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Aug 17th
Home Columns San Diego Happenings DA May Take Another Look at COPAO's Check Forgeries
DA May Take Another Look at COPAO's Check Forgeries PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - San Diego Happenings
Wednesday, 11 July 2007 07:48

The News UpFront: (TOP STORY) as of Wednesday, 11 July 2007

~~ The San Diego County District Attorney may take a second hard look at the events that led to the unresolved check forgeries totalling 50 and the disappearance of $27,000 from the Council of Philippine American Organization (COPAO), according to an official interviewed by the Philippine Village Voice.



SAN DIEGO - The District Attorney's Office may decide to take a second hard look at the circumstances that led to the 50 check forgeries and the disappearance of $27,000 from the Filipino community's top organization.

"If there's new evidence we would do it," said a DA official interviewed during a press conference on another story called Monday (July 9) by District Attorney Bonnie M. Dumanis at her office in downtown San Diego.

The official looked surprised when told some important documents may have been tampered with or taken out when sealed boxes were pried opened by top officials of the Council of Philippine American Organizations (COPAO) during the time an investigation was underway.

"We're not aware of that," the official said. The name of the official is being withheld by the Philippine Village Voice until such time that an official decision has been made to reinvestigate.

This reporter furnished Dumanis with a folder of news clippings detailing the many unreported activities in COPAO, including the progress in the earlier investigation by the National City police.

Except the Philippine Village Voice, no Filipino publication ever reported the 50 check forgeries and the missing $27,000. Top COPAO officials were generally reticent to discuss the cases.

COPAO president Rita Andrews had made the announcement of the DA's decision several months ago to drop the case owing to what it said was the insufficiency of evidence to pursue it.

The National City Police had recommended to the DA to prosecute the cases after months of investigation. Police probers did not name any suspects.

But Aurora S. Cudal, COPAO president in 2003-2004 when the scandals happened and Andrews' predecessor, admitted that she was questioned by the police and was even asked to provide specimens of her signature. She obliged with a hundred signatures.

Cudal, also a former chair of the NaFFAA chapter in San Diego and now an "associate editor" of the entertainment paper the Filipino Press, and a "specialist" at the Kalusugan Community Services, also confessed that her signature, or what was supposed to be her handwriting, appeared in 43 of the 50 checks allegedly forged.

COPAO had three check signatories, namely, Cudal as president; Norma DeGuzman as treasurer and Pastor Romen Rivera as vice president for finance.

Rivera, the third and backup signatory in case either Cudal or DeGuzman was unavailable in emergencies, had been cleared by the police because his signature did not appear in any of the 50 checks in question.

Despite the clearance, COPAO decided to censure Rivera along with DeGuzman -- a move that essentially cleared Cudal and the former auditor Charito Balanag from any responsibility.

Rivera had vehemently protested the official rebuke. Days before he was scheduled to appear at a COPAO meeting to deliver his protest note, he suffered a stroke that paralyzed half his body.

Rivera was admitted to the Paradise Valley Hospital in National City and stayed there for a month and a half. Discharged on June 16, he is presently undergoing therapy in Los Angeles.

Interviewed during his confinement and release, Rivera blamed the stress caused by the censure for the stroke. He said all his life, he had never been to a hospital until that attack.

COPAO has officially buried the scandals of the check forgeries and the missing $27,000 despite agitations to pursue the case to at least pinpoint responsibility and clear the air.

Meanwhile, Andrews and other officials of COPAO did not respond to questions about the monies generated from the holding of its beauty contests and its annual feast called Philippine Faire, the community event funded by the County Board of Supervisors.

Reports said COPAO lost quite a bit in staging Philippine Faire because of poor turnout. Asked to confirm these, officials just kept quiet.


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

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Last Updated on Thursday, 25 October 2007 07:53

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