Critics demand abolition of NY PH Independence Day Council

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NEW YORK – Some members of the Fil-Am community were appalled by the conduct of the October 7 Philippine Independence Day Council Inc. (PIDCI) elections, that they are calling on the Philippine Consulate to void the results or abolish the organization.

“Make the election null and void due to unresolved issues,” wrote May Tumulak-Durano, a registered nurse, in her letter to Consul General Tess Dizon-De Vega.

Durano said she agreed to snowballing calls for PIDCI to be “dissolved” and replaced with an organization whose officers come from legitimate groups recognized by the consulate and are elected yearly.

“Let us do what is right. Let us find the answers to questions,” Durano said.

PIDCI is the umbrella organization that stages the annual Independence Day parade on Madison Avenue, said to be the largest outside of the Philippines.

Last year, it was rocked by seismic allegations that its treasurer ran off with an undisclosed amount of money, said to be in the amount of $300,000. Some PIDCI officials have indicated to reporters they are preparing to file charges against former treasurer Violeta Manarang McGough after an audit is completed.

McGough was arrested on October 5 on charges she defrauded her company – not PIDCI — of $900,000 over the years. Because of the missing money, there is renewed curiosity about the organization and the perceived shadowy and secretive way it has been operating through the years.

“Abolishing and replacing an organization, including PIDCI, is not the answer,” said founding president and 2015 Grand Marshal Reuben Seguritan when reached by The FilAm. “We should instead focus on how to resolve our differences and institute reforms.”

His suggestion is for PIDCI and every organization to lay out and publicize the ground rules before conducting their elections. “Engaging the help of the consulate may be a good idea,” he added.

In the last election, the chairman of the Membership Committee, Ronie Mataquel, was bodily removed from the polling place after he insisted on verifying the legitimacy of the proxy voters’ organizations. The verification order came from President Prospero Lim and supported by the Philippine Consulate.

Comelec Chairman Raul Estrellado said there was no need for such a task and asked Mataquel to leave the room. When he stood his ground, Mataquel was carried out – while still seated on a chair - by three security volunteers on orders from Estrellado. This spectacle was shown on news video, angering many in the community.

“Abolish proxy voting,” urged retired public school teacher Lumen Castaneda. “Let all the organizations who are legitimate register again.”

Ner Martinez won the election for President, although his opponent Olivia David has filed a letter questioning the validity of the proxy votes. Of the 96 member organizations, two-thirds are said to be fake clubs run by former PIDCI officials, their families and friends.

“We are now submitting our written request for a complete review of Proxy Voters as indicated in the Notice of Elections to verify validity of all proxies who registered at the Proxy Table. Inspired by our interest to achieve transparency, Team Ollie and supporters in community are now pursuing this request,” wrote David in her formal letter to PIDCI.

PIDCI President Lim urged the community - and the losing candidates, especially - to honor the results of the elections. “The losing candidates should accept the results of the elections. They can always try next year or thereafter. The candidates who won might have won because they were better organized,” he said in a statement.

Lim also said Mataquel was removed because he showed “defiance” and refused to obey the decision of the Comelec chairman. He accused journalists of “disrupting” the free flow of voting by interviewing people who had just cast their ballots.

Seguritan said he is hopeful that the case of the missing funds is an isolated incident.

“I’m confident that justice will prevail in the end,” he said. –