What’s Guo-ing on | Inquirer Opinion
The Long View

What’s Guo-ing on

Much heat but very little light is what observers including this paper’s own editorial yesterday (“Alice Guo’s secret masters,” 5/28/24), have described the Senate hearings on Bamban Mayor Alice Leal Guo. Much has been made of the President being puzzled that the Old Boy’s Club doesn’t know her (“I know all the politicians from Tarlac, and no one knows her. We’re wondering where she came from? How did this happen? We don’t know. This should really be investigated.”); but then he is simply the latest chief executive to be presiding over a decaying political system where money is in short supply just when voters are being more mercenary than ever.

She has been unable—or unwilling—to answer questions perhaps on the simple principle that investigators ought to do their homework rather than summon people to face the cameras in order to incriminate themselves. Veteran journalist John Berthelsen of Asia Sentinel connected the dots, in this case, Guo’s Senate testimony and a May 22 story in his online paper on Singapore’s biggest money laundering case:

According to Berthelsen, “[T]he reason for the mystery [of how Guo could not know so much] may lie in a raid by authorities on property that she was linked to—Hongsheng Gaming Technology Incorporated and Zun Yuan Technology Incorporated. Hongsheng was raided in February 2023 and was replaced by Zun Yuan in the same location. It was then again raided in March 2024 for charges of alleged human trafficking and serious illegal detention. In them, police found a vast online casino, called a Philippine Offshore Gambling Operator or Pogo, which catered to online gamblers in China, and rescued nearly 700 workers, including 202 Chinese nationals and 73 other foreigners who were forced to pose as online lovers …

“Two of the incorporators of Guo’s company Baofu Land Development, the compound where the Pogo firms were located, are Chinese national Zhang Ruijin, who was convicted in April for money laundering in Singapore, and Lin Baoying, who carries a Dominican passport and is also facing charges in Singapore. Guo is also listed as an incorporator in the company, along with Filipino national Rachel Joan Malonzo Carreon and Cypriot national Zhiyang Huang.


“Zhang and Lin were implicated in a money-laundering ring broken up last August by Singapore authorities, who said it was the biggest such case in their history, seizing seized assets totaling more than S$2.8 billion (US$2 billion) including 152 properties and 62 vehicles in Singapore with a total value of more than S$1.24 billion and bank accounts containing more than S$1.45 billion. On Aug. 15, police arrested nine men and one woman, all originating from Fujian province in China, in a case that left Singapore authorities scrambling to determine how to turn off the ability of foreign nationals to push billions through the financial system without detection.”

Adds Berthelsen, “Guo denied knowing about her partners’ background, telling lawmakers [on May 22] that she had only learned about their criminal records through social media posts by a lawmaker the day before by checking them out on the internet …”

Furthermore, “Although Guo was found to have owned half of the land under the Pogo, housed in long rows of buildings just behind her office, she told lawmakers she sold the property, which according to videos on local TV contained a grocery, warehouse, swimming pool, and even a wine cellar. As with the property, Guo says she sold her helicopter and Ford Expedition registered under her name long ago. She told lawmakers that she was ‘not a coddler, not a protector of Pogos.’”

For years now I’ve been suggesting that the political interests and thus, activities, of the People’s Republic of China should not be confused with the political and social clout of Pogos who exist in defiance of the Chinese government. The Pogos are, arguably, stronger: Beijing’s requests verging on orders, to Manila, for a crackdown on Pogos never resulted in anything more than cosmetic “busy-busihan” as money talks and Pogos have lavished funds on our upper, middle, and political classes; and since all politics is local, the easygoing spending of Pogos makes them more valuable than presidential patronage or foreign affairs. Investigations so far have been racist in their lazy assumptions and breezy unwillingness to take into account the messy state of the documentation of many Filipinos, the different subgroups among Chinese Filipinos, and differences between Pogos’ and Beijing’s efforts to influence officialdom.

Email: [email protected]; Twitter: @mlq3

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