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Opinion

Love child

The broader view - Harry Roque - The Philippine Star

In my 34 years of law practice, I have encountered many clients who were adamant about protecting the identity of their extramarital offspring. Given our cruel, judgmental and hypocritical society, these parents do not want their children to be called bastards. The children did not choose to be born under illegitimate circumstances. They should never bear the guilt and shame of their parents. 

So, what does the law say about a love child? Children born out of wedlock may use the surname of their father if their filiation has been expressly recognized by the father through the record of birth appearing in the civil register, or when an admission in a public document or private handwritten instrument is made by the father (Article 176, Republic Act 9255). The 2003 law amended the Family Code of 1987, which prohibited illegitimate children to carry the surname of their biological father.

Skeletons in the closet

In the case of embattled Bamban, Tarlac Mayor Alice Guo, she admitted in an ongoing joint Senate committee hearing that she was born out of wedlock to a Chinese father and a Filipino mother. Born in 1986, she carries the name of her wealthy Chinese dad. Under intense interrogation, she was forced to disclose another painful truth: her mother was the househelp of her father. 

Now, I get why she was guarded about her private life. She carries the stigma of an illegitimate child and a daughter of a maid. Her mother also abandoned her upon birth. For most Filipinos, nothing can be more shameful than that. For the conservative Filipino-Chinese families, it is anathema to air one’s dirty laundry in public. Therefore, it was gutsy for Mayor Guo to expose her family secrets. 

Certain senators continue to challenge her citizenship and nationality, even if she has a birth certificate and a Philippine passport. She has been called a spy or agent for China and a coddler of illegal activities related to Philippine offshore gaming operator (POGO) firms in her hometown. She has repeatedly denied all accusations. I do not blame Guo if she feels that some legislators have prematurely judged her guilt. As an invited resource person, she has been badgered, even bullied, by the legislators’ line of questioning. 

In an official statement, the mayor admitted to being traumatized by the intrusive questions of the senators. She did not want to relive her sad past. Or be reminded of her illegitimacy in a Senate hearing covered by traditional and social media. She also does not want to drag her beloved father into the issue. All she wants is for her dad to be proud of what she has become.

Right to due process

May I respectfully remind our senators that in 2023, the Supreme Court ruled that the constitutional right to due process protects persons appearing in legislative investigations (Ong vs. Senate)? The committee chairperson and members are obligated to respect the rights of resource persons. Moreover, a Senate hearing must aid legislation. It is not to conduct a trial or make an adjudication. 

In Neri vs. Senate, the High Court stated that the Senate could still craft legislation without the petitioner answering questions covered by executive privilege. Further, the SC asserted that Congress is neither a law enforcement nor a trial agency. Thus, the Senate committees cannot assume the power of prosecutorial bodies and courts. Investigations must be related to and in furtherance of a legitimate task such as legislation. Senators cannot conduct inquiries to gather incriminatory evidence or punish those under investigation. 

In other words, the committee members must ask questions that are germane to this legislative inquiry. They should also give us an idea about the proposed measure they intend to create.

When facing resource persons, they should be mindful not to behave like prosecutors or defense lawyers. I urge them to desist from using the hearing for political or ideological grandstanding. At least two members are aspiring for a higher political office by 2028. In grilling and humiliating Alice Guo, are these politicos trying to pander to the anti-China sentiments of certain sectors? I suggest they check their sinophobia at the door. The august halls of the Senate do not need racists and xenophobes.

Wealthy scion

In my professional life, I have worn multiple hats: lawyer, educator, public servant and entrepreneur. The public might not know I was once into hog raising and lechon business. That is my common ground with Mayor Alice. I first met her in December 2021 at the UniTeam Rally in Guiguinto, Bulacan. 

Former executive secretary Vic Rodriguez introduced her to me and President Bongbong Marcos Jr. I cannot forget Alice because I mistook her for another Tarlac mayor, who was romantically linked to a former president. She politely clarified that I had the wrong person. She was a first-time mayoral candidate in Tarlac. The online photos prove that she and PBBM have met in the past. They also met at a New Clark City event. 

Going back to hog farming, I sourced native swine from Marinduque and raised them on a farm in Tanay, Rizal. It was highly profitable since there was a huge consumer demand for organic roast pigs. Then, the COVID pandemic struck my business down. During the first nationwide lockdown, I distributed around 500 lechon to stranded students in the University of the Philippines dormitories. 

Guo, meanwhile, has a bigger and more profitable pig farm. Guo is a descendant of a wealthy Chinese family. I understand she raises around 3,000 imported Dutch Landrace sows priced at P42,000 per head. And she sells them at least twice a year. By my estimation, her annual gross sales would amount to more than P250 million. I am not surprised that she can afford luxury cars, even a helicopter. So, is it wrong for a hardworking entrepreneur to achieve a higher net worth in a capitalist economy? I do not think so.

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