MANILA - Immigration officials have begun deportation proceedings against more than 40 foreigners accused of kidnapping a Singaporean woman last week.
The suspects - 42 Chinese nationals and two Malaysians - will be summoned for preliminary investigation this week, said Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente.
Mr Morente said the suspects would be charged as "undesirable aliens".
The immigration case is separate from the criminal charges filed by the Justice Department.
The suspects will still be tried in court. If they are convicted, they will have to serve their sentences here, before getting deported. Even if they are acquitted, the immigration bureau can still decide to deport them, for violating conditions of their stay here.
"Our initial investigation revealed that all of them entered the country as tourists, although four of the Chinese suspects have no record of travel to the Philippines," said Mr Bobby Raquepo, head of the Fugitive Search Unit.
The 44 suspects were arrested last Tuesday (July 18) as police rescued Singaporean Wu Yan, 48, from inside one of the rooms of a condominium in Paranaque City, an hour south of the capital Manila.
Ms Wu has since returned to Singapore, Senior Superintendent Glenn Dumlao, head of the Anti-Kidnapping Unit, told The Straits Times.
Investigations showed that just a day before she was rescued, Ms Wu had been gambling at the Solaire Resort and Casino in Paranaque and was losing heavily, when three men and a woman befriended her. They lent her money. When she kept losing, they offered to take her to another casino where she might get lucky. Instead, they took her to their safehouse at Bayview International Towers less than a kilometre away.
Ms Wu was beaten and forced to appear in a video pleading to her family in Singapore to send US$180,000 (S$246,000) for her release.
A friend of hers in Singapore alerted the authorities in the Philippines. A guard at the condominium, meanwhile, noticed her as she tried to escape and alerted the police. It turned out that government agents were already monitoring the building. They were investigating another kidnapping - that of a Hong Konger, also snatched from a casino, just a week earlier.
National police chief Ronald de la Rosa said the men who snatched Ms Wu were part of two loan-shark and kidnapping syndicates that have been preying on tourists playing in casinos in the Philippines since 2015. Police say there have been 11 victims of kidnapping so far.
He said the same syndicate that abducted Ms Wu was responsible for two more kidnappings. One was the Hong Konger, taken on July 9, who managed to escape; and a Chinese, kidnapped last month (June), who coughed up 300,000 yuan (S$60,700).
Their targets are tourists who are more vulnerable to threats and intimidation, said the police chief.