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Oct 01st
Home Columns San Diego Happenings New COPAO Officers Vow More Oversight and Accountability
New COPAO Officers Vow More Oversight and Accountability PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - San Diego Happenings
Monday, 30 March 2009 09:50
A vow to have more oversight and accountability sounds comforting and refreshing, specially coming from the highest-ranking Filipino American in law enforcement who recently joined the community's umbrella organization ostensibly to arrest (pun not intended) its downward spiral. The admission that mistakes were committed and that some irregularities existed in the organization could be humbling as the Council of Philippine American Organizations (COPAO) moves forward. Knowing the lessons of the past and taking steps to correct them provide solid footing to start over. COPAO refocuses its sight with a promise to be transparent.   


The News UpFront: (TOP STORY) as of Monday, March 30, 2009     New COPAO Resolves to Move Forward; Officials Say Case of the Missing $27,000 'Not Closed'  


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


S enior officials, admitting for the first time that "mistakes were made and irregularities discovered" in their organization, said they were prepared to accept new evidence that could lead to a further investigation of the worst scandal to hit the Filipino community in decades. The statement reversed the previous administration's decision to close the case.  


It also renewed hopes that the culprits in the disappearance of $27,000 from the government-funded Council of Philippine American Organizations (COPAO) and the accompanying check "forgeries" would at least be identified, if not prosecuted. But as a practical matter, "finding that money is not gonna happen," says Cesar Solis, one of the few new entrants recently inducted into COPAO as a director of its 19-member board.  


Mr. Solis and other officials, namely Fred Gallardo, executive vice president; Benjie Podschun, vice president for operations; Ditas Yamane, executive director; and Alice Podschun, treasurer, met with this reporter on Tuesday (March 24) in a no-holds-barred discussion of outstanding issues in the organization.
All these officers expressed the prevailing general sentiment in COPAO, which is to move forward amidst the improprieties that happened when Mrs. Aurora S. Cudal was president in 2004, and surfaced only after she had been replaced by Rita B. Andrews in 2005.

PHILIPPINE VILLAGE VOICE - Redefining Community News
BREAKING NEWS -  Exclusive
Volume 3, Issue No. 5 / News Without Fear or Favor /

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

Ms. Andrews bowed out of COPAO last year after serving for four years. Though she had claimed she inherited the scandal "from the previous administration" (meaning from her friend Mrs. Cudal's), Ms. Andrews never really lifted the veil to let the public know who did it.
 Instead, she had her executive council pass a resolution censuring, for not performing their fiduciary duties, Pastor Romen Rivera, then vice president for finance; and Norma de Guzman, treasurer.


The resolution left out Mrs. Cudal and Charito Balanag, auditor. The four – Mrs. Cudal, Pastor Rivera, Ms. De Guzman and Ms. Balanag -- were the COPAO officers whose job had to do with the organization's finances.


W ith this background, the resolution had the effect of excoriating Pastor Rivera and Ms. DeGuzman while exonerating Mrs. Cudal and Ms. Balanag.  


But Mr. Gallardo emphasized the censure was for evading their fiduciary responsibility, which, according to him, was the deliberate refusal of Pastor Rivera and Ms. De Guzman to turn over the records. A month later, a judge ordered them to do so.  "There's really no solid explanation for the missing money," Cesar Solis states, assuring that the COPAO has taken steps to improve the process so as not to make a repeat of the past mistakes. He is the first American of Filipino descent to be named an assistant chief of the San Diego Police Department. 


Though Mrs. Cudal had denied any wrongdoing, she had made the admission that she was investigated by the police and asked to provide specimens of her signature, apparently to compare with the signatures appearing on 43 of the 50 checks claimed to have been forged. Mrs. Cudal's repeated claim that the signature on the checks was not hers implied somebody in COPAO who had access to the checkbooks had forged it.     


The missing monies and the check forgeries, among other unresolved issues, had cost COPAO so much in terms of public funding and community support. Grants from the County Board of Supervisors had been reduced to a trickle.        


"The (money) issue has bogged down COPAO for many years," admits Mr. Gallardo, who served in COPAO during the terms of Mrs. Cudal and Ms. Andrews and now with the new administration of Merly Ferrer.     
The entry of Mr. Solis, an assistant chief of the San Diego Police Department, in COPAO is seen in many quarters here as the most visible attempt of the new COPAO leadership to regain its reputation.        
"There's really no solid explanation for the missing money," Mr. Solis states, assuring that the organization has taken steps to improve the process so as not to make a repeat of the past mistakes.       


"We're hoping that there's a lot of lessons to be learned here," he says. "And we're going to be very diligent," he adds. # # #      


* This Breaking News is posted online by Romeo P. Marquez, editor, Philippine Village Voice, San Diego, California. Mailing address: P.O. Box 2118, La Jolla, CA. 92038. Volume 3, Issue no. 5, March 30, 2009


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Last Updated on Monday, 30 March 2009 18:50

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