âMissingâ beauty queen surfaces
Miss Philippines Samantha Lo is seen on the Miss Grand International Facebook page as the pageant kicked off the online voting for Top 10 Best in Swimsuit category over the weekend.

‘Missing’ beauty queen surfaces

Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - October 22, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Reigning Bb. Pilipinas-Grand International Samantha Lo has finally surfaced in Caracas, Venezuela, putting an end to speculations that she was missing or she failed to catch a connecting flight from Paris to Caracas, and was detained at the Charles de Gaulle airport for more than 12 hours for using a passport issued to a man.

Wearing the official Binibini sash, Samantha arrived in Caracas over the weekend, just in time for the grand finals of the 2019 Miss Grand International scheduled on Friday, Oct. 25 (early morning Oct. 26 Manila time).

No Filipina has won the crown, the nearest to it being Nicole Cordoves who finished first runner-up in 2016.

While Lo barely cleared up the mystery on her social media account, the Bb. Pilipinas Charities Inc. (BPCI) headed by Stella Marquez-Araneta confirmed in a carefully prepared statement that Lo’s parents admitted that Ms. Lo was using a fake passport processed with the help of a “fixer.”

According to the statement, “Bb. Pilipinas Grand International 2019 Samantha Ashley Lo was detained by immigration officials in Paris and was eventually sent back to Manila due to issues with her Philippine passport. The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) officially stated that Ms. Lo’s Philippine passport had been ‘tampered with and altered.’

During a meeting last week with Samantha, her parents and officials from the DFA and BPCI, it was admitted by Ms. Lo’s parents that she secured her passport through a ‘fixer’.

In an interview with The STAR after she won in the pageant representing Cebu, Lo said that she spent her earlier life in Florida, but didn’t say what kind of passport she was carrying.

Added the statement, “Ms. Lo also holds a US passport and, therefore, a transit visa is not needed. Past Binibini Queens have done this and have encountered no problems in their travels without transit visas.”

At the same time, BPCI denied that it did nothing to assist Ms. Lo. Upon hearing of her situation in Paris, BPCI immediately called upon the DFA to assist her, and they did.

BPCI is grateful for the intervention of Foreign Undersecretary Brigido Dulay, which otherwise would have resulted in very serious consequences for Samantha.

“We wanted to support Ms. Lo and help her resolve the issue,” according to BPCI. “However, in the last few days, we were no longer able to contact her or her family.”

Late Saturday night, Samantha surfaced in Caracas based on her social media post, safe and was welcomed by the Miss Grand International organization.

Here’s the rest of the BPCI statement:

“We had chosen not to make any statements in deference to an ongoing investigation into the matter and to protect Samantha’s privacy after revelations of a fake passport had put her in this situation. However, due to her social media post, BPCI is forced to make a statement to ensure that only facts are presented, nothing else.

“For over five decades, BPCI has been sending Filipina delegates to international beauty pageants and we have always adhered to travel requirements set by the countries where our Binibinis compete. Through all this, BPCI stands by integrity, honesty and the best of Filipino values in its dealing with people and other organizations.”

Beauty queen airs her side

Last Oct. 19, Samantha broke her silence with a post on Instagram, alleging that the “local organizer” failed to equip her with the proper transit visa, thus causing the delay in her arrival for the pageant.

Part of her post caption said, “Despite what happened last week and the trauma that came with it, I have moved forward and pursued this journey knowing that I did not intentionally commit any of the acts that have been unfairly attributed to me. But yes, my local organizer, who handled my travel preparations, failed to equip me with the proper transit visa that may have enabled me to complete my earlier trip to this host country.”

Samantha continued that it wasn’t the local organizer that eventually got her out of detention and on the return plane home, but rather “…my family and other well-meaning Filipinos who did.”

She added, “And when this is all over, I hope to bring home the crown and glory to the Philippines and our people. It is not easy for me to do this – I still struggle with the fear and the trauma of recent days – but I know there is a bigger picture here and I will not let such fear silence me or deter me from the grand task ahead.” – With Nathalie Tomada

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