SPMII’s Recruitment of Members in Kingdom Is Illegal, Manila Warns
JEDDAH, 16 October 2006 – Filipinos in the Kingdom who are in possession of identification cards or documents bearing the logos or names of Philippine government agencies and issued by the Sangguniang Masang Pilipino International, Inc. (SMPII) should surrender these to the Philippine Embassy urgently, the embassy’s chargÃ© d’ affaires said yesterday.
Consul General Nestor N. Padalhin said he has also ordered SMPII leaders to take back the ID cards it had issued to its members and to turn these over to the embassy.
Padalhin said he was only following instructions from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Manila to confiscate such IDs or documents from the group because their use is “illegal.”
In a telephone interview with Arab News, Padalhin quoted the DFA directive as saying that while the SMPII as an organization is accredited by the Philippine National Police (PNP), “it is not authorized to recruit members anywhere outside the Philippines.”
“It is not allowed to recruit members abroad, much less conduct military trainings,” he said.
Padalhin said he summoned the group’s leader, who uses the name Maj. Elpidio R. Tanaliga Jr. and the title “commander in chief,” to the embassy to inform him of the DFA directive, but Tanaliga sent a representative instead.
More Than 800 Members
Efforts to get the side of Tanaliga proved futile. His cell phone number provided by the embassy could not be reached.
But in a report published by another paper on Saturday, Tanaliga denied allegations that his group was engaged in a scam.
Tanaliga was quoted as saying the SMPII has more than 800 members from Dammam, Riyadh, Jeddah, Hafer Al-Batin and Hofuf, who believe in what his group is doing for the community. He said the group is “helping and promoting camaraderie among us Filipinos and helping those who are in need of assistance.”
Among the group’s humanitarian activities, he said, were donations of relief goods to victims of the deadly landslides in Quezon province in December of 2004 and in Southern Leyte last February, funding of the surgery that restored young Rosete Catibayan’s hearing, airline tickets for distressed Filipino workers who were repatriated to the Philippines, and goodies for wards of the embassy’s Bahay Kalinga shelter in Riyadh.
Tanaliga was further quoted as saying the group has 20 taxicabs in the Philippines being operated by members under franchise, a 15.3-hectare housing project in Rosario, Batangas, a textbook program for members’ children, and a revolving credit fund for its members.
Padalhin, nonetheless, said the DFA directive was clear that the SMPII’s recruitment of members in the Kingdom was a violation of its accreditation with the PNP as a non-government organization.
The directive was signed in behalf of DFA Secretary Alberto Romulo by Ambassador Oscar Valenzuela, head of the DFA’s Office of Middle East Affairs, he said. “I will issue an advisory in due time,” Padalhin said when asked for a copy of the directive.
In a press statement earlier, he reminded Filipinos in the Kingdom to be wary of organizations whose activities may also violate laws of Saudi Arabia.
In a meeting with Padalhin last month after news of SMPII’s activities first came out, Tanaliga and his cohorts reportedly denied that they were conducting military or police trainings.
Arab News learned, however, that during the group’s graduation ceremonies last May, it’s members even had a “pass-in-review” in the outskirts of Riyadh.
Padalhin said the SMPII leaders also showed proof that they were not using the PNP’s name or logo. But he noted that the letterhead of SMPII communications to the embassy showed otherwise.
Padalhin said Tanaliga and his cohorts did admit to him that the group do process papers for its members so that they could easily get guns with license when they are in the Philippines.
A police officer in the Philippines who talked with Arab News by phone said it is in this particular offer of SMPII that a gullible member could lose money. “Kung magbabayad ka diyan (sa Saudi Arabia) para sa baril at lisensya tapos tinanggihan ng PNP ang aplikasyon mo, yari ka (If you pay for a gun and license there (in Saudi Arabia) and your application is rejected by the PNP, you may lose your money,” said the officer, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak in behalf of the PNP. The officer said applicants for a gun license are required, among others, to undergo drug and neuro-psychiatric tests.
” Kapag ‘di ka makapasa sa isa dito, wala kang makukuhang lisensya (if you fail any one of these, you won’t be given a gun license),” he said.