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Sep 29th
Home Sections NaFFAAgate Why the “NaFFAA Is Operating on Empty and in Survival Mode,” to Quote the Words of Outgoing National Chair Gregorio Macabenta
Why the “NaFFAA Is Operating on Empty and in Survival Mode,” to Quote the Words of Outgoing National Chair Gregorio Macabenta PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 25 November 2010 12:24


The News UpFront: (TOP STORY) as of Thursday, November 25, 2010 

T he levity and constant ribbing had robbed the process of any semblance of little respectability left of an organization whose other foot, a top official admits, is "in the grave". The scene was reminiscent of high-school days when the class votes on who would be president, vice president, etcetera in an election process that involves finger-pointing, head-nodding, eye-winking, cheering and breaking into jubilant applause. That scene was streamed online on the day early this week when NaFFAA's empowerment conference in
San Francisco chose a new set of officials who would attempt to rescue NaFFAA from oblivion. Instead of sobering up like respectable individuals for their tasks ahead, the electors and their audience amused themselves with their own jokes, even laughing at them. But levity aside, the whole task of electing top NaFFAA officials was not an exercise in frivolity. Just keep in mind that NaFFAA is either already dead, on the brink of dying or on the way to facing court scrutiny.


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Levity Takes Over the NaFFAA in Most-Serious Moment




Member, Asian American Journalists Association


T ORONTO - The election by acclamation took less than 10 minutes but the video on Ustream went before and after the main event, so it became15-minutes longer, enough to give viewers time to reflect on how and why the process to pick top leaders of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) could be so tacky.


The less-than 20 people shown on video were having fun, and if that single episode where they are heard and seen ribbing each other would be a gauge of why NaFFAA is not taken seriously, or why its erstwhile chair bitterly complained, in his own words, "we still lack clout," then the fault could be laid squarely on those who make the choice of who would lead them.


"We have a federation that is operating on empty and in survival mode," declared Gregorio Macabenta to underscore the gravity of the situation of NaFFAA, which he headed in the last two years. Yet despite the grim warning, the electors went ahead with the merriment.


"Hep hep Navarra!" they yelled in unison. It sounded like a slogan than an official proclamation that the respected engineer Ed Navarra of Michigan had won, or more accurately, had been chosen as the new NaFFAA chair, replacing Macabenta.


"It's a landscape (sic)," the unidentified elections chairman declared, repeating an off-color joke he attributed to movie-actor-turned-senator Manuel "Lito" Lapid, to mean posting a landslide victory.


What the elections chair perhaps meant to say was "unanimous" since Navarra had nobody against him. The same was true of J.T. Mallonga, who was chosen NaFFAA vice chair. The selectors were the 12 individuals representing NaFFAA regions who were told to sit and to bring their chairs in front of the stage.


There they sat and applauded, trading jokes, and never making an attempt to look serious, or to appear respectable, as they acclaimed Navarra and Mallonga to lead NaFFAA to be truly a voice that it has always claimed to be for the huge Filipino communities in the United States.


"There's a unanimous landscape," the elections chair said again over the microphone, sending the small crowd into fits of laughter.


The crowd of course knew already. As Mallonga and Navarra had no challengers, their pre-selection before this videotaped process had to be unanimous. A "landslide" in a way, because it's overwhelming.


Navarra succeeds Macabenta, who despite his skills at advertising, publicity and propaganda, had failed to reverse the downward spiral of NAFFAA from heights of its early glory to its present state of bankruptcy and near-extinction.


"This is the state of NaFFAA today. We have a federation that is operating on empty and in survival mode. But," Macabenta turns optimistic, "NaFFAA is alive and still actively pursuing its mission".


The revelation -- only last year -- that NaFFAA founder and former chair Alex Esclamado and his wife Lourdes M. Esclamado had been paid (in 2002 alone) princely sums of monies totalling $103,500 as stipends and for professional services had raised questions about NaFFAA, which journalist and critic Bobby Reyes has referred to as a "milking cow".


Macabenta's own advertising agency Minority Media Services Inc. had been paid at least $1,000 by NaFFAA for some work.


A statement by Lorna Dietz, Macabenta's NaFFAA colleague and advertising solicitor for his Filipinas magazine, further complicated the situation when she unwittingly linked the periodical's financial health with the $300,000 money grant by Wells Fargo Bank to NaFFAA.


The fact that Navarra and Mallonga were unanimous choices could mean there were not enough takers to lead NaFFAA out of its sorry predicament, particularly considering that it is facing legal challenges in a court of law.


T he next few months could make or break the organization, depending on what the Office of the Attorney General in New Jersey would decide on the complaint filed by journalist Bobby Reyes of Los Angeles.


Reyes has named what he referred to as "persons of interest" allegedly link to a "conspiracy to defraud the federation and the taxpayers" of monies which were not reported or have remained unaccounted by NaFFAA officials.


He identified several individuals, calling them "the corrupt controlling clique in the NaFFAA", namely: Alex Esclamado, Lourdes Esclamado, Loida Nicolas-Lewis, Gregorio Macabenta, Alma Q. Kern, Rozita Lee, Rodel Rodis, Ben Benedicto Menor, Lourdes Corrales, Lourdes Ongkeko, Jon Melegrito, Armando Heredia, Aurora Cudal, Lorna Dietz and Does 1-100.


Efforts by this reporter to get them to comment on Reyes' allegations have not been fruitful. # # #



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Last Updated on Sunday, 05 December 2010 15:24
Comments (1)
1 Sunday, 28 November 2010 08:49
Pareng Romy,

Good story. It's not only an "exercise in frivolity," it's also an exercise in stupidity.

Nonetheless, Ed Navarra deserves congratulations. I think he's a good, decent, honest man and he just might be able to pull off this daunting task in saving NaFFAA from its complete demise. The Kapal Muks and the extra "A" in NaFFAA-A, as in " Association of Alcoholics Anonymous" as dubbed by LOLo Bobby Reyes, have now been purged ... in laughter.

Of course, the complete purge of the rest of the Kapal Muks has yet to be completed ... in the court of law and the "stolen" money returned before credibility can be restored for NaFFAA. Well, the purge has begun and that's a good thing. Your tandem of investigative reportings with LOLO Bobby Reyes had not been an exercise in futility after all. It resulted in exposes of the shenanigans of the NEOs of NaFFAA-A that are now being looked into by law-enforcement authorities.

Jesse Jose
Seattle, WA

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