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Dec 07th
Home Sections Filipino-Veterans' Lobby How Some NaFFAA NEOs Hijacked the National Alliance for Veterans' Equity (NAFVE)
How Some NaFFAA NEOs Hijacked the National Alliance for Veterans' Equity (NAFVE) PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - Filipino-Veterans' Lobby
Thursday, 28 June 2007 04:20

Part One of a Series

The "National Alliance for Veterans Equity" (NAFVE) was formed during the Veterans’ Summit that the Philippine Embassy hosted on Dec. 6-7, 2006. Many scions of WWII veterans like this writer did not understand why the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA) took over the NAFVE and "appointed" two of its National Executive Officers (NEOs) to co-chair its Steering Committee? The NaFFAA’s public-relations director, Jon Melegrito, and a disgraced Filipino Republican leader, Perry Diaz, named themselves as the committee co-chairpersons. The other NAFVE Steering Committee members chose to remain silent, as they did not want any internal dispute to ruin the Filipino Veterans (FilVets) lobby efforts.

This writer promised his supporters that as soon as the Senate approves—on the committee level the FilVets Bill—the exposé would be launched. Why the timing? The Filipino-American community, the Filipino diplomats and the NaFFAA regional chairpersons have to decide whether they will risk an open rebellion against the NaFFAA crooks to coincide with the full deliberation of the FilVets Bill on the floors of both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives. Because the American legislators may reject the bill if they learn that some of the lobby leaders are crooks. Can we all then afford to risk everything by not dismissing the erring NaFFAA NEOs and casting them off to history’s dustbin of infamy? Yeah, all or nothing, including the final house cleaning of the NaFFAA.

If the NaFFAA, as the self-proclaimed leader of the pack, could be given the chairmanship of the NAFVE Steering Committee, then the top post should have gone to Dr. Ernesto Ramos. Why? Dr. Ramos, the chairman of the NaFFAA Florida and Southeast Region, is the designated overall national chairman of the NaFFAA's Veterans' Affairs Committee. Yet Dr. Ramos was not tapped to head the NAFVE Steering Committee even if he works for a Florida member of the US House of Representatives. The appointments of Messrs. Melegrito and Diaz were a slap on and to the face of Dr. Ramos. If a cochair was needed for the NAFVE Steering Committee, then the NaFFAA could have turned to Ernesto Gange, the NaFFAA chairman of Pennsylvania. Mr. Gange was actually the first Filipino-American leader to call for that December 2006 Veterans' Summit at the Philippine Embassy. Besides, Apo Ernie, as his friends call him, is based in Philadelphia, PA, which is much closer to the District of Columbia than Mr. Diaz’ residence in Sacramento, CA.

Mr. Gange also used to be a member of the Pearl S. Buck Foundation Board of Trustees, a prestigious mainstream advocacy group. He definitely possesses more familiarity in lobbying the American decision makers than the combined experiences of Messrs. Melegrito and Diaz and their sidekick, Eric Lachica.

Hijacking the NAFVE

Why did the NaFFAA NEOs hijack the NAFVE and put in two of their clique members to head the NAFVE Steering Committee? Your educated guess is as good as ours. We think that the reason is because the NaFFAA NEOs do not like to work with honest people like Dr. Ramos and Mr. Gange. The NaFFAA ruling clique hates community leaders who demand full compliance of the tenets of accountability and transparency.

The NaFFAA NEOs – in spite of their self-serving public announcements about its contributions to the Filipino Veterans' lobby – have not done much for the veterans’ lobby except to antagonize the veterans and some members of the United States Congress. And there are so many allegations that some NaFFAA NEOs, in alliance with the now much-hated Eric Lachica, turned the veterans' lobby into a milking cow.

The NAFVE participants, including the members of its Steering Committee, never elected Mr. Melegrito and/or Mr. Diaz to their positions. They never also authorized the two Kenkoys (clowns) to conduct fundraising for the alliance. At the end of this exposé is a full reproduction of the latest press release issued by Mr. Melegrito. In it, he appeals to Filipino Americans to "Please. Please write a check to NAFVE, and mail it to APALA . . ." (as quoted verbatim and underscoring was by Mr. Melegrito).

Mr. Filner’s Dancing Partner

It is public knowledge that the real workers for the veterans' lobby are led by Col. Romy Monteyro (Ret.) of San Diego, Atty. Lou Tancinco of San Francisco and Col. Frank Quesada (Ret.) of Las Vegas. The NaFFAA NEOs are pretenders looking from the outside. Even Congressman Bob Filner called Colonel Monteyro his "real dancing partner" in the veterans' lobby. Mr. Filner has been reported before to have refused to work with the NaFFAA and the NEOs and their ally, Mr. Lachica, are practically ostracized in the District of Columbia.

Is this again one the NaFFAA rackets (even if the NaFFAA NEOs do not play tennis) of raising money and not accounting for the collections? Again it is public knowledge that the NaFFAA NEOs have not made public the financial records about their 2002 convention in San Jose, CA, and the Global Networking Conferences that the ruling clique held in Manila, Cebu, Chicago and Hawaii (from 2003 to 2006). The NaFFAA has been criticized for improprieties in its fundraising events. Mr. Melegrito has been the executive director of the NaFFAA and now runs its public-relations section. On the other hand Mr. Diaz was dismissed as the treasurer of the Asian-American National Republican Circle for alleged impropriety in handling the group’s finances. Mr. Lachica, has not done any accounting of the funds that he collected over the years from our veterans, many of whom rely on SSI to support themselves and Mr. Lachica.

