Alice Guo

Alice Guo seeks SC help to prevent Senate from requiring her to attend hearings

Jairo Bolledo

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Alice Guo seeks SC help to prevent Senate from requiring her to attend hearings

HOT SEAT. Mayor Alice Leal Guo answers questions from senators during the continuation of the public hearing on the raided Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators facility in Bamban, Tarlac, on May 22, 2024.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

(1st UPDATE) There's also a looming arrest order from the Senate after Guo was held in contempt for snubbing the hearings

MANILA, Philippines – Bamban, Tarlac Mayor Alice Guo has sought the Supreme Court’s (SC) help to prevent the Senate from compelling her to attend legislative hearings.

Guo’s camp filed before the High Court a petition for certiorari and/or prohibition with extremely urgent prayer for temporary restraining order on Wednesday, July 10. In her petition, the Bamban mayor wants the Court to scrap the subpoena issued to her by the Senate committee on women, children, family relations, and gender equality chaired by opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros.

Guo also wants the SC to direct the Senate committee from further inviting her to the hearings.

The Bamban mayor was put into the national spotlight for her alleged ties with an illegal Philippine offshore gaming operator (POGO) raided in her town. Her nationality was questioned at the height of the Senate hearings, with Hontiveros even asking whether she is an “asset” of China to infiltrate local politics. Guo was also questioned for not remembering basic details about her personal life, including her childhood.

Guo skipped the Senate panel’s hearing on June 26, which prompted Hontiveros to issue a Subpoena Ad Testificandum against Guo, compelling her to appear before the legislative body.

In her petition, Guo claimed the Senate panel committed grave abuse of discretion when it allegedly violated the mayor’s constitutional rights, her right to due process, and Guo’s right to privacy, among others.

It was not the first time that an embattled figure has sought the SC’s help to stop a Senate order. Fugitive doomsday pastor Apollo Quiboloy, who faces criminal cases, was also ordered arrested by the Senate committee on women, children, family relations, and gender equality after snubbing the panel’s probe into his alleged abuses. Early this year, Quiboloy went to the High Court to stop the “unjust and unconstitutional” Senate warrant.

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The Constitution empowers the Senate to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation. That is the legal basis for the Rules of the Senate, under which the upper house can summon witnesses and ask them to bring documents to the inquiry. The legislature’s contempt powers are limited and the SC has already reminded the Senate it can only detain a person held in contempt only for as long as an inquiry was ongoing.

Hontiveros said in a statement on Thursday, July 11, that while it is Guo’s right to seek help from the Supreme Court, ignoring a Senate subpoena “has consequences.”

“Our courts are open to all individuals, regardless of nationality. Kaya kahit hindi siya Pilipino, may karapatan pa rin si Mayor Alice Guo na pumunta ng Supreme Court. (Even if she’s not a FIlipino, Mayor Alice Guo has to right to go to the Supreme Court.) We await a copy of their petition. On our part, at the Senate, the law is clear: ignoring a subpoena has consequences. Adhering to a subpoena has never been optional,” she said.

A string of problems

Aside from the Senate probe, Guo faces a string of other problems.

Guo currently faces a non-bailable qualified trafficking complaint, which stemmed from her alleged involvement in the illegal POGO where human trafficking violations were allegedly committed. If the prosecutors find enough basis to pursue the case and charge her and fellow respondents for qualified trafficking, a judge will decide if warrants of arrest will be issued.

The National Bureau of Investigation also confirmed that the fingerprints of Guo and and a certain Guo Hua Ping had matched. Guo, the mayor, is suspected of actually being Guo Hua Ping. This opened more questions about the Bamban mayor’s real identity and nationality.

Last week, on July 5, a petition was filed with a local Tarlac court seeking to cancel Guo’s birth certificate. Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra, whose office filed the petition, said if Guo’s birth certificate is canceled, she will lose her most important defense evidence about her identity.

The cancellation of the birth certificate can also be used in a quo warranto case. If the quo warranto succeeds, Guo would be stripped of Filipino citizenship, which is a prerequisite to holding public office.

Because of her absence in Wednesday’s Senate hearing, the upper chamber has cited Guo in contempt, which could pave the way for the Senate order to arrest her. – Rappler.com

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.