Hontiveros won’t let go of Bamban mayor over ties to Pogo
A China ‘asset’?

Hontiveros won’t let go of Bamban mayor over ties to Pogo

By: - Reporter / @MRamosINQ
/ 05:14 AM May 09, 2024

Risa won’t let go of Bamban mayor over ties to Pogo

Bamban Mayor Alice Guo | PHOTO: Official facebook page of Mayor Alice Leal Guo

MANILA, Philippines — It may sound stranger than fiction, but Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday raised the possibility that Mayor Alice Guo of Bamban town, Tarlac province, might be a Chinese “asset” trained to infiltrate and influence the Philippine government.

Hontiveros’ suspicion added yet another layer on the already intricate web of controversies surrounding the Philippine offshore gaming operator (Pogo) business, which flourished during the Duterte administration.


READ: Bamban mayor denies ties to raided Pogo firm in Tarlac


She said the investigation by the Senate, part of the continuing inquiry into Pogos that the committee on women and children opened last year, and other state agencies should focus on Guo’s ties with gaming operators and her personal background.

Pogos had been linked to human trafficking, kidnap-for-ransom, killings, illegal drugs and internet fraud.

“During our hearing (on Tuesday), we nearly drowned in numerous revelations that led to more questions. First of all, is it true that Mayor Alice Guo is a Chinese national?” Hontiveros told a press briefing.

“This is an important question because [Guo] has no records in our country and she was instrumental in the entry of a very huge Pogo company in the Philippines,” she said.

“Did they plan this long ago to use [her] supposed Filipino identity to gain a foothold in our political (system) and even national security sector?” she asked.

She pointed out that Chinese nationals who had allegedly obtained legitimate Philippine passports and other government documents used late registered birth certificates.


“Is Guo, like all others who have a mysterious past, an asset that China sent to enter our government for them to have an influence in Philippine politics?” she said.

Guo, who was accompanied by a lawyer, said she was being subjected to trial by publicity.

“It is sad that I have been judged prematurely. I was tried publicly based on baseless allegations and made-up stories,” Guo said in a statement she read during Tuesday’s hearing.

Hontiveros earlier said that she received “persuasive information” from the intelligence agencies that the vast Pogo complex in Bamban, which the authorities had raided on March 13, was linked to surveillance operations and hacking of government websites.

Pogo raided in March

Hontiveros, however, did not say whether the Pogos’ alleged involvement in the cyberattacks on the digital platforms of various state agencies were connected with the maritime dispute between China and the Philippines.

The 7.9-hectare property in Anupul village that was raided is owned by Baofu Land Development Inc., which leased the compound to Pogos.

The Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission, which led the March 13 raid, rescued 371 Filipinos, 427 Chinese, 57 Vietnamese, eight Malaysians, three Taiwanese, two Indonesians, and two Rwandans from the Chinese-owned Zun Yuan Technology Inc.

Zun Yuan, which was operating in 36 multistory buildings in Sitio Pagasa in Anupul, was suspected of human trafficking following the reported escape of a former Malaysian national who was allegedly held, detained and forced to work for the company.

On questioning by Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian during Tuesday’s Senate hearing, Guo admitted that she owned half of Baofu before she sold her shares when she decided to enter politics in 2022.
According to Hontiveros, their initial investigation showed that Guo was practically unknown in her own town and “came out of nowhere” before she won the mayoral race in 2022 without the support of any political party.

“[Guo] was catapulted to power in a small town in Tarlac, but does she have the public records that will strongly establish her identity as a Filipino national?” she asked.

Virtual unknown

She said almost everyone in Bamban knew each other but nobody knew Guo before she ran as mayor, according to the people her researchers spoke with.

Hontiveros said that they found no hospital birth record for Guo or documents showing that she went to any school.

A year before the 2022 elections, Jose Antonio “Jon” Feliciano, who was on his last term as Bamban mayor, declared that she could be his successor.

On April 28, 2021, he introduced Guo as his friend during the inauguration of the government owned-triple A poultry dressing plant in Bamban. The project was touted to generate jobs for the residents who were displaced from work due to the pandemic.

He said his townmates could “now put their trust in the young businesswoman as the next mayor of Bamban.”

“It’s better to choose a businesswoman because she’s going to be business-minded, but if we will go for a politician, that person might prioritize his own interest and just do business [disguised as public service],” Feliciano said then.

Running as an independent, Guo defeated Anupul barangay chief Joey Salting (Nationalist People’s Coalition) in the tight race, garnering 16,503 votes against her opponent’s 16,035.

Guo’s running mate, former Mayor Leonardo “Ding” Anunciacion, won as vice mayor and was also an independent candidate.

Feliciano lost in the congressional race as an independent in the province’s third district.

SALN, records sought

Hontiveros said she had directed the mayor to submit her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth, as well as her statement of contributions and expenditures to “give us a clearer view of her real identity, or at least the identity she wishes to put on Philippine record.”

“I have to confess I am most alarmed by how opaque Guo’s answers have been, especially about her personal background,” Hontiveros said.

The mayor admitted that she had no hospital birth record since her mother gave birth to her at home, which was in the family’s farm.

Hontiveros noted that Guo’s birth was only registered in 2013, or 17 years after she was supposedly born in 1986.

Guo, she added, could not explain clearly how she was able to mount and fund her own campaign since she had no backing from any political group.

Hog-raising business

In response, Guo said she had a hog farm with around 2,000 pigs, which yielded an annual profit of P4,000 per head.

Her swine business, she said, had struggled during the pandemic, an admission that caught the attention of Gatchalian.

Gatchalian, known among his colleagues as a “numbers guy,” pointed out that this further raised questions over her 50-percent ownership of Baofu, especially after she claimed that she did not know how she would recoup her investment from the company.

“It’s surprising because any investor would study how you would earn before starting a business,” he said.

Guo owned up to facilitating the application for local permits of Hongsheng Gaming Technology Inc., a Pogo inside the Baofu compound that was raided in February 2023.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

The company allegedly continued operating after changing its business name to Zun Yuan Technology Inc.

TAGS: Alice Guo, Baofu compound, PAOCC, pogo, Risa Hontiveros

© Copyright 1997-2024 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.