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Home Columns San Diego Happenings San Diego County Cuts Grant to COPAO Due to Unresolved Missing Funds
San Diego County Cuts Grant to COPAO Due to Unresolved Missing Funds PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - San Diego Happenings
Monday, 24 March 2008 01:19

The News UpFront: (TOP STORY) as of Monday, March 24, 2008 

Rita Andrews' COPAO washes its hands off in the unresolved puzzle of the missing $27,000. Could it be a cop-out now that the County Board of Supervisors has tightened the money squeeze that, officials admit, has "harmed" the Filipino community's umbrella organization for the first time in its 36-year history? Should Ms. Andrews' predecessor, Aurora S. Cudal, the one who had stonewalled on an audit, accept responsibility since the scandal happened during her term?


THE $27,000-QUESTION HAUNTS COPAO 

COPAO Distances Itself from Money Scandal; Should former COPAO President Cudal Now Accept Responsibility?  

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.

Officials of the community's umbrella organization finally distanced themselves from the disappearance of $27,000, saying the current administration of Rita Andrews, president of the Council of Philippine American Organizations (COPAO), "had nothing to do with the missing funds".

 

It was the first time in more than three years that COPAO made a categorical statement to extricate itself from the financial fiasco, short of pinning responsibility on a past president, Aurora S. Cudal, in whose term the disappearance of the money occurred and 50 alleged check forgeries surfaced.

 

One major reason that prompted the move appeared to be the recent decision of the County Board of Supervisors to cut its annual monetary grant to less than a third of the previous year's, which was $17,000, down to $5,000 this year. There was a time when the Board was generous, handing out $21,000 for a COPAO event.

 

COPAO President Andrews did not mention any amount from the Board of Supervisors' grant through the Community Enhancement Fund. She failed also to explain the COPAO's earnings or losses in its recent Philippine Fair and Festival held in National City.

The cutback had an immediate impact on the organization. Nearly a quarter ($27,500) had been slashed from its $119,100 budget solely "because of the reduction in the Community Enhancement Fund Grant".

 

It's not immediately clear if the $27,500 "adjusted" or taken out of the budget represented the missing money. Minutes of a recent meeting merely indicated that the budget for 2007-2008 "be adjusted from a total of $119,100 to $91,600".

 

That meant expunging the difference, which is $27,500, from the outlay. The adjusted budget therefore does not show the missing money. It is as if the money wasn't there at all. It is as if nobody had looted COPAO's coffers.

 

"It would be necessary to make adjustments to the (COPAO) budget," an official said at a meeting. COPAO subsists mainly on monies raised from grants, donations and fund-raising activities. However, it has not made a public accounting of monies both collected and spent.

 

Ms. Phelps blew the whistle on COPAO after her repeated demands for an audit were ignored. She wrote to the Board of Supervisors complaining and seeking a stop to its yearly monetary grant until the questions on the missing monies were resolved.

In her president's report last month, Ms. Andrews was too shy to mention any amount from the Board of Supervisors' grant through the Community Enhancement Fund. She also never made any explanation about COPAO's earnings or losses in its Philippine Fair and Festival in National City.

 

Some officials of COPAO are blaming another officer, Vina M. Phelps, for the organization's current predicament. "Ms. Phelps' action was inappropriate because it harmed the organization," COPAO said.

 

Ms. Phelps blew the whistle on COPAO and its officials after her repeated demands for an audit fell on deaf ears. She wrote to the Board of Supervisors complaining and seeking a stop to its yearly monetary grant until the questions on the missing monies were resolved.

 

The Board of Supervisors responded by slicing off a huge chunk of money from its yearly dole out.

 

COPAO's latest move to stay out of the scandal was ironic. Previously, it practically cleared Ms. Cudal and Charito Balanag, auditor, of any responsibility by putting the blame on two other officials, namely Pastor Romen Rivera, vice president for finance, and Norma DeGuzman, treasurer.

 

Officials, namely, Ms. Andrews, Ms. Cudal and Fred Gallardo, contacted for comment did not respond to questions from this reporter.

 

Ms. Cudal had made an earlier admission that she saw her name signed in 43 of the 50 checks alleged to have been forged. After she was investigated by the National City police, she said she said she was asked to provide specimens of her signature.

"I went through the tedious process of signing my name perhaps a hundred times so that the police will have a clear evidence that the signature on the checks were not mine," Ms. Cudal wrote in the entertainment paper Filipino Press where she is "associate editor". # # #

 

PHILIPPINE VILLAGE VOICE - Redefining Community News
BREAKING NEWS -  Exclusive
Volume 2, Issue No. 7 / 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 Monday, 24 March 2008 01:37
 

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