Consulate mulling takeover of New York PH Independence Day Parade

Consul General Claro Cristobal promises a ‘thorough study’ of the ad hoc committee proposal voiced by community leader Loida Nicolas Lewis. The FilAm/Nonoy Rafael 

NEW YORK — Just when everyone thought the case of the troubled Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc.  has lapsed into limbo, the Fil-Am community voted in a General Assembly to form an independent ad hoc committee to oversee preparations for the June 2019 Independence Day Parade.

That body would remove from PIDCI, which has lost its tax-exempt status to solicit contributions for the popular parade, the right to host the event.

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The surprising turn came about after prominent community leader Loida Nicolas Lewis questioned whether the Consulate was willing to take back management and supervision of the parade through an ad hoc committee, following allegations of financial mismanagement against PIDCI.

“Checks were issued payable to cash without receipts (from PIDCI), a violation of IRS rules for 501(c)(3) organizations,” said Lewis, who is chairperson of U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance.

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As for the proposed ad hoc committee, “It is one important idea and deserves thorough study,” said Consul General Claro Cristobal. “Thus, I’ve begun consultations on it as well as other ideas in earnest. In due course, I will consult with the wider Filipino community in an open meeting,” he said in a statement to The FilAm.

The community’s verdict came on the heels of a court decision that appeared to favor the beleaguered organization.

Respondents Juliet Payabyab (left) and Nieva Burdick. The FilAm/Nonoy Rafael

The Supreme Court of the State of New York dismissed on Feb. 8, 2019 an affidavit from Olivia David who argued that PIDCI – or the Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc. — did not have any mechanism for discussing grievances and complaints from its members.

In her decision, Judge Barbara Jaffe said petitioners “failed to explain” why allegations made by David were absent in their original petition.

“Petitioners thus do not establish reasonable justification for failing to argue previously that they had exhausted their remedies or to submit an affidavit from David,” said Jaffe.

David was the candidate who lost to Antero Martinez in the 2017 PIDCI presidential election. In her defeat, she took a swing at PIDCI for alleged irregularities — mainly the use of proxy voting – during elections.

On May 29, 2018, Judge Jaffe dismissed a petition by respondents Juliet Payabyab of United Mindoro International, Inc. and Nieva Burdick of the Philippine Community Center Services for Aging seeking to nullify the results of the election. Jaffe said that under the law, the matter is best resolved through an internal grievance procedure. David’s affidavit, which the court has dismissed, disputes the existence of such a procedure.

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In 2017, Payabyab and Burdick filed a case urging the courts to compel PIDCI to:

-produce annual reports from 2013 to 2016;
-open the financial books and records;
-nullify the results of the elections of Oct 7, 2017

The court ordered PIDCI to “immediately hand over” its financial records, list of voting members, minutes of board meetings and other pertinent documents, a decision seen as a victory for petitioners.

Burdick rejected the notion that the latest court decision is another victory for PIDCI. Reached by The FilAm, she said, “Did it really favor PIDCI? Their 501(c)(3) stands as revoked.” Payabyab said the community has “long been aware of the PIDCI issues, such as their non-filing of taxes from 2013, 2014 and 2015 that led to the revocation of their tax- exempt status.”

“It was easy for the (community) to vote in favor of the Philippine Consulate handling the parade via an ad hoc committee while PIDCI is fixing (its) unresolved issues,” she said further.

Lawyer for the petitioners, Lara Gregory, said the decision was “about technical rules that have nothing to do with transparency and accountability.”

“It has nothing to do with why a supposed umbrella organization for the Philippine community is run like a private-for-profit company that removes members who press for accountability. That is for the New York State and the federal agencies to investigate,” she said in a statement.

When contacted for a reaction on the ad hoc proposal, lawyer for PIDCI Manuel Quintal said, “No comment.”© The FilAm 2019

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TAGS: community controversies, community politics, Filipino American celebration, Philippine independence day parade
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