Alice Guo’s secret masters | Inquirer Opinion

Alice Guo’s secret masters

/ 05:12 AM May 28, 2024

Two blockbuster Senate hearings have gone by; local and national politicians have jumped into the fray; the President has weighed in on the fiasco, and government bureaucrats have sprung into action—all to untangle the puzzle that is this small-town mayor.

Yet, in the weeks since she grabbed headlines and became a household name, the mystery has only deepened: Who is Alice Guo?

The true identity of the young mayor of the second-class municipality of Bamban in Tarlac province continues to confuse and confound, as Guo has given conflicting, perplexing, and nonsensical answers to simple questions about her background.

At the May 22 inquiry of the Senate women, children, and family relations committee, the woman at the center of an investigation into an offshore gaming hub in her alleged hometown and her purported connections to China spent several riveting minutes digging herself into a hole, as her questioners poked hole after hole in her story.


Soap-operatic tale

Appearing to be on the brink of tears, Guo, who wore a luxurious ensemble and toted a Goyard handbag, spun a soap-operatic tale of her humble roots as a pig farmer, the unwanted love child of a Chinese national, Jian Zhong Guo, or Angelito Guo, and his Filipino housekeeper, Amelia Leal, who, she claimed, had gone missing since giving birth to her on July 12, 1986.

Right off the bat, the committee chair, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, presented birth records that put the lie to the mayor’s claim, as the documents indicated that her parents were in fact married and bore two other children. Confronted with this, Guo resorted to her usual excuse: “As much as possible, I don’t want to tell you that ‘I do not know.’ But I really don’t know the answer.”

As it turns out, the true answer may be that Guo’s Filipino mother was just a figment of her imagination.


At the same hearing, Philippine Statistics Authority legal director Eliezer Ambatali told senators that there was no official record of Guo’s supposed birth mother. “For now … the possibility is high that [Amelia Leal] doesn’t exist,” he said.

An irate Sen. Loren Legarda scolded Guo: “If you’re really Chinese and fronting for other people, go back to your country. But if you are a Filipino and you were born here, convince us because we want to be convinced.” But after the five-hour hearing, an unrepentant Guo faced reporters and insisted: “I’m a Filipino. I’m not a spy.”


Association with Pogos

Even President Marcos is skeptical, however. He noted last week that no one among Tarlac’s political elite had heard of Guo prior to her victory in the 2022 elections: “I know all the politicians in Tarlac, and no one knows her. We’re wondering where she came from. How did this happen?”

Since then, the solicitor general has launched an investigation into whether Guo should face disqualification via quo warranto petition, while the interior secretary has endorsed the mayor’s preventive suspension to the Ombudsman.

Over the weekend, Senate President Francis Escudero, a stalwart of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, which claims Guo as its own, rightly said the burden of proving her guilt should fall on her accusers. But he would be blind not to see how that is an impossible task when an accused person counters facts with half-truths and lies.

It’s obvious to anyone with an iota of common sense that Guo has gamed our system, whether in regard to her origins and citizenship or to her election and ties to Pogos or the Philippine offshore gaming operators. At the very least, Guo’s prevarications tell us she has something to hide.

But her identity is secondary to a more crucial question: Who does Guo serve?

If she is indeed Filipino, then she must explain the source of her apparent wealth, her father’s alleged links to China, and her association with Pogos.

National security crisis

And if she is Chinese, the government must uncover the people behind her—the Chinese government, money launderers, the triad, or a gaming syndicate? The authorities must find out how she won a mayoral election as a charlatan, and which officials, local and national, aided her in her charade. Were they fooled or let themselves be fooled by the lure of laundered cash?

Appallingly, the Commission on Elections has washed its hands by blaming the public for not challenging Guo’s credentials and credibility at the outset. Never mind that it is vested with the power to investigate candidates on its own initiative. What about immigration officers who have permitted the entry of countless foreigners as tourists, only for them to wind up as students, Pogo workers or trafficking victims? Or the Department of Foreign Affairs literally being fast and loose in issuing visas?

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All these point to the disturbing conclusion that the Philippines has a national security crisis on its hands, and the mysterious Guo is just the tip of the iceberg. The bigger enigma, however, is this: How many other public officers elected to serve the Filipino people are serving other masters in secret?


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