Court rules in favor of PIDCI; case of missing funds still unresolved

A joyous mood during the May 30 PIDCI community meeting. Photos by John Alberto

A joyous mood during the May 30 PIDCI community meeting. Photos by John Alberto

By Cristina DC Pastor

The Supreme Court of the State of New York dismissed on May 29 the case against PIDCI, a decision that was received with muted rejoicing by officers of the Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc. during their recent community meeting.

While the decision of Justice Barbara Jaffe appeared to be a victory for PIDCI, it did not rule on the merits of the complaint filed in December 2017 by petitioners Juliet Payabyab of United Mindoro International, Inc. and Nieva Burdick of the Philippine Community Center Services for Aging. The judge said that “petitioners failed to exhaust the internal administrative remedies for resolving grievances” and therefore “this proceeding is premature and the petition is dismissed.”

The judge cited a Not-for-Profit Corporation Law stating that corporation by-laws usually provide a Grievance and Dispute Resolution Committee that receives and settles complaints. PIDCI has such mechanism in its by-laws but it was not used fully by the petitioners to resolve its complaints.

The petitioners went to court to compel PIDCI to:

-produce annual reports from 2013 to 2016;
-open the financial books and records;
-nullify the results of the elections of Oct 7, 2017

The court decision did not discuss the merits of each charge, but only ruled on the procedural requirements it said the petitioners did not comply with.

PIDCI President Antero ‘Ner’ Martinez (right) and Vice President Rely Manacay

PIDCI President Antero ‘Ner’ Martinez (right) and Vice President Rely Manacay

Giovanni Alo, counsel for the petitioners, said in a statement, “The decision on the election does not come as a surprise because the main focus of the petitioners has always been accountability and transparency and the fact that the court practically ordered PIDCI to produce the financial records is to us already a vindication of the petitioners,” he said.

Some leaders of PIDCI said they expected the court to rule in their favor. In previous lawsuits, they said the decision has always been for members to resolve their differences among themselves. “You are one community, dapat mag-uusap-usap kayo. This is more of the same,” one of them said.

PIDCI was gladdened by the decision because it was issued less than a week before the June 3 Independence Day parade on Madison Avenue, thus buoying up the spirit of its supporters.

The FilAm learned that petitioners are meeting to plan their next steps. Filing a motion for reconsideration or a rehearing and appealing the decision are legal mechanisms open to them, and they want to make clear to the community the court decision “is not the end for us.”

In the meantime, the case of PIDCI’s missing funds remains an open secret. It is unclear how the organization will deal with this alleged theft following the Jaffe decision.

In a press conference a week earlier, lawyer Manuel Quintal has said PIDCI has not yet filed charges against a former official who resigned for health reasons after funds were reported missing. There are many factors to consider in filing a case, he said.

“It’s not just a matter of trying to file it and in the end you don’t get anything,” he said. “You just wasted money filing it and paying for those expenses. There are factors we should consider. Anong mangyayari pag nagfile ka? Anong mga gastos ang dapat mong bayaran? Anong mangyayari sakaling ikaw ay manalo? Makaka kolekata ka ba? Yung mga bagay na yon ay dapat iniisip natin, bago tayo mag-file ng kaso.”

Of the decision, Quintal told The FilAm 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,” he said.

© The FilAm 2018

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