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Home Sections NaFFAAgate NaFFAA's $50K Deal with Philippine Firm Raises Questions About Money Laundering
NaFFAA's $50K Deal with Philippine Firm Raises Questions About Money Laundering PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - NaFFAAgate
Sunday, 13 September 2009 21:19

The News UpFront: (TOP STORY) as of Sunday, September 13, 2009 
 

T he creative minds of NaFFAA's top leaders were busy at work looking for deals that could bring in the money. One such deal comes to light as allegations of improprieties refused to be addressed by NaFFAA officials. In the East Coast, NaFFAA was reduced, overnight, to a mere marketing arm of a Philippine telecommunications giant in exchange for $50,000. The same thing might have happened in the Pacific Northwest, specifically in Seattle, Washington, where the same company handed out $25,000 to the NaFFAA there. The big issue wasn't so much the monies fed to NaFFAA as the possible violations of criminal and civil laws that put NaFFAA's non-profit status in jeopardy. "We are not in the business of selling phone products," says a top official, indicating the seriousness of the situation. One-hundred-three-thousand-five-hundred dollars went to an elderly NaFFAA couple. Another $1,000 to a NaFFAA chair. Now, $50,000 to a regional chapter. Still another $25,000 to yet another chapter. When does the counting end?

 

 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

 

 

POTENTIAL CRIMINAL AND CIVIL VIOLATIONS

NaFFAA's $50K Deal with Philippine Firm Raises Questions About Money Laundering

 

 

 

By ROMEO P. MARQUEZ

 

The author is a member, Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) and the Asian-American Journalists Association (AAJA)

 

S AN DIEGO – For $50,000, a regional chapter of the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA) has contracted a marketing deal with a Philippine communications firm which might have violated laws against money laundering and compromised the organization's non-profit status.

 

The venture with SMART Communications -- apparently unrecorded in NaFFAA's national office and probably unknown to the company's headquarters in Manila -- is the latest to surface in the past five weeks of intense media scrutiny following allegations of wrongdoing and financial improprieties in NaFFAA.

 

It involved the purchase of a gadget called "plug n talk" from SMART, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) and the country's leading wireless service provider. NaFFAA then undertook to sell the gadget to its members.

 

A service product labeled as "plug n play" costing $40.00 apiece was also launched in Seattle last year during NaFFAA's Eighth National Empowerment Conference.

 

SMART, whose status to do business in the United States is under question, donated $25,000 to that event though it isn't clear if the NaFFAA chapter there marketed the kit which may be one and the same as the "plug n talk".

 

The venture with SMART seems to contravene with NaFFAA's status as a 501 (c) (3) entity. It potentially exposes the organization to possible criminal and civil violations, including money laundering, according to informed sources familiar with the arrangement.

 

"NaFFAA Region One, under the leadership of Regional Chair J.T. Mallonga, has a signed contract with SMART Philippines for the distribution/sale of its products to member community organizations," NaFFAA communications director Jon Melegrito admitted in a statement to this reporter.

 

Region One comprises the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont which have an appreciable number of Filipinos. As a consumer market, the region has rich potential.

 

In consideration of the contract, according to Melegrito, SMART Philippines "advanced to Region One the amount of $50K for the purchase of said plug n talk devices."

 

Company officials in Manila have not responded to questions as of this writing.


The money has not been reported in NaFFAA's official financial statements. Whether it has been spent for the purpose or disbursed to defray other costs was not immediately clarified.

 

Melegrito, however, makes the assurance that "the $50K is a restricted fund and cannot be utilized for any other purpose".

 

NaFFAA national treasurer Lourdes (Ludy) P. Corrales has admitted that the deal looked questionable.

 

"This transaction did not get recorded in NaFFAA National and I did not want to know anything about it because we might get into trouble," she explained in a letter to NaFFAA chair Greg Macabenta.

 

"We are not in the business of selling phone products," she said in the same letter, a copy of which was obtained by this reporter from concerned NaFFAA officials who asked not to be identified.

