SPECIAL REPORT: Too many pay-to-cash disbursements (3rd in a series)

International tax accountants licensed to practice in the Philippines

International tax accountants licensed to practice in the Philippines

For FREE immigration consultation, CLICK HERE. Use Code: THE FILAM

For FREE immigration consultation, CLICK HERE. Use Code: THE FILAM

red line

Mrs. Kalayaan 2013 Rose Labelle is crowned by Grand Marshal Dr. Dolly Rivera (left) and former Consul General Tess Dizon-De Vega.

Mrs. Kalayaan 2013 Rose Labelle is crowned by Grand Marshal Dr. Dolly Rivera (left) and former Consul General Tess Dizon-De Vega.

By Marivir R. Montebon & Cristina DC Pastor

The 2013-2015 general ledgers contain items that are blatantly questionable, according to financial professionals who reviewed them. Some of these are:

1. In 2013, a staggering expenditure of unspecified materials and supplies worth $36,665.44 was reported; In 2014, unspecified materials and supplies reached $44,529.41; In 2015, it was recorded at $27,969.99.
2. In 2013, temporary help expense reached $15,277; In 2014, it was $14,176.91; and in 2015, it reached $10,332.
3. In 2013, meetings reached $5937.67 and meals at $2955.33.
4. In 2014, unspecified donations/contributions were classified as expense and reflected at $50,095.00; In 2013, donations/contributions were only $249.97; In 2015, donations were only $764.16.
5. Business permits in 2013 were recorded at $28,675.38 but only $5,619.24 in 2014; In 2015, $10,678.24 was the total expenses for business permits.
6. Disbursements of huge amounts of cash (Pay to cash) for meals for 2013-2015.
Examples: On June 12, 2014 meals at New Barbecue Place paid to cash at $600.
On Jan. 1, 2015, large amount of meals paid to cash: $618.39+646+568+420+misc $302=$2554.39 all paid to cash;
7. Pay to Cash disbursements for Temporary Help
On May 31, 2013 Pay to cash $4500, $2500, $1000
8. Pay to Cash for General Services
On June 8, 2015, temporary help was paid to cash at $2500, $1000, $1000, $500 = $5000
9. Pay to Cash Materials and Supplies
May 31, 2013 $880
June 1, 2013 $700
10. Other Pay-to-cash transactions:
May 31, 2013 Cash paid to Bands and Performers $1000
Oct. 8, 2013 Cash paid to Emerald Society Bands and Performers $1500
May 8, 2014 Pay to cash Department of Sanitation $4872.00
July 2, 2014 Pay to cash Renaissance Hotel $2000 and $1000
Aug. 4 2015 Pay to cash Miscellaneous $500
11. Consulting fees to Steve and Christian Estrellado, sons of board member Raul Estrellado at $900 from 2013-2015;
12. On January 28, 2013. Fe Caliolio (who is also Fe Martinez) was paid $1500 under unspecified materials and supplies.
13. Regular release of funds to Vivian Velasco at most $200 per month.
14. Judeline Sion paid $2400 on June 1, 2015 and $800 on June 10, 2015.
15. Jan. 1, 2015 Paid to Margie Wisotsky $195 for materials and supplies and non-cash awards $1000. June 1, 2013, temporary help paid to Daniel Wisotsky $4000.
16. June 28, 2013 Grants payable to Rolando David $2336.00.

Our report raises some questions: Was it a board decision to allow huge pay-to-cash disbursements?

In non-profit organizations, former and current officers are generally prohibited from employing members of their family for whatever services due to conflict of interest. But why were there disbursements made to the sons of long-time board member Raul Estrellado, the husband of former board member Margie Wisotsky, Roland David, the partner of Fe Martinez; volunteer Vivian Velasco, etc?

The Souvenir Program
In 2015, a community leader gave $600 cash to then treasurer Violeta McGough as an advertising sponsorship for a school and her personal business. She was not given a receipt and did not get a copy of the souvenir program.

“I was so ashamed because I could not present anything to the school as a major sponsor. I tried to get my copy but the treasurer is gone and the president kept forgetting to bring me a copy,” she said sharing her story for this report.

Income from the souvenir program is $500 for a full color page in gold paper; a full spread (2 pages) earns $300; a full page earns $125 and half page earns $85 in greeting advertisements. In the ledgers, there is no specific indication of incomes derived from the souvenir program sponsorships.

