By Marivir R. Montebon
“We did not want to take this to court. But we were forced to, because we had been repeatedly ignored
by the newly-elected officials.” Juliet Payabyab
New York City – It is now in the Supreme Court. The Philippine Independence Day Council (PIDCI) is facing multiple petitions before the New York State Supreme Court, compelling it to produce corporate annual reports for 2013-2016, corporate financial books and records, membership list, and to nullify and order new elections.
In addition to PIDCI, respondents named in the case are: Comelec chair Raul Estrellado, newly-elected president Antero Martinez, and Board members Joycelyn Aligarbes, Chris de Guzman, Tommy Ludena, Rely Manacay, Jojo Paredes, Mateo Reyes, Sofia Abad, Nora Galleros, Anthony Bautista, Dora Koltsidis, Vitaliano Rafael, and Levi Tejada, and former president Prospero Lim.
The petitioners, the United Mindoro International and the Philippine Community Center Services for the Aging, filed the petition on November 14, 2017 with the NYS Supreme Court before J. Barbara Jaffe. A notice of hearing is expected soon.
According to Juliet Payabyab, president of the United Mindoro International, the legal action was supported by a strong group of supporters in the Filipino community here. “It was a decision made by a strong group, some are PIDCI’s past Grand Marshalls, past presidents and directors, and community leaders,” Payabyab revealed.
PIDCI president Martinez declined to comment when sought about the Supreme Court petition. “I will not comment on this issue at this time, ” he wrote to this writer in an email.
PIDCI is the largest Fil-Am organization in the East Coast that runs the Philippine Independence Day Parade annually in June since it was organized by the Philippine Consulate General of New York in 1990 until it became a separate and legal entity in 2002. PIDCI needed to publicly present an audited finance report, from 2013-2016.
The IRS revoked its 5O1 (c) 3 status for failure to file the return of organization exempt from income tax for three consecutive years. Many community leaders, including those who have had served as PIDCI officials, said that PIDCI needed to straighten up and release financial reports as well as being transparent on its membership and conduct of elections, in the interest of public trust.
“We did not want to take this to court. But we were forced to, because we had been repeatedly ignored by the newly-elected officials. We wanted PIDCI and its Board of Directors to comply with its fiduciary duties, the PIDCI bylaws, and the NY not-for-profit corporation law. We also want a better election process and audited annual reports. This has nothing to do with friendships. It is our duty to do the right thing,” Payabyab explained.
Payabyab, an active Filipino community leader, is a PIDCI incorporator and had been involved with the organization since 1990 with various official capacities. She ran for Board Director in the October 7, 2017 elections but lost, along with her team headed by Olivia David who ran for president.
The PIDCI elections held at the Episcopalian Church of the Holy Trinity in lower Manhattan, was marred by controversies as PIDCI membership chairperson Ronie Mataquel was prevented from verifying the identity and signatures on the proxy forms by the Comelec. He was physically removed from the election premises, upon the order of the Comelec chair Estrellado. Mataquel remained seated on a chair to perform his duties upon the instruction of then PIDCI president Dr. Prospero Lim.
Lim however gave in to Estrellado who decided to remove Mataquel from the election premises because, as he told members of the press covering the elections, he already assigned election volunteers to check on voters and their proxies.
After the votes were cast and official canvassing, presidential wannabe Olivia David and Payabyab protested and demanded to see the list of members and the proxy forms. But Lim and Estrellado did not heed to their protests and proceeded to proclaim the winners.
Following the instruction of Lim to file their complaints before the newly-elected officials, Payabyab said that her team had sent Martinez their letter request seeking for a re-validation of the membership and proxy lists three days after elections, on October 10 and then a follow-up on October 30, 2017.
Payabyab said the two letters were ignored and that there was no acknowledgment receipt of these. In November, her team had sought the help of Consul General Tess De Vega in order to compel the newly elected leaders to take action. Still there was none, alleged Payabyab.
In a separate interview in November, De Vega said that she had advised Martinez to seriously take care of the financial problems of PIDCI as well as its need for transparency. She has reiterated the same advice during the October elections. With the recent legal action, the PIDCI leadership should be compelled to do its duties. (Featured photo is PIDCI president Ner Martinez and Olivia David during the PIDCI 2017 elections forum sponsored by the FilAm Press Club of New York.)