Hontiveros' "zarzuela hearing" in the senate irritates Filipino-Chinese

This article is available in Pilipino

Teresita Ang-See, one of the more prominent leaders of the Filipino-Chinese community, rebuked Sen. Risa Hontiveros’ direction of the hearing conducted in relation to the discovery of questionable activities of POGO (Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators) in Bamban, Tarlac. Instead of Hontiveros and Sen. Loren Legarda focusing the questioning on POGO operations, the hearings centered on the personality and nationality of Bamban mayor Alice Guo.

Ang-See called the senate hearing a “zarzuela” or a spectacle to “deliberately push an anti-China and anti-Chinese narrative to an unsuspecting public.” She also called it a “witchhunt” against Guo and crosses lines of “decency.”

“(The hearing) started with an investigation on POGO, which we really, really welcome… But now, it has become a zarzuela. It’s very irritating to see our senators – with so many national problems – going below decency and digging out dirt, digging out about boyfriends, maids and all these things,” she said. It is ironic that such sensitive details and accusations were hurled in the committee hearing for Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality chaired by Hontiveros.

In the last session held by the committee, Hontiveros relentlessly harrassed Guo to force her to admit to being a Chinese citizen, and worse, a “Chinese spy.” At one point in the hearing, Legarda even yelled at Guo to “Go back to your country!”

Ang-See again warned against Sinophobia or racism against the Chinese nation, people and culture, especially as the hearing was conducted after the baseless accusation of an influx of Chinese students (who were also falsely claimed as Chinese spies) at universities in Northern Luzon.

Even other senators reacted to Hontiveros’ conduct of the hearing. Her colleague in the minority bloc Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III himself questioned the investigation’s direction. He said attention should be returned to POGO and unity should be forged for banning it in the country. Any question on Guo’s nationality should be filed with the relevant agency, he said.

Also notable is Hontiveros’ investigation on POGO in Bamban only, as she is seemingly blind to other POGOs, such as its operations in Cavite which is under the protection of the Remulla dynasty.

The League of Filipino Students said that Guo is actually not different from the many politicians who have opened their towns to POGO.

“Mayor Guo welcomed the operations of POGOs because, just like other politicians, she stands to profit from the influx of foreign investments,” the group said. “This is no different from Marcos Jr. pushing for…100% foreign ownership of key industries through economic Charter Change.”

The group also mocked the state’s emphasis on the presence of “Chinese spies” even as it opened the entire Philippines to the presence of American soldiers. It called the Senate show “selective nationalism”.

“We are afraid of Chinese surveillance, yet pay no mind to the US Embassy, a ‘listening post’ of the US National Security Agency (NSA) equipped to intercept and collect private information from phone calls and text messages,” it said.

AB: Hontiveros' "zarzuela hearing" in the senate irritates Filipino-Chinese