The wishy-washy style of undocumented minutes of meetings, inaccurate and incomplete financial reports, and questionable handling of funds characterize a culture of leadership at the Filipino Centre Toronto (FCT) akin to running a bubble gum store.
For example, a scramble for payable invoices ensued to justify the release of $678,000 in 2017 when FCT sold its building in downtown Toronto for $5.9 million. The entire episode seems fishy.
The concerned members had aired their dismay in public through a series of petitions for a Special General Meeting and an Open Letter for a Third-party Independent Audit due to FCT’s lack of transparency and inaccurate and incomplete financial statements.
In fact, until now, FCT had engaged in foot-dragging and avoiding an independent audit despite the approved membership motion at the Annual General Meeting of October 5, 2018, for the engagement of the Third Party Independent Auditor.
Among the petitioners of the Dec 26, 2018 and Feb 17, 2019 petitions were: Dr. Mario Andres, Perla Andres, Rey Tolentino, Maria CJ De Villa, Ed Birondo, Evelyn Birondo, Malou Parcero, Bay Bernabe, Daisy Bernabe, Toots Evidente, Noel Cruz, Bobby Gabat, Bernie Carreon, Teresa Sevilla, Rob Fuerte, Frank Maralag, Rudy Naval, Myra Naval, Cecile Kolmegies, Mercedes Tolentino, Elisa Pardinas, Frank Villanueva, and Luna Vince.
In standard practice, a non-profit organization like FCT would have done its due diligence in determining the legitimacy of those huge payables. The matters to consider are, first of all, such payables were unknown to the members. Secondly, they have not appeared in any previously approved financial statements, and lastly, the FCT constitution only allows reimbursement of expenses, not salaries for Board Members, Officers and members.
More than likely, a lawyer would refer FCT to Section 69 of Canada’s Corporation Act, which would require FCT to (1) pass a by-law first to amend Article VII of the FCT Constitution to authorize payments to FCT Executives and Directors, and (2) allow the BOD to approve these payments.
Furthermore, the same lawyer would also discourage any retroactive salary payments, as this is not effective until 2/3 of the FCT membership approves the by-law amendment in a general meeting. And even if the by-law amendment passes, it will not apply retroactively
The objections of concerned members are neither personal nor intended to downplay the achievements of FCT. Their complaints focus mainly on improving the lackadaisical and complacent attitude of FCT executives and BOD, particularly when it comes to financial governance and management.
If non-compliant, inefficient, and ineffective practices continue to happen at FCT, who do you suppose is responsible?
FCT President and CEO Mary Ann San Juan has the mojo and the power to clean up FCT and start with fresh ideas, implement policies and procedures based on good governance, and apply adequate financial controls.
If she succeeds, the Ilonggo nation would be smiling because of her achievements, and she will garner the applause of the rest of her Filipino compatriots for her professionalism.
Furthermore, her academic pedigree as a University of the Philippines graduate would exalt co-alumni at UPAA Toronto for her accomplishments.
Really there is no reason for San Juan to dance around the issue of engaging an independent auditor, as approved in a previous Annual General Meeting (AGM). The excuse that it would be expensive to hire an independent auditor is superfluous.
Instead FCT decided to hire a firm to do a Review Engagement. So it paid for a review and not for a member-approved audit.
The stink over questionable payable invoices, i.e. $678,000, would be settled by now if FCT had released accurate, complete, and credible financial statements for 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 and valid supporting documentation.
At the October 5, 2018, AGM, the accountant that produced the 2016 balance sheet, said that he “just compiled the information and did not perform an audit or a review engagement of the financial statements and accordingly express no assurance thereon”. Due to this, the 2016 Financials was not approved by the membership as presented. It was in this AGM that a motion for an Independent 3rd Party audit was presented, moved and seconded, and approved by the membership.
The financial statements were simply unsatisfactory. They were incomplete, inaccurate, and therefore unreliable. The concerned members feel that an Independent 3rd party audit will be able to shed light on the issues, explain and clarify the items in question.
About the BOD, not all of them are walking in their sleep, oblivious of what is going on at FCT. Some directors remain committed in building up the Filipino community.
For example, board directors Dr. Victoria Santiago, Dr. Nenette de Villa, Priscilla Tumulak, and Philip Beloso, have been consistent in their volunteer work at FCT.
Dr. Nenette de Villa is the sponsor of the Dr. Guillermo de Villa Invitational Golf Tournament that raises FCT funds. Dr. Victoria Santiago is the sponsor of the Victoria Basketball Tournament, which encourages the youth to enjoy and excel in basketball.
Philip Beloso actively coordinates various youth activities in the GTA for FCT. At the same time, Priscilla Tumulak and her husband, Dodong Tumulak, are always generous with their financial resources and time supporting various FCT programs.
San Juan claims that all the issues raised by concerned members have been dealt with accordingly. But questions continue to swirl over the payables and corresponding reimbursements of $678,000.
The situation at FCT is like a well-dressed person who wears the same underwear for a week.
Beauty shines on the outside, but anybody can imagine what’s rancid underneath.
by Socrates “Soc” Moreno