Who pocketed Pinoy group’s missing $300,000 funds?

By Alex P. Vidal

“When you don’t take a stand against corruption you tacitly support it.”

—Kamal Haasan

SIXTEEN million and five hundred pesos or P16,500,000 in equivalent to Philippine money based on the current exchange rate to $300,000, the funds of the Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc. (PIDCI) that reportedly went missing since 2017.

There has been no clear explanation what happened to the funds, where it went and how it disappeared.

The money could be used to feed hundreds of thousands of hungry children, build shelters for the poor, or buy medicines for the sick in the Philippines.

PIDCI is a New York City-based non-profit organization incorporated on February 14, 2002, known for the biggest Philippine Independence Day Parade outside the Philippines held first Sunday of June along Madison Avenue in midtown Manhattan.

PIDCI has been in existence under the tutelage of the Philippine Consulate General New York.

It is believed that without the Philippine Consulate General New York, the PIDCI is inutile.

PIDCI has been able to raise funds through the endorsements of whoever was assigned as the consul general.

In other words, the PIDCI and the Philippine Consulate General New York has been complimenting each other in the implementation mostly of cultural activities.

Their relationship can be likened to that of “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine” in as far as Philippine Independence parade and other cultural activities were concerned.

Kalotay likod. Hungitay kag intu-anay. Beso-beso and ballroom dancing. Sweethearts in many transactions and activities.

If the consul general was corrupt and tolerated any monkey business, “everybody would be happy.”

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Years ago, I lost my respect for one consul general who hosted a lavish party for the who’s who of the community who were mostly dressed in white, some of whom PIDCI bigwigs and showbiz scalawags, while there was calamity in the Philippines and people lost their homes and loved ones.

“Many in the community are angry. They want to see individuals held accountable (for the missing $300,000),” Cristina DC Pastor, a respected Filipino-American journalist, wrote in the New York-based FilAm, news partner of INQUIRER.net on September 29, 2017.

“Former Treasurer Violeta Manarang McGough has resigned, citing health reasons. PIDCI President Prospero Lim accepted her resignation. An independent investigation is said to be in the works, but the results have yet to be released.”

According to Pastor, the “PIDCI has had a long and troubled history.”

“It began in 1990 as an informal, ad hoc group, PIDC, assisting the Philippine Consulate in mounting the annual parade,” wrote Pastor.

“It became an incorporated organization, PIDCI, in 2001. It adopted a constitution and began to elect a set of officers, who enforce a set of bylaws. The consulate was reduced to an advisory role.”

She added: “PIDCI began to raise funds to ‘organize, produce, execute, manage, direct and present’ the annual celebration of Philippine Independence in New York City. They hold the following fundraising events: the Independence Day Parade; Street Fair and Cultural Festival; Mrs. Kalayaan and Diwa Ng Kalayaan Pageants; PIDCI Grand Marshal Gala; and the Philippine Independence Ball.

“Many in the community have called for oversight of PIDCI’s financial reporting,” Pastor further wrote. “Greater transparency and the missing money, estimated to be in the amount of $300,000, are the big issues in this year’s (2017) election.”

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“There’s a lot of rumor going on about some hundreds of dollars missing and the public should know about it before another election. I am afraid that the issue will be buried under six feet of documents again because those who are running are friends of friends of the top echelon of PIDCI. Please insist on the reporting of finances before the election, otherwise it will be the same problem again,” Pastor had quoted Lim as complaining.

Madamu nga kababalaghan ang naga kalatabu sa mga organizations in the Filipino community in New York City. One of them is the PIDCI. And the Philippine Consulate General New York has been reportedly aware of this.

It’s not clear why the Philippine Consulate General New York has not sanctioned or severed ties with this controversial group despite the alleged anomalies attached to the group’s name.

I have a suggestion for the Philippine Consulate General New York: Why not require the PIDCI to submit a clean bill of financial health (meaning, it must first show it can police its own ranks) and severe ties with this controversial group if they can’t account for the alleged missing funds?

We don’t want the public to suspect there’s an “unholy” alliance if the love affair isn’t “regulated.”

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo.—Ed)

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