Street Fair Vendors
The vendors during the street fair every first Sunday of June are the biggest income generators for PIDCI, said a former PIDCI officer.

In 2014, the vendors pulled in $135,885.00 in gross revenues for PIDCI while in 2015, gross income was reported at $127,800.50 in PIDCI’s unaudited report.

Mrs. Kalayaan 2014 Joji Rafael

Mrs. Kalayaan 2014 Joji Rafael

Fundraising Queens
The Mrs. Kalayaan fundraiser is not a beauty or brains contest, but essentially a competition to raise the highest amount of money in order to be crowned Mrs. Kalayaan. Literally, one has to buy her crown and sash to be able to get the title.

For 2015, Mrs. Kalayaan Rosita Mejia Richman said she raised more than $54,000 but on its 2015 report, Mrs. Kalayaan reported only $3590.00 in gross income.

These staggering contributions from the efforts of the crowned beauty queens were not reflected in PIDCI’s financial records, pointing to the fact that certain amount of monies could have been unreported.

Another beauty queen, who requested that she remain unnamed, said she got no receipt, when she handed her cash.

“The PIDCI organizers had told us to remit the money we raise for the grand ball or souvenir programs in cash especially when the parade was getting closer. They prefer to receive cash,” she said.

She realized later that, “I know it has been a stupid kind of fundraiser. I will never do it again.”

Can PIDCI clean itself?
Before the 2017 elections, community leaders, especially those who were once PIDCI volunteers, have voiced out ways to clean up PIDCI. In fact, some thought that the financial reports must be produced and its organization be systematized, hence a moratorium on elections.

Ledy Almadin, a community leader and accountant, said that, “Not-for-profit organizations, especially charitable organizations, whose governing body, most of the time, are the board members and executive officers, have the fiduciary responsibility to its members and public to manage its organization with transparency. All funds in these organizations are solicited from the public and so its finances should be reported to the public in a timely manner.”

Almadin added that the governing body has the responsibility to allocate the donations according to its mission and follow all IRS and state guidelines for its operations and filing requirements. “Failing to file Form 990 for three consecutive years and lose its 501 (C) (3) for a very active organization is a failure in fulfilling its fiduciary duties.”

For the issue on transparency, Lumen Castaneda, founding chair of the teacher’s organization UNIFFIED and who used to be an active PIDCI director, said PIDCI should abolish the proxy ballot and “let legitimate organizations come and vote for themselves to avoid the issuance of proxy votes.” She opined that PIDCI could consider electronic voting to avoid the existing proxy system and counting would be swift and efficient.

Former Diwa ng Kalayaan committee chair Engr. Danilo Pagsambugan wrote to www.justcliqit.com: “That organization must be managed for transparency, accountability to each deliverables, otherwise, everything is gone to waste.” He alluded to “self-interest thus leading to marred elections every year by paid memberships, proxies.”

A former PIDCI director seeking anonymity said that PIDCI elections must have a fully impartial Comelec which should come from the community at large. At present, the Comelec is a member of the PIDCI board. He added the proxy voting system must be eliminated.

Mrs. Kalayaan Filam 2014 Ruth Sityar echoed Castaneda and Pagsambugan in her suggestion to change the proxy voting system. She also asked for transparency in finances by presenting to the public an itemized accounting of all finances contributed to PIDCI.

Mrs. Kalayaan 2013 Rose Labelle asked that PIDCI make the courtesy of inviting past titleholders like her to its Mrs. Kalayaan and similar gigs. “We have made great contributions to raise funds for PIDCI. The least they could do is to invite us for their events,” she said.

Quiet observers in the Filipino community opined that PIDCI has become a “private business for those running it” although it is a public organization engaged in the largest Philippine cultural activity outside Philippine territory.

“Our culture of corruption sucks and it hurts us all. One organization will eventually end up being a private property of one or a few leaders. I’ve seen that naturally happening within our community,” said one local entertainment entrepreneur.

Incumbent president Antero Martinez, during a forum sponsored by the Fil-Am Press Club of New York in October 2017, promised to make PIDCI transparent in his term. His presidency is ending in October. It is not known what changes have been instituted. PIDCI has not replied to repeated requests for comments for this report.

Back to the missing PIDCI funds. Did a PIDCI official run away with the funds? Or was it a scapegoat plan to cover up many years of financial mismanagement? The community deserves an answer.

© The FilAm 2018

Leave a Reply