The House Committee on Justice on Tuesday, June 15, tackled the application of two businessmen engaged in offshore gambling for naturalization.
1-PACMAN Party-List Representative Enrico Pineda pushed for the approval of his two House bills seeking to grant Philippine citizenship to two Chinese individuals who turned out to be executives in a Philippine offshore gaming operator (POGO) business.
Zheng Yu Zu has been residing in the Philippines since 2015, while the Gaoming Qiu has been in the country since 2010, said Pineda, who disclosed that both were affiliated to their partylist.
One of them was a “very good friend” of Senator Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao, he added.
Asked by House Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez, the Chinese nationals confirmed that they are currently working in the POGO industry and that they seeking to be granted Filipino citizenship “to invest”.
This was not mentioned by Pineda, who instead touted the foreign businessmen’s donations for their constituents and other local governments during times of calamities, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rodriguez inquired if the Chinese nationals paid their taxes to the Philippine government, which the two affirmed. They were asked to submit to the panel their income tax reports.
Bukidnon 2nd District Representative Jonathan Flores, for his part, said there are other ways of investing in the country without applying for a Filipino citizenship.
While the foreigners, through their interpreters, committed to embrace the Philippines’ culture and defend the country during conflicts, the lawmakers also noted their difficulty to communicate in either English or Filipino language.
“My concern is that their inability to communicate in either English or Filipino is — how should I put it — is going hinder whatever steps they may take in embracing or accepting the Filipino culture. I think that would be a very important aspect of truly wanting to become a Filipino citizen: embracing and accepting our language, our culture and our way of life,” Flores said.
Justice committee chairman Vicente Veloso III agreed with Flores, saying in Filipino: “How can you embrace the culture if you are handicapped?”
“That really is a handicap because you cannot speak English, you cannot speak Tagalog,” he later said.
The two also failed to satisfy Rodriguez who quizzed them about their obligations should they be granted the citizenship.
Rodriguez pointed out that the grant of citizenship is the “highest right that could be given to a foreigner”, as they would be given the rights enjoyed by Filipinos.
Pineda defended the Chinese nationals, saying the two have hired tutors to teach them the Filipino language.
The foreigners also disclosed to lawmakers that their wives and children are still residing and studying in China, when, in his bills, Pineda said both have “no intention of residing anywhere and now wishes to live in [the Philippines], which [they have] treated and considered as home”.
In the end, the House justice panel, upon Flores’ motion, deferred the approval of the Zu’s application to give him the chance to prepare and answer properly to their queries.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez, as well as Sorsogon Rep. Evelina Escudero, abstained in the approval of Pineda’s bills.