Office of the Ombudsman

Ombudsman affirms Bamban Mayor Alice Guo’s suspension

Jairo Bolledo

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Ombudsman affirms Bamban Mayor Alice Guo’s suspension

HOT SEAT. Mayor Alice Leal 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

The Ombudsman says it did not find compelling reason to reconsider and lift the preventive suspension order against Mayor Alice Guo and two other Bamban officials

MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman has upheld the preventive suspension of Bamban, Tarlac Mayor Alice Guo and two other officials.

Ombudsman affirms Bamban Mayor Alice Guo’s suspension

In an order dated June 18, but was made public only on Tuesday, June 25, Ombudsman Samuel Martires junked the motion for reconsideration filed by Guo, Bamban business permit and licensing officer Edwin Ocampo, and Bamban municipal legal officer Adenn Sigua.

The three appealed the Ombudsman’s earlier order, which commanded their preventive suspension pending the body’s probe into the allegations against them. Guo, in her appeal, asserted that none of her actions broke any laws.

The Ombudsman explained that it did not find compelling reason to reconsider and lift the preventive suspension order on the three officials. Without “delving into the merits of the case and without prejudging the same,” the Ombudsman reiterated its earlier findings that there were sufficient grounds to believe that the evidence against the three is strong.

In explaining the evidence, the Ombudsman cited the following:

  • Guo’s “undeniable business interest” in Baofu, based on the Tarlac Electric Cooperative, Inc.’s statement of account dated March 8, 2024, which was under the mayor’s name
  • Documents showed that Baofu and Zun Yuan operated their business through permits processed by the town’s business permit and licensing office and issued by Guo
  • “Documents on record also show that Sigua knew and had prior acquaintances with Guo since he was the one who notarized each of the Deed of Absolute Sale covering the eight parcels of land that Guo bought that is now the Baofu compound where Hongshen and Zun Yuan operated.”

The Ombudsman also reiterated that preventive suspension is not a penalty, but rather a “preventive measure” to ensure that the accused will not use “his/her position and the powers and prerogative of his/her office to influence potential witnesses or to tamper with records which maybe vital in the prosecution of the case against him.”

On May 31, the Ombudsman granted the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) prayer for suspension against Bamban officials, but only Guo, Ocampo, and Sigua were placed under preventive suspension. They were suspended without pay during the period of the probe until its completion, but will not exceed six months.

The Ombudsman’s order stemmed from the complaint filed by the DILG against Guo and other Bamban officials over grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, gross neglect of duty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

In June, DILG Undersecretary Juan Victor Llamas told Rappler that the interior department filed the complaint with the Ombudsman on May 24. Llamas said their complaint against the Bamban mayor falls under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act or Republic Act 3019. However, the graft complaint was not mentioned in the Ombudsman’s order that ordered Guo’s suspension. 

Aside from the complaints pending with the Ombudsman, the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission and the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group filed a qualified trafficking complaint against Guo and 13 others on June 21. The complaint stemmed from the illegal Philippine offshore and gaming operator (POGO) in Bamban, which was raided by authorities due to allegations of human trafficking, among others.

Qualified trafficking is non-bailable and usually carries the penalty of life imprisonment.

Guo is currently in hot water because of her alleged links to Zun Yuan Technology Incorporated, which was raided by authorities in March this year due to complaints of human trafficking and serious illegal detention.

When the issues on POGOs reached the Senate, lawmakers flagged Guo’s shady background. Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros even 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.