The verdict is in: No winners in a lawsuit but the community

by Ricky Rillera

NEW YORK – In every lawsuit, a judge rules. And the verdict could favor one or the other party. But this time, just like in a previous case, the only winner is the community.

After the presentation of allegations, rebuttals and oral arguments, Judge Barbara Jaffe of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, denied the petition of the complainants and dismissed the case on May 29, 2018.

The complaint was filed in November 2017 by United Mindoro International, Inc., Juliet Payabyab, Philippine Community Center Services for Aging, and Nieva Burdick against the Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc. (PIDCI) and its individual officers.  They sought the intervention of the court to nullify the election of October 7, 2017, and direct the holding of new elections.

In a three-page decision, which cited previous several similar cases brought to court that favored respondents, Judge Jaffe said “when a private or non-governmental entity provides internal procedures for the resolution of dispute and grievances, a party’s failure to avail itself of and exhaust those procedures before resorting to judicial intervention is fatal to the judicial proceeding.”

In Article III, Section 2 of PIDCI by-laws, it reads: “The intervention of courts of law for redress of grievances shall be sought only after all procedures and remedies provided for in these By-Laws, its amendments, and Policy Manual had been exhausted.”

In its response to the complaint, PIDCI said: “A grievance and Dispute Resolution Committee receives complaints and settles disputes and protests between and among member organizations or individuals, officers, and directors, involving or affecting its affairs or complaints against it.”

Jaffe’s decision concluded that “Absent in any indication in the petition or motion papers that petitioners exhausted the internal administrative remedies for resolving grievances, or that they or explain their failure to do so, this proceeding is premature and petition is dismissed.”

Ner Martinez, PIDCI president, was relieved on learning of the news. “The news is a breath of fresh air and has certainly boosted the energy of the Board of Directors, officers, volunteers and supporters of PIDCI. I encourage everyone to join us in the parade this Sunday, June 3. This is our time to shine and be proud of our community and our heritage,” he said.

Martinez acknowledged that the lawsuit has certainly been divisive but at the same time, a reality check. “I have always maintained that as the new administration comes, we will exert our best efforts to improve and correct whatever is needed to be done. We will strive to reach our goal to make the PIDCI the organization of choice in our Fil-Am community. We owe it to our member organizations,” he told the Philippine Daily Mirror.

Despite that lawsuit and the challenges that followed in organizing the annual event, PIDCI said that it was not deterred but redoubled its efforts and persevered to accomplish the various activities it had planned. “A positive outlook, laughter, and smiles despite the hurt are infectious. They bring more people in,” said Martinez. “At the end of the day, we are only here to serve our beloved community. That’s what matters most.”

Meanwhile, Lara Gregory, the lead counsel for the petitioners, United Mindoro and Philippine Community Center Services for Aging stated: “The petition has always been about requiring transparency and accountability on the part of PIDCI. Petitioners are vindicated that because of the case, PIDCI has finally produced several years worth of financial records. To the extent that it will allow all members of the Filipino community to celebrate Philippine Independence in whatever manner they may choose, petitioners welcome the timing of the court’s decision on the election issue.”

Manny Quintal, PIDCI general counsel, said: “The case has been laid to rest by the court. Let us give the parties peace and time to reflect on their respective actions. Meanwhile, let us join and enjoy all the forthcoming events in celebration of what is good in our Filipino culture and ancestry.”

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