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May 31st
Home Columns San Diego Happenings RP Consulate General Shies Off from Fundraising Scheme
RP Consulate General Shies Off from Fundraising Scheme PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - San Diego Happenings
Thursday, 01 November 2007 08:19

The News UpFront (TOP STORY) as of Thursday, 1 November 2007

The embers have hardly settled cold and now comes this "collaboration" by some organizations to solicit money from the community ostensibly for fire victims. What fire victims? The Philippine Consulate, after visiting the Qualcomm evacuation center twice, confirmed this paper's earlier news report that no more than three Filipinos appeared to have been affected.



San Diego Organizations Set to Raise Money;

RP Consul General Shies Off from Scheme


The Philippines' highest-ranked diplomat in the West Coast has dissociated herself and the Philippine Consulate from a fund-raising scheme for fire victims set to be launched this weekend by several community organizations here.

The planned solicitation by at least three organizations and a local publication was announced just within days of a warning by the Justice Department to "vigorously prosecute" fraud and scam artists who create charities that are in fact shams.

The quick reaction by the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles came as questions were being raised about the "collaborative effort" by the Council of Philippine American Organizations (COPAO), Kalusugan Community Services (KCS), the Filipino Press, Filipino American Chamber of Commerce (FACC) and others,

COPAO, which is mired in the worst scandal in the Filipino community involving the disappearance of $27,000 from its treasury, was set to launch the fund-raiser at the KCS celebration in National City despite indications that no more than three Filipinos had been affected by the blaze in the northeast town of Ramona.

"They did not find any Filipino evacuee after two trips to Qualcomm," said the Consulate which sent a two-man team to see the fire situation then, basically confirming early news accounts by the Philippine Village Voice.

COPAO chair Rita Andrews and KCS president Rizalino Oades did not respond to latest media queries. The Philippine Village Voice wanted to clarify the issue that the planned fund-raising was intended to hype KCS's anniversary party.

The Filipino Press, one of the organizers too, also did not answer questions that its so-called "associate editor", Aurora Cudal, was manipulating the event to portray KCS in a favorable light. Cudal is unofficially a KCS spokesperson and receives compensation as a consultant.

"The Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles wishes to remind Filipino associations to refrain from mentioning the Philippine Consulate General as an organizer or sponsor of fundraising activities," Consul General Mary Jo Bernardo-Aragon said in a statement to the Philippine Village Voice.

She explained that Philippine foreign service posts are prohibited by Philippine government regulations "from soliciting funds from the public in any form." Prior written consent of the consulate must first be obtained, she added.

Aragon's name has been mentioned in an official capacity in a story in the Filipino Press, which was the only paper in San Diego that announced the fund-raising at KCS billed as "Abot Kamay: Pagtulong sa Kapwa" disaster relief fund.


Editor's Note: This writer predicted yesterday, as per his posting in the Users' Comments after Mr. Marquez' article, "A Preview of Romy Marquez's Coming Report About the 'Abot Kamay' Disaster Relief Fund" the Filipino consul general would not join the controversial fundraiser. He made the posting yesterday, Oct. 31, 2007, at 11:37 a.m. The said posting is reproduced hereunder, under the Users' Comments of this latest article.


The National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) may have unwittingly sparked the fund-raising when its chair, Alma Q. Kern, issued a statement at the height of the firestorms, saying "We have been informed that many Filipino American families may be in harm's way and, like the many others, are in need of immediate assistance and relief.

Kern, who lives in Seattle, Washington, apparently based her assessment on what was being fed to her by the NaFFAA chapter in San Diego headed by Joann Fields.

Fields had attempted to portray a far different situation, even implying that the largest Filipino population in the southern suburb of National City had been endangered by the wildfires.

"We are relieved to learn from National City Councilman Fidelis Ungab that the largest Filipino community is safe in National City," Kern stated.

Filipinos comprised 17 percent of National City's population. Even at the fires' worst peak,

National City was never threatened nor the safety of its residents ever compromised.

Carmelita "CL" Larrabaster-Vinson, a former FACC president, said a group had lunch with Vice-Consul Jim Tito San Agustin and agreed to have a fund-raiser.

"I would like to think that everyone who attended the meeting was sincere in their intentions," she stressed. She also stated that her office has offered to accept donations for the American Red Cross.

As of this writing, COPAO has not responded to questions why, knowing there are practically no Filipino fire victims, it had to solicit money when it would be more convenient for donors to send their donations directly to the American Red Cross.

Queried further about the current fund-raising and previous solicitations where her organization had a part, Faith Bautista, the high-salaried employee of the networking agency Mabuhay Alliance, retorted: "Please remove me from your (email) list".

Bautista and COPAO's Rita Andrews had earlier boasted to raise $200,000 a few years ago. After much fanfare that went with their announcement, the two had not said a word as to how much money they have jointly collected.

Current FACC president Myrna Reyes also asked to be "unsubscribed" soon after a second set of questions was asked.

Similarly, Fred Gallardo, a COPAO official, asked web editor Bobby Reyes to delete his name from his distribution lists after Reyes tried to update him on some issues involving COPAO. "Your unsolicited e-mails are accusatory and unwelcome," Gallardo said.

Karen P. Hewitt, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of California (which serves San Diego and Imperial counties), said his office will vigorously prosecute those people who illegally attempt to profit from this disaster, including those who falsely hold themselves out as agents of a legitimate charities, or create "charities" that are in fact shams. # # #


PHILIPPINE VILLAGE VOICE - Redefining Community News
Issue No. 85 / 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. . . . . .

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Last Updated on Friday, 09 November 2007 09:16

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