"In societies where Robbing Hoods are treated like a celebrity it is but natural to expect political parties to act like a Mafia syndicate" Political Jaywalker "In a nation where corruption is endemic people tend to confuse due process with aiding and abetting criminals" Political Jaywalker "War doesn't determine who is right, war determines who is left" Bertrand Russell "You have just one flash flood of money, you keep your people poor. It's like a time bomb and it's scary" Philippine Lawmaker

FACLA shenanigans: Where is the remorse? Shame?

The press briefing to discuss a court mandated new election for members of the board of the Filipino American Community of Los Angeles (FACLA) was meaningful in that it provided victims of alleged chicanery by the organization's hierarchy a forum to offer magnanimity.

The act of Al Aquino, erstwhile chairman of COMELEC, in seeking closure to yet another shameful episode of FACLA's existence was one sterling quality deserving of accolade from well-meaning members of the community.

Likewise deserving of acclaim was the selfless endeavor of members Cynthia Gatus and Erlinda Guerchoum who had to spend own time and resources and risked hassles petitioning the court if only to obtain equity and judicial ratification of moral uprightness stained by the Nov. 16, 2008 election fraud perpetuated by those the community earlier placed in positions of trust.

The COMELEC is tasked by the bylaws and Election Code of the association to safeguard the integrity of elections. That is the only justification of its existence and unless there is compelling proof that would justify otherwise, it is entitled to the respect, cooperation, and independence that it is entitled to.

In the instant case, the COMELEC had the prerogative to investigate – and the court later upheld it --regarding the circumstances behind the hasty extension of the Aug. 15, 2008, deadline of voting registration that resulted in more than 1,000 new members registered. Ditto with the candidacies of Defendants Rizalino Manuel and Perfecto Tobias who the COMELEC ruled were not qualified.

Not unlike petty potentates unmindful of conventions, and unable to have their way with the COMELEC, Baldonado et al didn't waste time to scheme the dissolution of an otherwise autonomous body, the COMELEC. Apparently the goal was to retain power in FACLA. The brazenness of the act just astounds. <

It was well and good that during the press briefing mentioned at the start the mantra by some speakers was about unity, about closure, about making efforts to refurbish the tarnished image of FACLA.

The word fraud will never be in their vocabulary, repeatedly exhorted Veronica Lo, a member of the supposedly new COMELEC. There were even those who admonished that resources would have been better spent for the advancement of the organization rather than 'wasting' them on litigations.

And so it now appears that plaintiffs Cynthia Gatus and Erlinda Guerchoum and their supporters are to be faulted for seeking the intervention of the court so that justice and fairness would be attained.

Excuse me for asking, but should there have been a display of remorse instead; acts of repentance from those responsible for the grave harm done to the organization and its membership in general and to the COMELEC in particular?

Those individuals the court had duly taken to task for their arbitrary, illegal acts, what now? Where is the shame?

I understand that Mr. Aquino and the others of the original COMELEC are capable of standing for their rights if they want to. Still, I can only feel contempt at those smug functionaries who caused the following to be posted, in effect vilifying the just and the competent:

This Honorable body found that you failed to prove and establish your innocence thru a preponderance of evidence…"

Whoa! Shouldn't it be the other way in our justice system, that is, the accuser has the burden to prove the defendant's guilt, if any?

The cease and desist and termination order has signatures over the names of Adolpino Aguayon, Jose Baldonado, Bienvenido L. Basilio, Basilisa Bigornia, Teresita Elegino, Sally Jamorabon, Francisco Rongavilla, Fender Santos, and Enrique Songalia. There were other names in the list of directors but were conveniently marked absent. Such were the pretentious factotums the court justly repudiated.

The FACLA stationary carries the name of Lorenzo Miranda, Jr., Esq., as legal counsel. He is also the attorney on record for Defendants Jose Baldonado, FACLA, Rizalino Manuel, Terry Herrera, and Ben Basilio. For the plaintiffs, Marty Rudoy.

So, now, how must one mollify the unjust humiliation inflicted upon the persons of Mssrs. Aquino, Domingo, and Salazar and their families? How come they incurred such harsh and unjust treatment when all they did was respond to the call for honest, voluntary public service?

The judge said in no uncertain terms that the act of the board in disbanding the COMELEC was illegal. Well, then, was it prompted by ignorance or malice or both? And why is it that the Aquino-led COMELEC, even with the resounding vindication by the court, is being sidelined in the conduct of the new election mandated by the same court?

In this connection, it behooves upon the members of the newly constituted COMELEC to take the honorable option of reaching into their respective consciences regarding this yucky state of affairs.

Our community

At this instance it may be pertinent to put into perspective the reason why many of us left the comfort of family and friends in the homeland and seized at the chance to come to this foreign shore. In addition to the pursuit of better opportunities for ourselves and the future generations, many of us had dreamt of a life freed from the widespread corruption and dishonesty that pervade the body politics back home.

What had been going on in FACLA is reminiscent of something we want to get away from our lives. The officers and members of the FACLA board who may be responsible for its dishonest governance have clearly lost ethical moorings and brought anguish and shame to our community. Notch that one reason why membership had plummeted sharply all these years.

Still it is possible that some of the members of FACLA would feign indifference and look the other way despite these serious wrongdoings perhaps because of friendship or convenience or some other reasons personal in nature. In that sense they would be equally guilty of these venal deeds.

As members of an upright community, however, our allegiance should be for the larger good. We owe it to our children to despise a culture of dishonesty. Those who had betrayed and brought dishonor to our good name as a people should be chastised accordingly. Forgiveness is only for the contrite.

Dionesio C. Grava - Part-time community journalist based in Los Angeles and editorial writer at Forum Asia.

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