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DILG recommends Guo’s suspension

Romina Cabrera – The Philippine Star, May 19, 2024

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has recommended putting Bamban Mayor Alice Guo under preventive suspension for alleged “serious illegal acts” involving Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGO).

Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos said that the task force, under the DILG, has recommended Guo’s suspension to the Office of the Ombudsman for appropriate action.

“Based on the report, there are troubling findings of serious illegal acts, which may have severe legal implications,” Abalos said.

“The DILG recommended to the Ombudsman the issuance of a preventive suspension against Mayor Guo, to prevent any influence on the continuing investigations of our and other agencies,” he added.

Abalos did not specify the illegal acts committed by Guo, as he said that this is part of a courtesy toward the Office of the Ombudsman.

The seven-man task force, headed by Benjamin Zaballa of the DILG Internal Audit Service, was formed in April to investigate the allegations on Guo’s link to an illegal POGO in her municipality.

Abalos said that they have yet to finish their investigation on the citizenship issues surrounding Guo.

He again explained that they will refer any action to the ombudsman, as it has the disciplinary authority over elected officials of local governments, and that the DILG has no power to directly suspend or dismiss local officials.

“The DILG will continue to cooperate with the Ombudsman and other investigative bodies on this important issue, united in our shared mission of protecting our local institutions and furthering public interest,” Abalos said.

Additionally, Guo is facing an investigation at the Senate for the POGO allegations. The controversial mayor may also face a quo warranto case filed against her by the Office of the Solicitor General that recently got the backing of two members of the House of Representatives.

President Marcos backed further investigation on Guo, citing the ongoing Senate probe, as he added that Tarlac politicians do not know her.

“The President is very serious about these things,” Abalos added.

Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra said that they are gathering information to determine if Guo is illegally “holding or exercising a public office.”

In Marilao, Bulacan, Barangay Patubig kagawad Roberto Gil del Rosario has confirmed in a Radyo Bandera Central Luzon interview that Guo has a barangay business clearance registered to QJJ Embroidery Center, located in Maligaya St., and being managed by the Bamban mayor.

The village official said that the embroidery center was last registered in their barangay on Jan. 17 this year and is on an expansion program. The business was already operational for several years and its products are being exported to other countries.

Besides the embroidery business, Del Rosario said that based on what he knows, Guo is also engaged in the Bulacan piggery industry.

He added that on several occasions over the years, Guo has invited Barangay Patubig officials for get-together celebrations and spoke to them fluently in Tagalog.

Photos with politicians go viral

After Guo’s pictures with politicians went the rounds on social media, senators yesterday brushed off any speculations by saying these are not proof of any cozy ties with the mayor.

Among the embattled mayor’s photos that went viral were those with the President himself, and the Chief Executive’s sister, Sen. Imee Marcos.

Guo posted on her social media page last year her campaign trail photos with the President and his cousin, Speaker Martin Romualdez, at the height of the 2022 elections.

Sen. Marcos addressed the photos, saying she met the mayor for a distribution of social welfare assistance in Bamban.

“I met her there for the first time,” she said.

“With all due respect to the politicians with whom she had photos; it is usual for us to have pictures with anyone we don’t know. In the Senate alone, I must have had selfies with two hundred people already,” Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said during a dwIZ interview yesterday.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said Guo’s pictures with politicians do not absolve her of alleged involvement in illicit offshore gambling activities.

“The pictures do not mean anything. We always get pictures taken with us as candidates. It does not mean we personally know them,” Gatchalian said in a separate dwIZ interview.

Zubiri expressed alarm at the findings during the Senate investigation, that Guo was linked to the recently raided Zun Yuan Technology, because she owned the Baofu Land Development where the POGO facility was leased.

Guo claimed she has sold her shares in the company. But before she won as Bamban mayor as a neophyte candidate in 2022, she facilitated the local permits of the predecessor to Zun Yuan Technology – Hongsheng Gaming Technology – which was also raided by authorities in February 2023. — Ramon Efren Lazaro, Marc Jayson Cayabyab

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