Cabaero: ‘Chinese influence’ and elections

Cabaero: ‘Chinese influence’ and elections

Senator Risa Hontiveros expressed concern during a Senate investigation last week that certain Chinese individuals might attempt to influence elections to secure protection for their illegal gambling operations in the country.

This should be a concern, she said, as Chinese attempts to have sympathetic candidates win elections have been seen in political exercises in other countries. With the suspicion that arose during the Senate investigation over alleged ties of Bamban, Tarlac Mayor Alice Guo with Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (Pogo) in her town, Hontiveros raised the question if the mayor is one of those that China may have introduced into our government to have a “heavy political influence” in our country.

There are many cases like that in other countries, she said during a press conference. So, this is not new, and we should investigate, she added.

Hontiveros must be referring to the recently concluded elections in Maldives where the pro-China political party of President Mohamed Muizzu won a landslide election victory. His People’s National Congress won 65 out of 93 parliamentary seats, while the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party kept only 12 seats from the 65 it won five years earlier. Media reports said this election outcome signals a shift toward China and away from India, the Maldives’ traditional ally in the Indian Ocean region.

Moreover, elections in the Solomon Islands and Taiwan have also witnessed attempts by Chinese personalities to influence the selection of government officials.

Hontiveros, in raising the specter of Chinese influence over the elections, did not give specifics about her fears but one can’t help but think of the kind of influence that may happen in the elections next year. The country will hold mid-term elections on May 12, 2025 to elect 12 senators, district and sectoral representatives to Congress, and local officials from governor or mayor to their respective legislative bodies. As we look ahead to next year’s elections, questions arise about the potential impact of Chinese influence.

The Senate investigation into Pogo operations in Bamban, Tarlac, has raised further suspicions. Hontiveros said Mayor Guo was not honest in her statements about her citizenship and her relationship with a company or companies believed to run Pogo in her town. The senator said the mayor could be a Chinese “asset” placed in government. Guo, for her part, said she is not a protector of Pogos and she was never involved in their operations.

Recent concerns also revolve around Chinese surveillance and the presence of so-called “sleepers” who remain in the background as students or workers until they are activated or called to action. What kind of action? While the exact nature of their actions remains uncertain, the tension with China in the West Philippine Sea adds to the complexity of the situation.

Hontiveros pointed to Chinese “assets” being placed in government to protect Pogo operations, but some people in government believe that this influence may extend beyond the realm of gambling operations.

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