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Oct 20th
Home Columns San Diego Happenings Vina Phelps Demands New Efforts to Find Missing COPAO Money as She Fights Attempts to Gag Her
Vina Phelps Demands New Efforts to Find Missing COPAO Money as She Fights Attempts to Gag Her PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - San Diego Happenings
Tuesday, 18 March 2008 00:21

The News UpFront: (TOP STORY) as of Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Far from consigning it to history, Vina M. Phelps, a lone advocate for truth and transparency in the community's umbrella organization, has demanded that fresh efforts be made by the Council of Philippine American Organizations to locate the missing $27,000 and bring the culprits to justice.


Official Demands New Efforts to Locate Missing Money;

She Also Reveals Attempts to Gag, Intimidate Her


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.The search for the missing $27,000 that the Council of Philippine Organizations (COPAO) just abandoned to protect some of its officers got a new boost when a ranking official demanded fresh efforts to locate the money and identify the culprits.

Vina M. Phelps, the lone advocate for truth and transparency in the Filipino community's umbrella organization, also revealed attempts by COPAO president Rita Andrews to gag her after the San Diego County Board of Supervisors drastically cut its yearly money grant to COPAO.

"COPAO should have focused on locating that money instead of getting into hectic preparations for the Philippine Faire -- a diversion tactic at its best," Phelps wrote in her letter, copies of which were sent to Supervisors Ron Roberts and Greg Cox.

The event used to be devoted to a commemoration of the June 12 Philippine Independence but has morphed into money-making beauty contests of young and old folks. COPAO has not made any public accounting of how much it made in the last many years.

"If COPAO can let go of $27,000 that only means that COPAO does not need any grant from the County of San Diego or from any charitable institution or benefactor," Phelps continued.

The disappearance of the money also led to the discovery of 50 check forgeries in an audit Phelps had repeatedly demanded, prompting an investigation by the National City Police Department which recommended to the District Attorney the filing of criminal charges against unnamed parties. The DA, citing lack of evidence, did not prosecute the cases.

"COPAO should have focused on locating that money instead of getting into hectic preparations for the Philippine Faire -- a diversion tactic at its best," Ms. Phelps said.Previously, Aurora Cudal, COPAO president when the scandal happened in 2004, admitted her name appeared in 43 of the checks but questioned the authenticity of the signatures.

Ms. Cudal, who now works as "associate editor" of the entertainment paper The Filipino Press and moonlights as a"consultant" at Kalusugan Community Services, had stonewalled on the audit during her term.

She was practically cleared by COPAO when it passed a resolution censuring two other officials, namely, Norma de Guzman, treasurer, and Pastor Romen Rivera, vice president for finance. Auditor Charito Balanag was not cited. Pastor Rivera suffered a crippling stroke after the censure.

Ms. Phelps' letter made serious allegations about the minutes of the COPAO meeting being doctored, citing an instance when COPAO board member Fred Gallardo had expressed support for her, which was not reflected in the minutes, then turned around after she raised the issue of the $27,000.

Mr. Gallardo then suggested that any COPAO officer who advocates for truth and transparency in COPAO "should be suspended", according to Ms. Phelps.

Ms. Andrews, Cudal, Gallardo and Phelps were not immediately available for comment as this story was being written.

Ms. Phelps said she was undaunted by attempts in COPAO to discredit and silence her. "For as long as I am fighting for what is right, I fear nobody."

"As a matter of act," she continued, "I hurl a challenge to any COPAO officer to come up with a specific criminal charge against me in my efforts of trying to locate what rightfully belongs to the Filipino-American community of San Diego County". # # #

PHILIPPINE VILLAGE VOICE - Redefining Community News
BREAKING NEWS -  Exclusive
Volume 2, Issue No. 6 / 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 Tuesday, 18 March 2008 00:29

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