New Board silent on request to open membership list to determine proxy votes
By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City – Calls are mounting for the Philippine Independence Day Council Inc. to be dissolved, until and unless its organization and finances are straightened out. Quo vadis, PIDCI?
According to Juliet Payabyab, the new PIDCI board did not tackle the letter complaint that they filed concerning a review of the proxy voters in the last elections. Payabyab ran for PIDCI board director, but lost, in the elections last October 7. There was not even an acknowledgment receipt, she noted.
The letter, said Payabyab, was emailed to all concerned Board members on Wednesday by Olivia David in line with the public instruction of Dr. Lim to write a letter complaint to the new Board. David ran for president in the recent PIDCI elections and lost to Antero Martinez.
“There is no reason for them not to honor their own instructions which Comelec and Dr. Pros publicly announced and requested Ollie to submit it in writing. What is next PIDCI? We are waiting for your response and the community as well on this transparency issue,” Payabyab told OSM!.
Newly elected PIDCI president Ner Martinez’s response is being sought as of press time.
Meanwhile, a few members of the Fil-Am Press Club of New York received a letter from Ms. May Durano, founder and CEO of the BY Tumulak Foundation, asking the Philippine Consulate General of New York to facilitate an audit of PIDCI and better yet, dissolve it unless the issues of transparency and financial accountability are finally resolved.
The letter partly reads: “…Transparency is a must in any organization. May I ask why until now we cannot even get an official list of members? Why the secrecy? how can you conduct an election when there are questions that were unanswered. I have a few ideas and I ask you to think about it. First, make the election null and void due to unresolved issues which are pertinent to the recent elections. Second, create a committee to audit the finances of PIDCI. People that are impartial and not in anyway connected to the organization recently and previously. In so doing, PIDCI might be able to certify again ast 501 C3. That brings me to my third or rather Mario Garcia’s suggestion that we dissolve PIDCI. Instead, we can have a yearly committee picked by the Philippine Consulate or selected from active organizations in the community. The committee should represent a part of the Filipino community of the East coast.”
Durano, who once campaigned for a PIDCI presidential candidate but lost, told OSM! that she has had the same experience of being in limbo as to the access and veracity of voting organizations. At one time, she did some phone calling campaigns and was able to talk to someone that she did not know that she was the president of such an organization. “I’d be damned remembering those campaign days. It was a zarzuela,” said Tumulak over FB messenger.
Consul General Tess de Vega still needed to give a response to the letter of Durano and the community’s clamor for her office to be on top of the situation to facilitate the changes on PIDCI.
The proxy system, wherein presidents can designate representatives to vote on behalf of the organization in the president’s absence, has made the elections suspicious because of the lack of transparency to verify their legitimacy to represent the organizations. There are 97 member organizations of PIDCI to date. Several community organization leaders however hold suspect that many organizations were “at least made only for election purposes”.
Lumen Castaneda, UNIFFIED founder and first president, called for the abolition of the proxy system. She wrote to OSM!: ” PIDCI should abolish the proxy ballot. Let the legitimate organizations come and vote for themselves. To avoid the issuance of proxy votes, the organizations should list the name of the president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer. No proxy votes for any of them. If all the four could not come, then the organization forfeits their vote for that election. This is the best solution I can think of to have a clean election.”
Castaneda also added that at least three months before elections, the PIDCI must advertise all its (renewing) member organizations which are legitimate to vote and should not hide them in secrecy.
Comelec chair Raul Estrallado got the flack from people in the community for forcibly sending out PIDCI membership chair Ronie Mataquel from the proxy table in order to check the veracity of proxy voters.
Comelec security men carried him outside the election premises upon Estrallado’s instructions. Pidci president Prospero Lim argued his case with the Resolutions Committee, telling the lawyers that he instructed Mataquel to do the checking.
Estrallado argued that Mataquel’s presence won’t be necessary because he has appointed Comelec volunteers to do the job. The Resolutions committee upheld the Comelec decision. In this year’s election, the conduct has remained mysterious as to the identities of the proxies.
PIDCI is the largest Filipino-American organization in the East Coast which conducts the yearly Independence Day parade in June, fund-raisers, and charitable projects. It began as a committee created by the Philippine Consulate in 1990 and later became a private organization in 2002. It lost is 501C3 status, likely in 2013, for failure to submit finance reports to the IRS. Over time, it has been hounded by questions of transparency and accountability to the Filipino community here.