 

"Had the $50,000 been donated to us (meaning NaFFAA national), well and good," Corrales wrote.

 

"But to pass the money through NaFFAA Region 1 (much like money laundering) and someone outside of NaFFAA handling the money to buy and sell inventories, I do not feel comfortable with that arrangement," Corrales added.

 

The $50,000 guaranteed SMART's access to the region's member organizations and their individual members in the nine East Coast states. Corrales called it a "pass through to NaFFAA".

 

The news development could further boost assertions of wrongdoing in the organization that claims to be the voice for all Filipinos in the US.

 

Last month, new disclosures from documents kept hidden for seven years and recently unsealed showed that former NaFFAA chair Alex Esclamado and his wife Lourdes M. Esclamado, currently assistant national treasurer, received a total of $103,500 from NaFFAA.

 

An advertising agency, the Minority Media Services Inc., owned by incumbent NaFFAA chair Greg Macabenta also got at least $1,000. Lorna Dietz, an advertising solicitor in the employ of Macabenta, has stated that Filipinas magazine, also owned by Macabenta, would not have financial problems if it was true that Wells Fargo donated $300,000 to NaFFAA.

 

In fact, Wells Fargo granted NaFFAA a total of $300,000, for which Alex Esclamado was paid a commission. # # #

 

 

This “Breaking News” was sent by Romeo P. Marquez, editor, Philippine Village Voice, San Diego, California. Mailing address: P.O. Box 2118, La Jolla, CA 92038.

 

PHILIPPINE VILLAGE VOICE - Redefining Community News
BREAKING NEWS -  Exclusive

Volume 3, Issue No. 25 / News Without Fear or Favor /


. . . A community service of
San Diego's Philippine Village Voice (PhilVoiceNews@aol.com or at 619.265.0611) for the information and better understanding of the public . . .

 



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Last Updated on Sunday, 13 September 2009 21:28
 
Comments (5)
1 Monday, 14 September 2009 20:49
In a message dated 9/14/2009 8:32:43 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, PhilVoiceNews writes:


-----Original Message-----
From: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ;
Sent: Mon, Sep 14, 2009 8:15 pm
Subject: Re: NaFFAA-SMART Com Tieup

I don't deal with scum like you.
Hi Greggy or Gregorio,

You're the bigger idiot! So, why did you write me? You want me to recant my story? No way, Gregorio. How's Lorna Dietz by the way?

Romy Marquez



-----Original Message-----
From: gregorio macabenta
To: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Sent: Mon, Sep 14, 2009 6:47 pm
Subject: Re: NaFFAA-SMART Com Tieup


You idiot I don't deal with scum like you.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
2 Monday, 14 September 2009 20:52
-----Original Message-----
From: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ;
Sent: Mon, Sep 14, 2009 8:15 pm
Subject: Re: NaFFAA-SMART Com Tieup

I don't deal with scum like you.

-----------------

Hi Greggy or Gregorio,

You're the bigger idiot! So, why did you write me? You want me to recant my story? No way, Gregorio. How's Lorna Dietz by the way?

Romy Marquez
3 Monday, 14 September 2009 21:06
From: gregorio macabenta
To: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Sent: Sat, Sep 12, 2009 3:52 pm
Subject: Re: NaFFAA-SMART Com Tieup


Jon,
Be like the rubber band. Ask him again why he hasn't printed our rebuttals of his accusations and why he continues to repeat them. CC all the media. You can see he's admitting drawing his conclusions even before he asks for our side.
Then ask him "politely" if we don't deserve to have our side heard in his "investigative reports" and if the media he sends his "breaking news" to don't deserve to hear all sides of the issues he writes about. This is really a process of tactfully exposing him for what he is.
Greg
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
From: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Date: Sat, 12 Sep 2009 18:12:19 -0400
To: ;
Subject: Re: NaFFAA-SMART Com Tieup



(snipped) I need an assurance from you that you will treat these responses fairly and objectively. (snipped)

Hi Jon,

Thanks for your reply. I have sufficient facts to write my story. Or to be more accurate, I have already written the story and waiting for some answers.

