Bamban Mayor Alice Guo: Is she Filipino, or not?

BABE’S EYE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON D.C. - Ambassador B. Romualdez - The Philippine Star

The ongoing saga of Bamban, Tarlac mayor Alice Guo continues to keep Filipinos not only riveted but extremely concerned, with the burning question in the minds of everyone who has been keeping track of the Senate hearings: is she Filipino, or not?

It all began with the raid last March on a Philippine offshore gaming operator (POGO) located in Bamban, Tarlac due to reports that the Chinese company was engaged in human trafficking as well as a front for scams and other illegal activities. There were also suspicions that the facility was a hub for espionage, hacking and cyberattacks against government agencies.

During the raid, hundreds of workers of various nationalities – mostly Chinese – were found to have no valid working permits. Inside the compound located just behind the Bamban municipal hall, the raiding team also discovered “torture chambers,” vaults containing several millions of pesos, passports of workers and documents showing a possible link between the POGO and Mayor Guo, who owned half of Baofu Land Development Inc., the company that leased the property to the POGO.

During the Senate hearings, Mayor Guo’s evasive and dubious answers to basic questions such as her educational background, her childhood, her family ties including the fact that her birth was only registered when she was 17 years old made it look like she “came out of nowhere,” as Senator Risa Hontiveros put it. According to the senator, all these raised the possibility of Mayor Guo being a Chinese “asset” whose supposed Filipino identity is being used to “gain a foothold” in the country’s political system and possibly “even our national security sector.”

While it is true that the burden of proof lies with the ones levelling accusations against the Bamban mayor’s citizenship, it is simply unbelievable that she could not recall the names of teachers who homeschooled her from elementary to high school and does not remember the people who took care of her, since the mayor claims her mother abandoned her.

Residents in her village do not seem to know much about Guo – which is surprising considering that people in the provinces usually know everything about their neighbors. Even if she was raised in a farm, those who worked for her father would have been aware of and, at some point, interacted with this cloistered child who would have been the subject of village gossip.

Mayor Guo owns a helicopter as well as over a dozen vehicles, purchased a huge tract of land and financed her 2022 campaign for mayor from her hog raising business that she said suffered during the pandemic. The subsequent hearings with Senator Risa Hontiveros doing the questioning revealed that the mayor’s parents also seem to have dubious origins, since they have no existing records of birth in the files of the Philippine Statistics Authority. Her father is listed as a Chinese citizen in business records but in the birth certificate of Guo and her newly disclosed siblings, he is identified as a Filipino.

Let me very clear however: this column is not about creating an atmosphere of Sinophobia, most especially since many of us have Chinese blood running in our veins. I for one have a Chinese ancestor named Pei Ling Po, possibly from Fujian, who put up a shop in Binondo and later converted to Christianity to marry a Filipina who happens to be the sister of a bishop. Pei Ling Po then took on the name “Luis Romualdez,” adopting the surname of “Father Romualdo,” the priest who baptized him. I also happen to have many Filipino-Chinese friends who are successful businessmen, doctors, teachers and other professions. In fact, one of my closest friends at the Ateneo grade school was Eddie Chan, the son of prominent lawyer Manuel Chan Sr.

The revelations about the mayor of Bamban, plus the fact that she was able to obtain a passport and even run in the 2022 elections despite her questionable background, are making people concerned about how easy it is for foreigners – not just Chinese but other nationalities – to obtain fake birth certificates, fake passports, driver’s licenses and other government-issued IDs and documents possibly with the help of a syndicate.

What people also find worrisome is the purchase of vast tracts of land in EDCA sites and near major air and seaports by Chinese nationals in connivance with “Filipino enablers,” according to Congressman Ace Barbers, who disclosed that warehouses are “sprouting like mushrooms” in Central Luzon. The AFP is also looking into the possible security implications of the influx of Chinese nationals of military age that are enrolled in schools near an EDCA site in Cagayan.

Senator Nancy Binay also expressed alarm at the issuance of special resident retiree visas to Chinese nationals as young as 35 through the Philippine Retirement Authority, whose records indicate the presence of 78,000 foreign retirees in the Philippines, “of whom 38,000 are Chinese.”

We need to seriously vet foreign nationals coming into the Philippines since we are now receiving disturbing reports about members of drug syndicates and criminal gangs or worse, operatives engaged in spying activities. The Bureau of Immigration, the Department of Justice, the National Bureau of Investigation, the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and other concerned agencies should coordinate and assess the implication on our national security.

Time and again, I have written in this space of how serious and formidable the challenges our country faces today. No one in this country wants to be overrun by unwanted foreigners – except perhaps a few corrupted individuals.

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Email: [email protected]

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