“It is time for the Philippine Consulate to do its due diligence of creating a check and balance mechanism on PIDCI.”
– Ludi de Asis Hughes
By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City – The new leadership of the Philippine Independence Day Council Inc. will face the steep challenge of making whole again the financial condition and integrity of the organization vis-a-vis the community’s critical attitude on their manner of election which, like their predecessors, had been marred by irregularities.
Several community leaders contend that the problems are huge and beyond them. Ludi de Asis Hughes, May Durano, and Mario Garcia, are now asking the Philippine Consulate General to create a special committee to help straighten out PIDCI’s failure in its financial, membership, and organizational reputation.
Newly elected president Ner Martinez promised innovation and improvement of PIDCI, the biggest Fil-Am organization in the East Coast. He and board directors Jocelyn Aligarbes, Mateo Reyes, Carmeli Garcia, Rely Manacay, Thomas Ludena, Chris de Guzman, and Sofia Abad (lone candidate from Team Ollie David) were elected into office on October 7, 2017. Before Consul General Tess Dizon de Vega swore them to office, she reminded them to take it upon themselves the problems of the organization.
Hughes, president of the New Jersey-based Filipino America Festival Inc. (FAFI) and former PIDCI board director, said in an interview that “it is time for the Philippine Consulate to do its due diligence of creating a check and balance mechanism on PIDCI.”
Still other leaders, like May Durano (BY Tumulak Sr. Foundation Inc.) and former PIDCI official and president of PAFCOM Mario V. Garcia, positioned that the organization be dissolved and focus on responding to its financial liabilities. Durano and Garcia said that the Consulate could run the yearly Independence Day parade together with the existing active organizations of the community.
“Because the Consulate has a list of active and legitimate organizations of the community, it can very well check or verify if there are PIDCI organizations that are bogus. This is in response to the question of transparency of membership,” Hughes explained.
Hughes, a former PIDCI official, said every Filipino’s name is at stake with PIDCI, hence a clean-up must be done. Her view that PIDCI has become more of an event of self-aggrandizement and big family business, than a true expression of a community life in the US, is shared by many.
The PIDCI conducts the annual Independence Day parade in June, fund raising events, and charitable programs. It was organized by the Philippine Consulate in 1990 and later evolved into a private organization in 2002 with a current membership of 97 organizations. Its 5O1 c3 status was revoked by the IRS for failure to submit finance reports, likely from 2013 to the present.
Lumen Castaneda, founder of UNIFFIED, had earlier proposed for the deferment of elections until such time that the financial records of PIDCI were straightened up. Ed Limon shares her point.
Limon, wrote to OSM!: “PIDCI should focus to re-qualify and get reinstated as a Non-profit Tax-exempt organization under the IRC Section 501(c)3 of the IRS. Absent of this re-certification, how and who will be accountable for all the organization’s fiscal responsibilities? The election should have been put in abeyance until this grave matter is resolved. A Special Committee should have been created by the current Board Of Directors to delve into this matter by investigating and recommending the appropriate measures and corrective actions to be taken for reinstatement. The question remains, will the incoming new set of Board of Directors accept the responsibility, including any penalty, e.g. income tax liability, for not filing the required IRS Form 990 which resulted in the organization’s losing its tax-exempt status, that occurred before they assumed their office?”
Former PIDCI official Engr. Danilo Pagsambugan wrote: “PIDCI has been led with self-interests thus leading to marred elections every year by paid memberships and proxies. The organization must be managed for transparency and accountability to each deliverable. Otherwise, everything is gone to waste. Consider this as constructive criticisms and give a chance to the newly elected officers.”
At least three unimpeachable sources have come to OSM! Online magazine alleging that there may be 51 of the 97 current members of the PIDCI which are non-existent or at least created for “election purposes.” This constitutes 52 percent or more than half of the organization’s members. The sources, asking for anonymity, wanted to find out the existence of these groups, mostly in New Jersey and are mostly alumni clubs in classification. Names such as Old Legs of America and Pampanga High School ‘58 evoked questions of authenticity.
PIDCI went through its annual election on October 7 this year at the Episcopalian Church of the Holy Trinity, which was marred by anomalies, foremost of which was the usual mystery of the identities of proxies of voting organizations.
OSM! along with other members of the Fil-Am media in New York was able to secure a copy of the list of member organizations which was earlier denied to media by the PIDCI Comelec chair Raul Estrallado “for it was against their rules.”
During the candidates forum of PIDCI which was organized by the Fil-Am Press Club of New York, presidential candidate Isagani Puertollano alleged that there were only about 35 organizations of PIDCI which are real and active. Puertollano, a former PIDCI president, later backed out from running and supported Olivia David.
To respond to the mounting clamor for transparency, PIDCI president Dr. Prospero Lim instructed Ronie Mataquel, chair of the PIDCI membership committee, to sit in the proxies electoral table during the October 7 elections in order to verify the identities of voters and their proxies. The Comelec however ordered Mataquel to be out of the election premises because he was not necessary. Estrallado said he already assigned volunteers to check on voters and proxies.
Mataquel was physically carried out of the election premises, while sitting on a chair, by three security men upon the orders of Estrallado. Dr. Lim defended his instructions to Mataquel before the Resolutions committee headed by lawyer Manny Quintal. The Committee ruled to the favor of Comelec.
Mataquel was not able to verify the legitimacy of voters and proxies, and the recent elections went through without the presence of the representatives of contending election teams (Team Innovators and Team Ollie David) at the highly contentious area of proxies and voters table.
“If they allowed me to stay next to the proxy table, maybe I can answer the public in regards to the allegations, if there is indeed ‘fly-night-organizations or at least flying voters. At least, I’d have the chance to meet community leaders face to face being the new membership chair. I have the right to know them,” Mataquel said in jest.
The PIDCI is open to all not-for-profit organizations which are Filipino or Filipino-American in composition, has existed for at least one year, with at least 10 members, has a certificate of incorporation, by-laws, list of officers and their addresses and names of members, published records and photographs of activities, minutes of the latest general meeting, and a tax-exemption letter from the IRS.
“There is a need to clean up and reboot membership with legal requirements. Fe Martinez should exclude herself from signing PIDCI’s bank accounts (because she is just an adviser and not a Board member),” said two community leaders asking for anonymity. Martinez served as PIDCI president for three terms. (Featured photo is Consul General Tess de Vega speaking before members of the press during the 2017 PIDCI elections.)