For the sake of our aging veterans and the memories of our departed kin who were real WWII veterans, the NaFFAA NEOs must stop their fundraising efforts and lobbying charade.

And it is not enough that Messrs. Melegrito and Diaz be shamed into resigning from the NAFVE Steering Committee. They and the other NaFFAA NEOs who are linked to the various NaFFAAgate Scandals in San Jose, San Francisco and San Diego (California), in Las Vegas (Nevada) and other chapters who have been linked to financial scams MUST BE DISMISSED from their positions and if warranted, reported to the authorities for prosecution for fraud and tax evasion, among other violations of law.

In the Part Two of this series, we will post the comments of Colonel Quesada that amount to a moral imprimatur for this investigative report. We will also state how a constitutional coup d’etat in the NaFFAA can be done. Perhaps there is no need to turn the NaFFAA headquarters into a Filipino-American version of the Bastille this summer.

* * *

Here is the latest praise release from the NaFFAA's NAFVE that Jon Melegrito issued. Mr. Melegrito is also the concurrent NaFFAA national public-relations director and its former executive director.

In a message dated 6/25/2007 6:53:34 PM Pacific Daylight Time, writes: QUOTE.

Time for Redemption

by Jon Melegrito, Co-chair, Steering Committee

National Alliance for Veterans Equity (NAFVE)


We’re so close we can almost taste it.

That’s how our Filipino veterans and community activists are feeling nowadays, after many years of grassroots organizing, lobbying in the U.S. Congress, marching and demonstrating in front of the White House, and getting jailed for civil disobedience.

Call it cautious optimism. There’s lots of good reason why we can expect to finally win full equity for our Filipino World War II veterans – a struggle they’ve been waging for 61 years.

For the first time, the leadership of both the U.S. House and Senate are committed to passing the equity bill. Both chairmen of the House and Senate veterans committees – Rep. Bob Filner and Sen. Daniel Akaka – have held hearings. With mark-ups underway, the bill is finally poised for floor votes in both chambers sometime this summer. These are historic developments. Hard to believe that it’s going to happen.

In the past, the bill simply died in committee. Our champions, a bipartisan group of legislators, took up the cudgels every legislative session and introduced the same bill over and over again. But it never got anywhere.

This time around, there’s real political will to find the money to fund this bill. And our supporters have done exactly that by including Filipino veterans benefits in this year’s budget resolution – a totally unprecedented move. It gives one goose bumps just thinking about it.

But it’s still rough sailing ahead. "Off-sets" are needed for the estimated $900 million that this spending bill entails. Filner and Honda assure us, however, that the money is there.

We’ve come this far. Failure is no longer an option.

Another good reason to be optimistic is the Republicans themselves. Despite their objections, they all acknowledged during the hearings that this injustice must be remedied. Now! In our meetings with congressional aides, we noted their concerns – particularly having to pay the same benefits to both veterans in the Philippines and in the U.S. Something to do with variances in standard of living. A valid point, but nonetheless unacceptable. As my father – a Death March veteran – used to say, "regardless of where we live now, we all faced the same bullets during the War. To treat veterans in the Philippines differently is to inflict yet another injustice."

My dad is dead now. His surviving comrades – about 18,000 of them – are dying at the rate of ten a day. I can understand the desperation of some of them, prompting a willingness to settle for anything less, if only to get this matter done and over with.

This fundamental difference in strategy has plagued this campaign for full equity from the outset. It’s one reason for inaction by Congress. We were basically told that until we spoke with one voice, the U.S. government wouldn’t act. Of course that was a lame excuse, but we gave them cover for their indifference.

Finally, we did get our own act together last December – drawing all the veterans groups and community activists and service providers literally in one room to map out a coordinated plan and a common message. We formed the National Alliance for Veterans Equity (NAFVE), hired a professional staff (a national coordinator and two legislative consultants), and mobilized our supporters nationwide. We expanded our base of support outside the Filipino American community by enlisting several civil rights organizations. The message: Full Equity Now!

We’re almost there. The bill is, at least, moving from committee to the floor. But we can’t be complacent. It’s not over until a conference committee agrees on a final measure and presents it to President Bush for his signature. We need to continue making phone calls and visits to our representatives and senators. We also need to raise money.

Ret. Major Gen. Antonio Taguba (who was fired by the Pentagon for his honesty, integrity and loyalty to duty) is a staunch advocate for our Filipino veterans. At a recent national teleconference, he appealed to Congress and to the community "to help our veterans restore their faith that their wartime service meant a great deal of honor. They depend on us to be their voices to help find redemption for their cause and help them restore a small, but important recognition that was lost some 61 years ago. I asked all of us to be totally unified in this most important endeavor … and attain the recognition that is long overdue for our veterans."

Taguba knows what he’s talking about. In effect, our veterans, too, were "fired" when they were shamefully stripped of their rightful status and benefits, deprived of their honor and pride, humiliated by a country they’ve served with courage and valor. Is this the price one pays for being loyal to duty?

I seethe with outrage, and I’m sure you do too. But just being angry doesn’t get us anywhere. We need to act and act decisively. Now.

To those who have yet to do something significant for our veterans, this is your chance to change history. I’m personally appealing to you to make a contribution to this noble cause. It’s a matter of pride for our community, and for our children who will be proud to know that we’re up to the task and didn’t waver when it mattered most. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to bring out the best in ourselves. Indifference now will doom us forever as a community that failed to do the right thing.

Please. Please write a check to NAFVE, and mail it to APALA, c/o Gloria T. Caoile, 815 16th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20006. It’s tax deductible.

Thank you for stepping up to the plate. UNQUOTE.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 28 June 2007 04:54

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