Martinez being interviewed by the media after taking his oath of office as PIDCI president last October. | Photo credit: Ricky Rillera/PDM
NEW YORK – Yes, Virginia, it is happening again! Whenever someone loses in an election, judicial intervention is sought. But this time around, it is more than just about membership issues.
The Philippine Independence Day Council Inc., (PIDCI) was slapped with a lawsuit following the outcome of its annual elections on Oct. 7 last year.
Besides PIDCI, named as respondents are all current board members including its former immediate president Dr. Pros Lim. Board member Ronnie Mataquel was excluded in the lawsuit.
Juliet Payabyab of United Mindoro International, Inc., who lost in her bid to become a director, and Nieva Burdick of Philippine Center Services for Aging, filed a case against PIDCI on November 24, 2017. According to court documents, their petition cited four causes of action, namely:
1. Directing the immediate production of the list of records containing the names and addresses of all members for the years 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, proxies for the Oct. 7, 2017 elections, books and records of account (receipts and revenue, balance sheet, profit and loss statement, bank account statements from 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and minutes of the proceedings of its members, board and executive committee;
2. Directing the respondents to immediately produce and file the return for tax-exempt corporation (Form 990);
3. Adjudge the members of the PIDCI Board guilty of gross negligence in failing to file the return for tax-exempt corporation and causing the revocation of the tax-exempt status of PIDCI; and,
4. After hearing, declare the elections null and void for lack of notice and wide-spread irregularities and direct the holding of new elections.
Judge Barbara Jaffe of New York Supreme Court heard the case on Jan. 10 and Fil-Am lawyers Lara Gregory (for the petitioners) and Manuel Quintal (for the respondents PIDCI, et. al) presented their arguments. Before proceeding further, according to Quintal, Judge Jaffe told them to draw up a stipulation which they can both agree on and present it to her. The judge subsequently signs off on it.
Ner Martinez, PIDCI president, in a statement to the Philippine Daily Mirror, said: “The stipulation was agreed upon by the parties voluntarily and NOT something the court imposed on the parties.”
Reached for comment, Payabyab said: “The order of the judge is an affirmation of the rights of the members to transparent and accountable leadership.”
“When there is blatant lack of accountability and transparency,” Payabyab said, “as indicated by the lack of a PIDCI annual report since 2013, there should be no hesitation on our part to demand and compel it.”
The stipulation agreed to by both parties, which Judge Jaffe signed, include the following:
• Certified copies of financial books, revenue, ledger, balance sheet, profit and loss statements for the years 2013, 2014, 2015 and draft of return for 2016;
• Membership lists containing names and addresses of ALL members qualified to vote;
• Minutes of the meetings of the Board for 2017 to present.
• Petitioners acknowledge receiving a copy of tax returns for 2013, 2014, 2015.
• Respondents acknowledge that they are no longer in possession of the proxies. Petitioners reserve the right to inquire about the claimed lack of possession of said proxies for the Oct. 7, 2017, elections.
Martinez said: “We believe that both parties did what had to be done in order to foster understanding within the community. After all, we still aim to have a memorable celebration of the commemoration of the declaration of Philippine independence.”
He also expressed hope that “all parties concerned will strive to ensure a successful commemoration of Philippine independence and promotion of Philippine culture and heritage.”
“There was no other scheduled hearing,” said Quintal.
In the meantime, it is anticipated that Judge Jaffe may decide to nullify the results of the election and if a new election should be held or not based on documents submitted to the court by both lawyers.
PIDCI is an offshoot of an ad-hoc organization called Philippine Independence Day Council (PIDC), which began in 1989. Its main purpose then was to hold a simple mini-parade around 45th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues with the involvement of community organizations. It was to commemorate Philippine Independence by promoting Filipino culture and heritage. There were no elections then – an overall chair volunteered along with other people who offered to assist in the celebration.
Due to its impact and success over the years and the participation of many more organizations, it officially became PIDCI after its incorporation in 2002. This was a time when the election of a president and a set of directors came to life along with its bylaws.
PIDCI evolved as a formal umbrella organization of Filipino American associations on the East Coast. It became a seat of politics, power, and influence.
(Next story: Part 2: Behind lawsuits)