Medina said that since the issue involved is about suppposedly ‘fake or tampered passport, it’s the law enforcement authorities who are on top of it…we want to bust the syndicate forging these documents.
Undersecretary Dodo Dulay of the Department of Foreign Affairs meantime, said they are also getting into the bottom of the issue specially since the DFA’s crackdown on those attempting to fake our passports is being done without letup.
If indeed it is true that Lo obtained her passport through a fixer, it does not make any sense to me and I’m sure, even to those who were able to get their passports —whether new or renewal—in recent months.
These days, one can get a legitimate passport so swiftly. The system in place is so efficient and the processes are shorter and faster that one is able to get a passport in no time so that definitely, there is no need to deal with fixers anymore.
DFA sources said Lo’s name does not appear in the DFA’s database, meaning, the DFA has no record of her obtaining a Philippine passport.
Immigration sources explained that dual citizens usually carry two passports. In the case of US citizens like Lo, they are supposed to have a US passport and a Philippine passport.
Now, when they travel, at least here in the Philippines, the passenger has the option to present either passport or both. But usually, when the US passport is presented, the passenger is no longer required to present his Philippine passport.
BI records show that Lo had used her US passport in her travels to and from the Philippines so why present her Philippine passport in other airports?
As far as details are concerned, the BI and the DFA have done their jobs scrupulously so it is not to hang this issue on them.
What happened is undeniably very embarrassing not only for Lo and the organization that escorted her but moreso, for the entire country.
We have yet to hear from Lo. Let us not judge her at once because I’m certain she did not want any of it. Let’s all hope she has a very good explanation as to what really happened.
Direct Hit entertains comments, suggestions or complaints. Please have them emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or text 0927-7169778.