Alice Guo, 13 others face criminal complaint over ‘ties’ to illegal POGO

Jairo Bolledo

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Alice Guo, 13 others face criminal complaint over ‘ties’ to illegal POGO

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

Angie de Silva/Rappler

(2nd UPDATE) Guo is currently suspended over administrative complaints filed by the DILG with the Ombudsman

MANILA, Philippines – Bamban, Tarlac Mayor Alice Guo and 13 others are facing a criminal complaint over their alleged ties to illegal Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) Zun Yuan Technology Incorporated.

Led by the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC), authorities filed a qualified trafficking complaint against Guo and the other individuals before the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Manila on Friday, June 21. Qualified trafficking is non-bailable and usually carries the penalty of life imprisonment.

The others named in the complaints are as follows:

  • Zhang Ruijin
  • Baoying Lin
  • Rachelle Joan Malonzo Carreon
  • Huang Zhiyang
  • Thelma Barrogo Laranan
  • Rowena Gonzales Evangelista
  • Rita Yturralde
  • Merlie Joy Manalo Castro
  • Yu Zheng Can
  • Dennis Lacson Cunanan
  • Jaimielyn Santos Cruz
  • Roderick Paul Pujante
  • Juan Miguel Alpas

The complaint stemmed from the raided illegal POGO in Bamban. Respondent Cunanan, a former government official convicted of graft in 2023, transacted for the POGOs in Bamban and Porac, Pampanga, according to documents obtained by Rappler. 

Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking chief Undersecretary Nicholas Ty said they are now in the process of filing a request for an immigration lookout bulletin order (ILBO) to monitor Guo and the other respondents’ movements. An ILBO is used for monitoring purposes only, and is not “a sufficient prohibition for a subject’s departure from the Philippines.”

In a statement, Guo belied the allegations against her and said these should be “backed by substantial evidence.” The Bamban Mayor denied her alleged involvement with the raided illegal POGO, adding that she “is prepared to address the allegations against her.”

“Having connections to companies or individuals, especially when vague, is not enough to link someone to a case, particularly one involving human trafficking,” Guo said. 

Other complaints

This is the second criminal complaint against Guo, after the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) filed a graft complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman against Guo on June 1.

Aside from this new criminal complaint, Guo and two other Bamban officials – business permit and licensing officer Edwin Ocampo and municipal legal officer Adenn Sigua – face administrative complaints over grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, gross neglect of duty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

Due to the administrative complaints, the Ombudsman ordered the Bamban officials’ preventive suspension. The Ombudsman said they found sufficient grounds to suspend the three because there was strong evidence of their guilt. The office added that the complaints against the three “may warrant their removal from the service,” and “their continued stay in office may prejudice the investigation of the case filed against them.”

In May, DILG Secretary Benhur Abalos said they recommended the suspension of the Bamban mayor to the Ombudsman. The DILG had sent a report to the Ombudsman citing “troubling findings of serious illegal acts which may have severe legal implications.” 

Abalos said the DILG has no suspension powers, which is why they reached out to the Ombudsman. The DILG later filed the complaint with the Ombudsman.

Aside from the DILG’s probe, the Office of the Solicitor General also launched a probe on Guo “to determine if there is good reason to believe that the subject is unlawfully holding or exercising public office.” Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra said that if they get enough information, they can file a quo warranto petition against Guo, which would kick her out of office if granted.

Guo is currently in hot water because of her alleged links to Zun Yuan Technology inside the Baofu compound, which was raided in February 2023. The POGO controversy eventually reached the Senate.

Must Read

Tracing the evidence: The gov’t raid that exposed Mayor Alice Guo’s link to POGOs

Tracing the evidence: The gov’t raid that exposed Mayor Alice Guo’s link to POGOs

During Senate probes, lawmakers flagged Guo’s shady background. Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros raised the question of whether Guo was an “asset” planted by China to infiltrate local politics. The mayor also claimed in one of the public hearings that she couldn’t remember basic details about her life. – Rappler.com

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Jairo Bolledo

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