Unable to tell forest from the trees

Manuel L. Quezon III
5 min readJun 2, 2024


There is Beijing, there are the POGOs, Each Exerting Influence

Almost a century ago but still current in the national bias it projects. Easy, and thus lazy, racism thrives where distinctions aren’t made.

I tried to keep a comprehensive timeline of the POGO issue until 2019, see Readings on POGOs, the Philippines, and Beijing. Now and again I’ve returned to the topic in my columns, whether tangentially (for example, so much easy money also has a potential effect on making cops mercenary hit men) or directly -the main idea is the limits of Chinese influence are shown by the continued operations of POGOs which Beijing wants stamped out- not even Duterte in his prime, could do more than give mere lip service to doing something about the POGOs.

This week’s The Long View:


What’s Guo-ing on

By: Manuel L. Quezon III@inquirerdotnet

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:30 AM May 29, 2024

Much heat but very little light is what observers including this paper’s own editorial yesterday (“ Alice Guo’s secret masters, “ 5/28/24), have described the Senate hearings on Bamban Mayor Alice Leal Guo. Much has been made of the President being puzzled that the Old Boy’s Club doesn’t know her (“I know all the politicians from Tarlac, and no one knows her. We’re wondering where she came from? How did this happen? We don’t know. This should really be investigated.”); but then he is simply the latest chief executive to be presiding over a decaying political system where money is in short supply just when voters are being more mercenary than ever.

According to Berthelsen, “[T]he reason for the mystery [of how Guo could not know so much] may lie in a raid by authorities on property that she was linked to-Hongsheng Gaming Technology Incorporated and Zun Yuan Technology Incorporated. Hongsheng was raided in February 2023 and was replaced by Zun Yuan in the same location. It was then again raided in March 2024 for charges of alleged human trafficking and serious illegal detention. In them, police found a vast online casino, called a Philippine Offshore Gambling Operator or Pogo, which catered to online gamblers in China, and rescued nearly 700 workers, including 202 Chinese nationals and 73 other foreigners who were forced to pose as online lovers …

“Two of the incorporators of Guo’s company Baofu Land Development, the compound where the Pogo firms were located, are Chinese national Zhang Ruijin, who was convicted in April for money laundering in Singapore, and Lin Baoying, who carries a Dominican passport and is also facing charges in Singapore. Guo is also listed as an incorporator in the company, along with Filipino national Rachel Joan Malonzo Carreon and Cypriot national Zhiyang Huang.

“Zhang and Lin were implicated in a money-laundering ring broken up last August by Singapore authorities, who said it was the biggest such case in their history, seizing seized assets totaling more than S$2.8 billion (US$2 billion) including 152 properties and 62 vehicles in Singapore with a total value of more than S$1.24 billion and bank accounts containing more than S$1.45 billion. On Aug. 15, police arrested nine men and one woman, all originating from Fujian province in China, in a case that left Singapore authorities scrambling to determine how to turn off the ability of foreign nationals to push billions through the financial system without detection.”

Adds Berthelsen, “Guo denied knowing about her partners’ background, telling lawmakers [on May 22] that she had only learned about their criminal records through social media posts by a lawmaker the day before by checking them out on the internet …”

Furthermore, “Although Guo was found to have owned half of the land under the Pogo, housed in long rows of buildings just behind her office, she told lawmakers she sold the property, which according to videos on local TV contained a grocery, warehouse, swimming pool, and even a wine cellar. As with the property, Guo says she sold her helicopter and Ford Expedition registered under her name long ago. She told lawmakers that she was ‘not a coddler, not a protector of Pogos.’

For years now I’ve been suggesting that the political interests and thus, activities, of the People’s Republic of China should not be confused with the political and social clout of Pogos who exist in defiance of the Chinese government. The Pogos are, arguably, stronger: Beijing’s requests verging on orders, to Manila, for a crackdown on Pogos never resulted in anything more than cosmetic “busy-busihan” as money talks and Pogos have lavished funds on our upper, middle, and political classes; and since all politics is local, the easygoing spending of Pogos makes them more valuable than presidential patronage or foreign affairs. Investigations so far have been racist in their lazy assumptions and breezy unwillingness to take into account the messy state of the documentation of many Filipinos, the different subgroups among Chinese Filipinos, and differences between Pogos’ and Beijing’s efforts to influence officialdom.

Additional Readings

In 1417 the sultan of Sulu, now part of the southern Philippines, sailed to China to pay tribute to Zhu Di, the third emperor of the Ming dynasty. After the sultan fell ill and died unexpectedly on his way home, the emperor built an elaborate tomb for him in Dezhou, in Shandong province. In recent years that tomb was restored-with financial help from a Chinese-Filipino business leader-and last month trade and cultural groups marked the voyage’s 600th anniversary with a flurry of activities

While the history of friendship between China and the Philippines since the sultan of Sulu sailed to China six centuries ago are worth celebrating, it must also be noted that the journey was that of a subservient vassal. In order for the Philippines to maintain its economic independence from China, the Chinese-Filipinos must remain clear-eyed in defending the interests of the country where they have made their home.

In that article he pointed to a fault line between the established, assimilated, Chinese Filipinos and new Chinese migrants to the Philippines:

More recent Chinese migrants who arrived after 1990, known as the xinqiao, have been gaining notoriety in the news, largely because of perceived links to the illegal drugs flowing in from China. In September last year authorities raided a large methamphetamine lab masquerading as a pig farm north of Manila and arrested seven Chinese nationals linked to it. One Chinese businessman was the subject of a senate inquiry last August as the recipient of about 600 kg (1,323 lbs) of meth shipped out of Xiamen, a coastal city in China. As of 2010 there were 61,372 registered Chinese nationals; many more are believed to be in the country illegally…

The older generations of Chinese-Filipinos, who now hold Philippine passports and speak fluent Tagalog and English, have been quick to distance themselves from the newer migrants. But the mainstream population is not always able to parse the difference. China’s territorial aggression, as well as its economic expansion, have already resulted in widespread distrust of China. The Chinese-Filipinos are seen to be collaborators in China’s incursion into the Philippine economy-and vice versa. Philippine investment in China is still greater than Chinese investment in the Philippines. The nostalgic allegiance of the overseas Chinese has been targeted by Xi, who spent 17 years of his government service in Fujian, where many of the migrants come from.

In the meantime, there is the larger game of the Great Powers.

A must-read: What’s the Endgame for US-China? Analyzing an epic throwdown in Foreign Affairs in ChinaTalk. Related to this, see The China-Russia Military-Economic Gambit in Asia Sentinel.

Originally published at https://mlq3.substack.com.



Manuel L. Quezon III

Columnist, Philippine Daily Inquirer. Editor-at-large Spot.ph. Views strictly mine. I have a newsletter, blog, podcast, and Patreon.