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Home Columns San Diego Happenings COPAO Official Claims Being 'Cleared' By Bank, Police Probers
COPAO Official Claims Being 'Cleared' By Bank, Police Probers PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - San Diego Happenings
Monday, 13 July 2009 10:46

The News UpFront: (TOP STORY) as of Monday, July 13, 2009

 

T ime heals old wounds, as the saying goes, but the stench of this five-year-old scandal still hovers over COPAO, the Filipino community's umbrella organization, scarring it forever even as it tries to win back trust and public confidence. A new set of officers that took over in January has yet to redeem the promise of accountability and transparency. A fresh infusion of cash – a windfall (?) from last month's Philippine Independence-Day carnival – has not been disclosed. Media inquiries have been met with sepulchral silence. Meanwhile, a former top official washes her hands off the check forgeries and the missing $27,000. She claims she grieves over the loss and accepts that it occurred during her term. But . . . she tosses blame on others and evades responsibility for what happened. 

 

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THE STENCH OF THE MISSING $27,000 HOVERS: COPAO Official Claims Being 'Cleared' By Bank, Police Probers

 

By ROMEO P. MARQUEZ

 

The author is a member of the Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) and the National Press Club of the Philippines-USA.

 

S AN DIEGO - A former top official of scandal-ridden Council of Philippine American Organizations (COPAO) claimed for the first time that she has been "cleared" by a bank and by the police of involvement in alleged check forgeries that had emptied the association of at least $27,000.

 

The assertion by Mrs. Aurora S. Cudal, a past COPAO president, is the latest to come out of the still-unresolved case, the worst to batter the umbrella organization in its 38th-year history.

 

"Definitely they were not my signatures as established by the Wells Fargo Bank who (sic) had  8 specimens of my signature and the National City Police," explained Mrs. Cudal, who was at the helm of COPAO when the funds disappeared from its coffers.

 

The bank has not spoken about the case since it surfaced in 2005, almost one year after Mrs. Cudal had blocked an audit demanded repeatedly by another officer, Vina M. Phelps. At one COPAO meeting this reporter attended, Mrs. Cudal begged and cried to forego the audit.

 

It wasn't until months later after Mrs. Cudal had exited that the audit was conducted. Among others, it unraveled the disappearance of the $27,000.

 

PHILIPPINE VILLAGE VOICE - Redefining Community News

BREAKING NEWS -  Exclusive

Volume 3, Issue No. 10 / 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. . . . . .

 

 

T he National City Police, which conducted an investigation, has not cleared anyone, either, of those invited for questioning. As a matter of fact, police investigators recommended prosecution of the unnamed parties by the San Diego Country District Attorney's Office.

 

In response to questions during the weekend, Mrs. Cudal appears to have totally reversed herself.

 

She now says: "I did not oppose the audit. I was pushing for the audit but Pastor Romen informed the body that there is no need to meet the demands of Vina Phelps at that time because my term is ending and we have to wait. Besides an outside audit is very expensive".

 

Mrs. Cudal said she was "most unhappy over the loss"  and pointed to her treasurer, Norma DeGuzman, to make an explanation or answer questions. "Ask the treasurer, Norma de Guzman. I don't know where she is right now," she added.

 

Mrs. Cudal, Ms. DeGuzman and (Pastor Romen) Rivera, vice president for finance, were the check signatories. Signatures of any two of the three officials validated the COPAO checks. Mrs. Cudal said she had not held the organization's check books – a responsibility left to Ms. DeGuzman.

 

T he forgeries involved 50 checks, 43 of which carried the alleged signatures of Mrs.  Cudal, and encashed during her term ending in 2004. Mrs. Cudal has disowned the signatures even though Pastor Rivera has vouched that the signatures in question were hers.

 

The disappearance of at least $27,000 may have been pulled through over several months by systematically encashing the checks during the two-year period when Mrs. Cudal was COPAO president.

 

From Mrs. Cudal's new statement, it seemed that she had no knowledge of what was happening in the organization.

 

However, supporters and critics of COPAO could not believe that Mrs. Cudal, a highly-visible functionary inclined to project an active, hands-on management kind of leadership, would not exercise oversight on such a critical issue as money disbursements.

 

COPAO receives annual grants from the County Board of Supervisors and funds its activities from fund-raising ventures such as the holding of beauty contests. The money that vanished may have included some of those grants. # # #

 

* This Breaking News comes from Romeo P. Marquez, editor, Philippine Village VoiceSan Diego, California. Mailing address: P.O. Box 2118, La Jolla, CA. 92038. Volume 3, Issue no. 10, July 13, 2009.

 

  

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Last Updated on Monday, 13 July 2009 10:53
 

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