By Wilnard Bacelonia

Bamban, Tarlac Mayor Alice Guo (PNA photo by Avito Dalan)

MANILA – The Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality is set to open an executive session during the sine die adjournment to further look into Bamban Mayor Alice Guo’s unexplained assets and possible connections with Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO).

In a televised interview on Monday, Senate Deputy Minority Leader and panel chairperson Risa Hontiveros said concerned agencies will be invited into the executive session, which will be followed by another public hearing.

Yun ang maghuhubog sa aming susunod na hearing, at palagay ko, mas magiging solido na yung aming mga findings at magiging recommendations tungkol sa kanya sa aming committee report (That will determine the direction of our next hearing, and I think, findings and recommendations in the future concerning her case will be solidified in our committee report),” she said over GMA’s Unang Hirit.

She said, however, they have yet to determine if Guo will be invited during the executive session.

Meanwhile, she reiterated that the public hearings of her committee is “not an attack on Filipino-Chinese heritage,” noting that her own maternal great-grandmother was pure Chinese.

“The revelations about Mayor Alice Guo came out after evidence of her complicity in POGO-related crimes. At ang ibang ebidensya galing mismo sa kanyang mga salita (And other evidences came from her own words),” she said in a statement.

She said from the panel’s last eight hearings on POGO, the proliferation of fake identification documents from PhilHealth IDs to passports were proven.

“This just shows how Chinese POGO syndicates have managed to obtain fraudulent Filipino identities through corrupt individuals in our government agencies,” she said.

During the raid of a POGO in Guo’s town, authorities found hacking and surveillance activities, which, Hontiveros said, “would be remiss of the Senate not to look into this angle.”

“This is not a witch hunt. This is not about politics. This is about national security, criminal activities, accountability in public service, the rights and welfare of women and children, and the structural failure of our system to regulate POGO as a business model,” she said.

Meanwhile, Senate President Francis “Chiz” Escudero clarified his earlier statement, saying it is not meant to favor Guo but “just stating a fact in law.”

“Under the law, if you’re alleging that one is a [Chinese citizen], then you should prove it,” Escudero said in an interview with ANC, citing the case of Senator Grace Poe who never knew her biological parents and was declared as a foundling.

Escudero, who was the running mate of Poe in the 2016 presidential elections, recalled how Poe’s citizenship was questioned during the campaign period.

“She was being accused of being an American that time and they wanted her disqualified. The ruling of the Supreme Court was he who alleges must prove it and if they cannot prove it, in the meantime, she is presumed to be a Filipino,” he said, noting that a child cannot be deprived of a citizenship.

He suggested for the Solicitor General to file a case, considering that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has no jurisdiction over Guo anymore after she has been proclaimed as the chief executive of Bamban town.

He also believes that if an administrative case will be filed against Guo, the Department of the Interior and Local Government can issue a preventive suspension order. (PNA)