EDITORIAL - Murky background

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Murky background

The murky background of Bamban Mayor Alice Leal Guo clearly illustrates a gap in the civil registry system that can be exploited for illegal activities.

At the resumption on Wednesday of the Senate hearing on offshore gaming activities in Bamban town, an official of the Philippine Statistics Authority said the office has no record of Guo’s supposed biological mother, a Filipina househelper named Amelia Leal who the mayor claimed had abandoned her and left her in the care of her father, Chinese national Jian Zhong Guo.

Guo has claimed to be a love child. But Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who is leading the Senate probe, pointed out that the mayor’s birth certificate showed her parents were married on Oct. 14, 1982. The PSA said it also had no record of the marriage of Guo’s parents. Hontiveros noted that based on official documents, the couple even had two other children, Sheila and Siemen, with the boy born in 1988 or two years after Guo’s birth in 1986.

How common are these cases? The PSA has admitted difficulty in verifying information in documents submitted to the agency. Anything can be written in a birth certificate and signatures can easily be forged  in birth certificates. Obviously, this can be a serious problem when the country has citizenship requirements for those who want to seek public office.

These issues would not have come to light if Guo had not been linked to Philippine offshore gaming operator firms in a sprawling compound that she co-owned in Bamban. And it would have not attracted national attention if Guo had not been a mayor who is now suspected of spying for China, which has been harassing Filipino fishers and vessels in the West Philippine Sea as it stakes its greedy maritime claim that an international arbitral tribunal has invalidated.

Now that these problems have drawn attention, authorities must implement corrective measures. The government must have better capability to verify personal information when the need arises. The PSA as well as the Commission on Elections and other agencies must work to improve the integrity of official documents. The country cannot risk having public officials who might be serving the interests of other states.

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