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Gov’t to seize 320 properties worth billions from Chinese drug lords

INQUIRER.net /May 25, 2024

MANILA, Philipppines — The government is set to forfeit billions of pesos worth of lands from suspected Chinese drug lord Willie Ong and his associates.

Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers said the Land Registration Authority (LRA) and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) will file forfeiture proceedings against Ong, his real estate firm Empire 999, and his partners.

“They own 55% of Empire 999 Realty Corporation, which is in direct violation of the constitutional limitation of the 60-40 equity,” Barbers said.

Barbers said that the LRA and OSG committed to this action during Wednesday’s House Dangerous Drugs Committee hearing. The committee found that Ong and his associates, who failed to attend the hearing, were likely Chinese nationals posing as Filipinos.

“Since Willie Ong and company are not Filipinos, their Philippine passports must be immediately canceled by the Department of Foreign Affairs while Empire 999 Realty Corporation’s SEC registration be revoked and the corporation dissolved,” Barbers added.

Ong, owner of the SEC-registered Empire 999 Realty Corporation and a warehouse in Mexico, Pampanga, where 530 kilos of shabu worth P3.6 billion were seized in September last year, has repeatedly ignored summons to appear before the House probe.

Barbers said the LRA and OSG’s actions aim to prevent Ong and his associates from selling or transferring their illegally obtained assets.

Ong, whose Chinese name is Cai Qimeng, is believed to have fled the country in October 2023 using his Chinese passport. Authorities have been unable to ascertain the whereabouts of Ong’s associates, identified as Aedi Tai Yang, Jack Tai Yang, Michelle Santos Sy, and Elaine Chua, among others.

Atty. Salvalente Elizalde, chief of the LRA Legal Division, said during the hearing that the LRA would endorse an adverse claim to the OSG for court filing to forfeit Ong and his associates’ properties.

“Kailangang may kaso sa court. However, we commit right now that we will monitor the properties,” Elizalde said during the hearing attended by Antipolo City Rep. Romeo Acop, Laguna Rep. Dan Fernandez, and Abang-Lingkod party-list Rep. Joseph Paduano, among others.

Barbers emphasized the need to inform the public about these questionable properties and to protect potential buyers. He also stressed the importance of investigating how these properties were purchased, whether through cash, banks, or laundered money from illegal activities.

If Ong and his associates acquired public lands, a reversion proceeding could be initiated by the LRA and OSG to revert the land to public domain. This is the proper remedy when public land is fraudulently awarded to private individuals or corporations.

Based on updated LRA data, Empire 999 has acquired 41 titled land holdings; Ong with 59; Aedi Tai Yang with 11; Jack Tai Yang with 15; Michelle Santos Sy with 72; Elaine Chua with 75; Albert Valdez Sy with 22; Na Wang with 1; Ana Ong with 10; Ana Ang with 5; Cai Quimeng, the Chinese name of Willie Ong, with 6; and James Valdez with 3.

Ong, Empire 999, and their associates have significant land acquisitions in Mexico, San Fernando, and Angeles City in Pampanga; Nueva Ecija, Cabanatuan City, Aurora Province, Bulacan, Cavite City, Tagaytay City, Iloilo City, Lingayen, Pangasinan, Mandaue City, Lapu-lapu City, Valenzuela City, Quezon City, Rizal, Muntinlupa City, Taguig City, Makati City, Malabon, Parañaque City, Manila City, Davao del Norte, Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, and Tabuk, Kalinga, Apayao.

All were linked to interlocking companies created by another suspected Chinese drug lord, Michael Yang, who was appointed by former president Rodrigo Duterte as a presidential economic adviser.

Yang, who was summoned but failed to appear at the hearing, was identified by former anti-drug law enforcement officer Col. Eduardo Acierto and whistleblower Arturo Lascañas as a drug kingpin based in Davao City.

This article was generated with the aid of artificial intelligence and reviewed by an editor.

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