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Hontiveros says Ombudsman is right to place Alice Guo under preventive suspension

Courtesy: Mayor Alice Leal Guo/Facebook
Macon Ramos-Araneta & Rio N. Araja

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday welcomed reports that the Office of the Ombudsman ordered the preventive suspension of Bamban, Tarlac Mayor Alice Guo, who has been linked to illegal Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) in the town.

“Rightfully so. The first time we visited the raided POGO hub in Bamban, Tarlac, I already appealed for the preventive suspension of Mayor Alice Guo,” the Senate Deputy Minority Leader said in a statement.

“We also received information that she tried to obstruct the ongoing investigation immediately after the POGO was raided. This should have already warranted a suspension. We only hope this is not too late,” she added.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires signed an order dated May 31, placing Guo and two other municipal officials of Bamban, Tarlac under a six-month preventive suspension in response to a formal complaint filed by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

“Given [the] respondents’ power and authority, there is a strong probability that they may influence witnesses or tamper with any evidence material to the case,” the Ombudsman said in the nine-page order.

Hontiveros is convinced that Guo has ties with POGO despite her denials. She has been investigating the mayor in aid of legislation through the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality.

“I look forward to our Executive Session soon. I expect that we get more enlightened on the actual role that Alice Gup plays, not only in the POGO industry, but also the threat it poses to our national security,” the senator said.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian also considered the decision of the Ombudsman “a move in the right direction.” He said this would allow authorities to investigate Guo freely without fear of a cover-up while she is in office.

“Any government officials suspected of any wrongdoing should be thoroughly investigated and held liable if found guilty,” noted Gatchalian.

He said all elected and appointed government officials and personnel should adhere to the highest ethical standards and conduct themselves with integrity, accountability, and fairness.

Even with the filing of charges against Guo, Gatchalian said the Senate remains committed in fleshing out details relating to the establishment of a POGO hub in her town suspected to be involved in transnational crimes such as money laundering and human trafficking.

Preventive suspension is imposed under the Local Government Code “when the evidence of guilt is strong and given the gravity of the offense,” according to Philippine jurisprudence.

Under such conditions, the suspended public officials are barred from performing the functions of their office and do not receive salary for the time being. But this does not indicate their loss of title and position. That will only apply when they are found guilty of the charges against them.

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