Howls of protest, 911 call mar NY PH Independence Day council polls
NEW YORK — At an Upper East Side Episcopalian church, some leaders of the Philippine Independence Day Council Inc. (PIDCI) claim election fraud was committed.
The chairman of the Membership Committee was bodily ejected from the polling place, prompting a 911 call. Business cards or photocopies of IDs were accepted as voting ID. Too many proxy voters showed up in the polls. These are just some of the complaints.
Amid howls of protest from losing candidates and their supporters, Consul General Tess Dizon-De Vega inducted Antero “Ner” Martinez of Team Innovators as the new president of PIDCI, the organization that stages the annual Independence Day Parade on Madison Avenue.
Also inducted are the new members of the board Joycelyn Aligarbes, Chris de Guzman, Carmela Paredes, Mateo Reyes, Rely Manacay, Thomas Ludena and Sofia Abad. Everyone, except Abad, belongs to Martinez’s slate.
Dizon-De Vega noted that “emotions ran high.” She said there was a mechanism for filing protests, as she urged the PIDCI leadership – soon to be led by Martinez – to address the concerns of the party led by losing candidate Olivia David.
“In your first meeting, all these concerns should be addressed,” Dizon-De Vega said. It should not wait for the next parade to address the issues, she added, as if giving the PIDCI leadership a deadline,
As the voting was in progress, David’s Team O noted some questionable procedures. One, was the peremptory removal of Membership Chairman Ronie Mataquel from the polling place.
Mataquel was handpicked by PIDCI President Prospero Lim to review the authenticity of the voters’ signatures, a decision that had the support of the Consul General, who is PIDCI’s Honorary Adviser.
Comelec Chairman Raul Estrellado opposed the presence of Mataquel and said he had people in place to double-check voters’ IDs and signatures. Mataquel argued his case before a Board of Resolution composed of lawyers Leopoldo Abad, Manuel Quintal and Felix Vinluan.
The board upheld Estrellado’s decision, and Mataquel was hustled out of the room by three security volunteers. Independent candidate for board member Fernando Mendez called 911 because of Mataquel’s forcible removal, which Mendez described as “harassment.”
David’s team also called attention to some voters showing photocopy IDs and business cards in lieu of the standard government-issued IDs. The Board of Resolution said voters not having the standard photo IDs were disqualified from voting, but this was disputed by some witnesses, who said others with spurious IDs were allowed to vote.
At the heart of Team O’s concerns was the list of PIDCI member organizations, a secret roster composed of 96 grouos, many believe to be bogus. According to those who have seen the list, only about 30 to 35 organizations are considered legitimate and the rest are made-up clubs with no members, no history and no track record of activities.
The FilAm magazine was shown a copy of the membership list where multiple organizations are listed as headed by former PIDCI President Fe Martinez, her family, and close allies. Attempts to purge the list of fake clubs are reportedly being blocked by certain leaders.
Comelec chairman Estrellado insisted that the PIDCI election was conducted fairly and followed procedures stated in the organization’s bylaws. “Wala kaming tinatago, at walang dayaan (We’re not hiding anything; there’s no cheating),” he told the crowd of about a hundred people.
Amidst furious cries of protest, outgoing PIDCI President Prospero Lim called for calm and civility. He urged everyone to accept the results of the election. For candidates who wish to make a complaint, he said the proper procedure is to submit their arguments in writing.
David, who lost to Martinez by 23 votes – 26/49 – said her team would want to review all proxy votes. The team wanted to halt the proclamation, but Dizon-De Vega proceeded to induct the winning officers.
“It’s not my place to pass judgment on complaints and concerns,” said the Consul-General. “We move on, but let’s not lose sight of the issues that must be resolved.”
When asked to comment on his victory, Martinez (no relation to Fe Martinez) exclaimed, “I am happy. All the election jitters are gone.”