Conduct unbecoming of GK Director by Benjie de Ubago

I would have preferred to be sitting on the dock of the bay but on 20 January, there I was in a dimly lit Street in Liverpool at Rashay’s Café waiting for the man of the hour, Mr. Luis Oquiñena, Executive Director of Gawad Kalinga. The appointment was set for 11pm that night, and although it seemed an unholy hour, I gave Mr. Oquiñena (Mr. O) the benefit of the doubt that his schedule was indeed packed with back-to-back appointments and I could be squeezed in only at that time slot. Sentinel Editor Dino Crescini who was with me warned that Oquiñena may not show up. He was right!

For further clarifications regarding my Hapag/Gawad Kalinga Story, Mr. O had promised an interview during his Sydney visit as per his email of 29 December 2010. After a little prodding, on 15 January, Mr. O, through his social secretary, Mr. Curt Allejo sent a text message advising an interview scheduled for 20 January at 11pm. I was told that I had to be the last to allow Mr. O time to talk to everyone and assess the situation. While I had never had any professional or private appointments scheduled at that ungodly hour, I accepted and gave Mr. O the benefit of the doubt that he was a man of his word, tangled in the GK circus in Sydney.

At 7.30pm of the actual night, I sent a text to re-confirm the appointment. No reply was received. As I did not want to be late for the big O, I left early for the 11pm appointment and I was at the agreed venue at 10.30pm when I received a text saying that Mr. O had changed his mind due to another article that I had written and published. A further phone call from his social secretary implied that I was simply “too inquisitive” for his liking.

Whether he liked my writing style or not; whether he liked me or not, Mr. O still owed, not me, but the public who supported GK over the years an explanation. If I had gotten anything wrong, it was his duty to correct it and I’d be more than happy to oblige. And if he really did not want to be subjected to my questioning, he could have cancelled days earlier rather than at the eleventh hour. Not nice, Mr. O!

The best part of the whole exercise was that my hunch was right! Mr. O had denied, evaded and it was likely that he would also withdraw. He really had no intentions from the very start to grant an interview although the inconsistencies were so revealing anyway. I guess he also lives by the commandment “Thou Shalt Not Ask.”

I was also advised that Mr. O would issue a statement later. If he thinks that the media would simply swallow whatever he gives and spare him questions, well he’s in for a surprise.

The JEDA gang

Mr. O’s Australia visit raised more questions than answers. What was evident was Mr. O ducked in and out of private talks with various groups – GK Ancop, GK Youth, FILCCA, PCC-NSW, APO and the sudden bonding of the JEDA group (Josie Musa, Emma de Vera, Albert Dimarucut and Amores). The latter even made a courtesy call/presentation to Blacktown City Council to include Cr. Jess Diaz and Cr. Alan Green. Their agenda included asking for possible grants. He also met with groups in Melbourne and Canberra.

But as the talks progressed, the groups were more confused as different versions were surfacing.

One thing was glaringly clear. There would be another group and there was a planned GK World Summit in the works planned for September or October of this year. And even if poverty in the Philippines had not been totally eliminated, they were moving towards other impoverished countries. Who knows why?

However, the questions niggling us will never be answered, i.e. What was the amount remitted in 2009? How much was remitted by the Hapag production? If Mr. O was only doing the selection of the new group now, why then did Musa register a GK group in November 2010 and under whose authority? What happens to the GK Ancop and its people? How does one identify one group from the other if the names are similar and would both groups use the same logo? With a newly-formed group, what happens to the GK-Musa group that she registered?
From reliable sources, but subject to individual confirmation and acceptance, the new GK group would be comprised of: Jocarl Diaz, Curt Allejo, Louise Davies, Edna Longhurst, Linda Esguerra, Mr. Lemon (Canberra), Marissa Vedar (FILCCA) with Andrew Chok at the helm. Judging by these names, one wonders whether this is a merger, or a dissection.

Regardless of how many groups Mr. O wants to create and whom he chooses for the new GK group is immaterial. The fact remains that the questions must be answered. The group must abide by the laws of the land and the people who will be handling the money are people of trust and integrity. Unlike Mr. O who is a paid employee and travel is paid for by GK, I have nothing to gain – not in cash or kind. Is it any wonder that people are back stabbing each other for what there is to gain. Oh….and please do not use the poor people…in the name of charity.

Not an article but a private email

The article Mr. O was referring to was not even an article. It was a personal email of my thoughts and observations of the January 19 Meeting at Dooleys, which I happen to be at following an invitation from Mr. Perdon. It was circulated to those other than the intended recipients and people thought it was an article to be published. The FiLCCA President, Marissa Vedar who was an unintended recipient reacted strongly and included her damning comments on me in an email to FILCCA members. This then fell into the hands of Emma de Vera and Josie Musa, who then went on overdrive to email it around, minus the signature of the original author. Since what goes around, comes around, well surprise, surprise – it found itself back into my hands.

These people are gutless. When asked to comment on a story, they shudder and go into D-E-W mode (deny-evade-withdraw) and then go into covert operations, rumour mongering and forwarding emails. To sit and discuss intelligently and amicably is far down in their list of decent behaviours. It also shows the lack of media understanding and their inability to tell the difference between a news story, a column, and a letter. Likewise, the truth may not always be dandy but that’s what it is.

As I have always said, I am more than happy to sit down and clarify issues. Since these people want to publicize it anyway, I am open for a public dialogue, forum, debate, or whatever they want to call it. Let’s get it out in the open, so the public may know and doubters informed. Hey, let’s sell tickets – we just might raise money for the flood victims or even for GK!