Hontiveros raises concerns over Bamban, Tarlac mayor’s Chinese ties

MANILA. Senator Risa Hontiveros.
MANILA. Senator Risa Hontiveros.Senate photo

SENATOR Risa Hontiveros questioned on Wednesday, May 8, 2024, the real identity of Bamban, Tarlac Mayor Alice Guo, as she sounded the alarm over the possibility that she is a Chinese “asset.”

In a press conference, Hontiveros, chairperson of Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality, which conducts investigation on the raided Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (Pogo) in Bamban, cited several times that Guo lied during the hearing on Tuesday, May 8.

“She lied. There were several questions where she lied. ‘Yung pinaka stark and shocking example ay ‘yung dineny niya na may connection siya sa Hong Sheng. Eh nandun na nga sa mga dokumento ng Municipal Government na siya ngayon ang pinuno. So, kumbaga institutionally, dapat pinaninindigan niya yun na siya ang representative ng Hong Sheng na humingi sa noong municipal council ng Letter of No Objection,” she said.

(She lied. There were several questions where she lied. The most stark and shocking example is when she denied that she had a connection with Hong Sheng. The Municipal Government documents showed that she heads it. So, it seems that institutionally, she should be affirming that she is the representative of Hong Sheng, which asked for a Letter of No Objection from the Municipal Council.)

“So, paano niya sasabihin wala siyang kinalaman sa Hong Sheng (So, how can he say he has nothing to do with Hong Sheng)? And I think there's a saying probably, most probably of the lawyers in Latin na bad in one thing, bad in all…So, kung nagsinungaling siya sa isang napaka obvious na bagay, wow, di kailangan nating tanungin sa bawat tanong na sasabihin… Nagsasabi ba siya ng totoo o nagsisinungaling na naman siya? (So, if she lied about something so obvious, wow, we need to ask every question that is said... Is she telling the truth or is she lying again?)” she added.

Based on the document presented by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian during the hearing, Guo, then a private citizen, represented Hong Sheng Gaming Technology Inc. when it applied for a license to operate at the municipality of Bamban in September 2020.

The firm was raided in February 2023 but continued its operation under Zun Yuan Technology Inc. (ZYTI) situated in Baofu Land Development Inc., (BLDI) in the vicinity of the municipal hall of Bamban.

Guo denied serving as protector of Pogos, or her involvement in their operations.

Hontiveros also noted that Guo has no official records to prove her nationality as a Filipino.

Guo only registered her live birth with the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) when she was already 17 years old. She also does not have a hospital record of birth and even school records as she claimed she was home schooled.

She said she grew up in a well-off family whose father is a businessman.

Hontiveros also said during a press conference that not a single resident of Bamban knew Guo before she ran for office in the 2022 elections.

"Si Mayor Alice ba, at ang mga tulad nyang may mga mahiwagang nakaraan, ay mga asset na pinapasok ng China sa ating gobyerno para magkaroon sila ng mabigat na impluwensya sa politika sa Pilipinas? Marami nang ibang kasong ganyan sa ibang bansa, kaya hindi na ito bago, at dapat nating imbestigahan," she said.

(Is Mayor Alice and those like her with mysterious past assets that China has introduced into our government so that they can have heavy political influence in the Philippines? There are many other cases like that in other countries, so this is not new, and we should investigate.)

If these were indeed true, Hontiveros said it indicates that illegal schemes related to identity fraud by Chinese nationals have already leveled up.

“And last but not the least, kung mapatunayan pa yung mga iniimbestiga ngayon ng iba't-ibang intel agencies ng ating gobyerno, yung anggulong may surveillance at mayroong hacking activities dyan sa Pogo hub sa Bamban…yan ba ay isang matagal ng ipinlano at inilatag na plano gamit ang diumanong kunwaring Filipino identity ni Mayor Alice para magkaroon ng isang foothold pati sa ating political at lumalabas national security sector?” the lawmaker said.

(And last but not the least, if what is being investigated by the various intel agencies of our government can be proven, the angle of surveillance and hacking activities there at the Pogo hub in Bamban...is that something that was planned and laid out for a long time using Mayor Alice's alleged fake Filipino identity to gain a foothold in our political and emerging national security sector?)

MANILA. Senator Risa Hontiveros.
Pogo hubs linked to surveillance activities, hacking of websites

Hontiveros said the country’s intelligence community is already digging deeper into this information at hand.

She said the Department of the Interior and Local Government also has already forwarded its recommendation to the Office of the Ombudsman over the possible administrative charges against Guo and several local officials of Bamban in relation to the raid on March 13 in ZYTI that resulted in the rescue of 800 employees, including around 500 foreigners, of which 427 were Chinese nationals.

Earlier, Hontiveros expressed alarm over the reported involvement of ZYTI in surveillance activities and hacking of government websites. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)

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