Frankly, I am just giving you and everyone here in this list the opportunity to say whatever they want in relation to my questions. That's being fair.

Any assurance from me will not stop you and others from saying I wasn't objective.The mindset is showing already. I didn't ask you questions with any preconditions to what you're going to say.

As far as I am concerned your response now is just a roundabout way of saying nothing. Thanks and best regards,

Romy Marquez



-----Original Message-----
From: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Cc: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Sent: Sat, Sep 12, 2009 2:27 pm
Subject: Re: NaFFAA-SMART Com Tieup


Hi Romy,

I will be more than happy to respond to your questions. However, with all due respect, I need an assurance from you that you will treat these responses fairly and objectively. I have noted with dismay that you continue to disregard some of my earlier explanations and persist in repeating baseless accusations. Thank you.

Jon

Jon Melegrito
NaFFAA Communications Director
.

In a message dated 9/11/2009 5:59:12 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, PhilVoiceNews writes:
Hello to all,

I'm finishing up a story and I need your response, either individually or collectively, to my questions.

1.How long has it been since NaFFAA engaged in the retail business?

2. From what I understood from the confirmation by Jon Melegrito, NaFFAA region one signed a contract with SMART in return for which it received $50,000. Where is the money now? Why wasn't it reported to NaFFAA national?

3. Independent lawyers contacted for this story said NaFFAA may be potentially guilty of criminal and civil violations -- in addition to violations of its 501 (c) (3) status -- for entering into this business deal with SMART. Did NaFFAA national sanction the contract with SMART? How much money was realized by NaFFAA region one from that arrangement?

4.Did NaFFAA region one and/or NaFFAA national inform the offices of the attorney general of New York and New Jersey about its contract with SMART?

I would apppreciate your responsive answers as soon as possible or within the next 24 hours. Thanks and best regards,

Romy Marquez
4 Monday, 14 September 2009 21:09
Mr. Marquez, you managed to get the goat again of Mr. Macabenta. What really happened between the two of you, considering that a few years back, Mr. Macabenta was your drinking buddy and fellow-womanizing macho, who was fond of goat kaldereta as complimentary pulutan to go along with his free "screw-you-driver."

As I said before, if the national chairman of the NAACP or the OCA (Organization of Chinese Americans) or even the La Raza of the Mexican-American community would answer any journalist with the cuss words that Mr. Macabenta has been using to insult you, that chairman would be forced to resign immediately. Why does Mr. Macabenta always lose his cool when he deals with you? He should have moved to my home region of Be-coolandia, so that he could reply to you with tact, diplomacy and public-relations savvy like most (ahem) Bicolnons do.

Or did Mr. Macabenta reply to your inquiries when he was drinking heavily again? As I have been telling the young man Gregorio, he should better make some Gregorian chants first before he attempts to reply to you. He should act smart, especially since you are asking about the Smart Communications' deal with the NaFFAA.

Better make sure that the next time you send him a question, he is sober, so that he can answer you with the proper dignity and decorum befitting the head of a national ethic federation.

Mabuhay,

Lolo Bobby M. Reyes
Editor
www.mabuhayradio.com
5 Monday, 14 September 2009 21:55
Greg Macabenta writes: You're also a coward

Speak for yourself, Greggy. You're all a bunch of cowards, as you said. Deal with the problem and don't engage in name-calling. Did the money for Filipinas come from Wells Fargo? That is my mission now. Oh Lorna Dietz, how could you have spilled the beans!

Romy Marquez

-----Original Message-----
From: gregorio macabenta
To: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Sent: Mon, Sep 14, 2009 6:56 pm
Subject: Re: NaFFAA-SMART Com Tieup


You're also a coward you scum.

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