1st in a Series
By Cristina DC Pastor & Marivir Montebon
New York – It began innocently enough.
In the mid-winter of 2017, then President Prospero Lim of the Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc. (PIDCI) went to the bank to check on the organization’s account. It was learned he needed some cash so he could pay the deposit to the Astoria World Manor, the venue for the Mrs. Kalayaan beauty pageant.
Confusion and mild annoyance struck the mild-mannered Lim when the bank turned him down flat because his name did not show up among the signatories to the account.
“PIDCI President Dr. Lim went to the bank to check the account but was not allowed as his name was NOT on the list of signatories.” This jolting revelation was contained in the February 16, 2017 minutes of the PIDCI board meeting, among the financial statements submitted by PIDCI to petitioners Juliet Payabyab and Nieva Burdick on orders of the New York Supreme Court.
Within weeks of this discovery, Violeta McGough abruptly resigned as treasurer and board member citing “health reasons.” This was according to the minutes of the March 30, 2017 meeting. This “triggered an audit” of PIDCI’s financial status as Lim hastened to find a replacement.
What he and new treasurer Nora Galleros found out was that PIDCI’s Form 990 – required of most tax-exempt organizations — was “fraudulently filed,” according to the minutes. Galleros met with a lawyer indicating possible legal action. As stated in the minutes, of July 20, 2017, “Our treasurer Nora had a meeting with a lawyer and we will go forward with the case against our previous treasurer (Violet McGough). As soon as we have the news, the board will be made aware.”
That was a year ago.
Today, as our publications – The FilAm and OSM! digital magazines — report on the events that blew the lid on missing PIDCI funds, PIDCI’s murky financial situation remains a mystery. It’s business as usual within 30-year-old PIDCI, the largest Filipino American non-profit, which is fueled by annual fees from nearly a hundred member organizations: Lim’s term as president has ended and a new set of officers, led by Antero Martinez, had taken over; the Independence Day parade went on as planned on June 3, 2018; and a new PIDCI election is coming up in October. In the meantime, there is a huge amount of cash missing and PIDCI does not seem to be interested in investigating. Equally disturbing is that no one is asking the burning questions: How much is missing? Where did the money go? Why isn’t anyone being held accountable?
This report is first in a series.
On March 30, 2017, following a roll call and a short prayer led by Ronie Mataquel, Lim announced the resignation of McGough in a board meeting. It was learned that the last income tax filed for PIDCI was for the year 2012. Board member Rely Manacay proposed hiring a professional auditor, a motion approved unanimously by the Board.
The same meeting, held at the office of PIDCI lawyer Manuel Quintal, uncovered more troubling news, according to the minutes:
— “Bank statement from the bank is negative so Dr. Pros Lim opened a fundraising account for PIDCI.
— “Check issued to (board member) Joyce Aligarbes for reimbursement for Barclay’s Philippine Heritage Night on 12/14/16 in the amount of 5,000.00 bounced for no funds. Will have to pay Joy as soon as we have funds even if Dr. Lim has to pay it himself…”
How much is missing remains in question. One source estimated the amount to be anywhere between $200,000 and $300,000.
Payabyab and Burdick used this and other organizational concerns to file a case before the Supreme Court of New York calling on PIDCI to exercise transparency and fiduciary responsibility. Justice Barbara Jaffe ordered PIDCI to turn over minutes of their meetings and financial statements of three years to the petitioners; months later, she dismissed their petition to nullify the results of the elections where Martinez won as president.
“Win some, lose some,” was how the petitioners characterized the decision. “She (Justice Jaffe) did not nullify the elections, but she ordered PIDCI to submit its financial documents.”
In the following report, we will examine PIDCI’s financials based on ledgers for the years 2013, 2014, and 2015. It will show how the member organizations’ fees were spent and how some officers – who insist they are “volunteers” – appeared to be among the beneficiaries. (Featured photo by Boyet Loverita: PIDCI Parade)
NEXT: Where the money went, how it was spent