Prima West, the newly-elected President of Sydney-Australian Filipino Seniors Inc (SAFSI), seems confused of her newfound role as she surrounds herself with ‘advisers’ coaching her how to do the very basic function of resolving disputes amongst her members. The ill-advised President refuses to follow the SAFSI Constitution and continues to ignore requests for a meeting to resolve internal disputes between two of her members.
The dispute between Ernesto Gumayagay and Loy Tagudin — both members of the organisation — began when Gumayagay made a complaint addressed to SAFSI. The written complaint alleged Inappropriate use of SAFSI funds by Loy Tagudin. It stated that Tagudin illegally withdrew funds from SAFSI account to pay for tickets to attend the Ilocano Association Celebration. He claimed that Tagudin used SAFSI funds for personal advantage which was in breach of Article 1, Section 3 of SAFSI Constitution. Gumayagay provided copies of the complaint letter to some members of SAFSI and the Ilocano Association of Australia (IAA).
In support of Loy Tagudin, I wrote a formal letter to Prima West, the newly-elected SAFSI President and lodged a complaint on behalf of Tagudin. I requested a meeting with her and the Management Committee explaining that Tagudin wished to clear her name against Gumayagay’s allegation. West agreed to meet with me and Tagudin after the general meeting. Because of lack of time, West and the other officers made an undertaking to continue with the discussion at the next Management Committee meeting. Before the Management Committee meeting date, I emailed the President reminding her of the promised meeting. West responded and I quote:
Sorry! We cannot entertain you this time cause of our important meeting of the association! Member(sic) are not interested to listen, I spoke to them about that, maybe you can invite Ernesto Gumayagay in person before we discuss it to the management. This was the case of Ernesto Gumayagay and Loy Tagudin in personnal. (sic) Let us be in positive, (sic) we listen to both side (sic) not only to one, please let me to continue my dreams to serve my people not only one but in general! (sic) Thank you and regards,
The refusal of Prima West to facilitate the resolution of the dispute between Gumayagay and Tagudin comes within the backdrop of the following background:
Loy Tagudin informed me that around February 2016, several weeks before the SAFSI election wherein Prima West and she were contenders for Presidency, Ernesto Gumayagay asked her to withdraw from the Presidential race. When she refused, Gumayagay made a threat that he will see her in court because he knew that she has done something wrong. True to his threat, after this meeting, Gumayagay released the complaint alleging fraudulent behaviour by Tagudin.
The letter was circulated to some members of SAFSI and to the Ilocano Association several days before the election. The outgoing SAFSI President, Virginia Atienza, questioned Gumayagay’s motive pointing out that the alleged fraudulent action by Tagudin happened six months ago.
Why was it only brought out closer to the election date and only against Tagudin who was running as President? She further explained that the tickets were paid by cheque signed by the Treasurer and another SAFSI Officer. The purchase of the tickets was approved by the Executive officers headed by her as President and therefore the alleged misconduct should rightfully be directed to the Management Committee. Atienza contended that if Gumayagay’s complaint was brought out earlier she could have convened the Management Committee and responded to Gumayagay’s complaint accordingly. Singling out Loy Tagudin was a clear indication that the letter was meant to discredit Tagudin’s candidacy. Gumayagay was an active supporter of Prima West’s presidential candidacy. West won the election by a slim majority.
Prima West insists that the dispute between Gumayagay and Tagudin is personal, hence SAFSI has nothing to do with it. The President promised the voters that if she won the election, would donate 4 lechons to important occasions and $1,500 cash donation to the family of every member who passed away. She seems to have a misguided view of the role of the Association and her role as President.
The complaint of Gumayagay (who incidentally supported her candidacy) pertains to an allegation of misappropriation of funds by an elected officer of the association. (Tagudin was Vice- President at that time). At the very least, Prima West should follow the Constitution and initiate an investigation if this were true and if so, corresponding action should be applied to stop this ‘inappropriate behaviour’ from happening again. But most importantly, a member of an organisation cannot be allowed to hurl accusations to another member irresponsibly. SAFSI Constitution is very clear in its statement that rumour mongering, slandering a fellow member with an aim to destroy his/her reputation attracts a penalty of expulsion from the organisation.
Loy Tagudin, who is well-known in the Filipino community as SONATA Conductress and founder, only wishes to clear her name against an allegation of corrupt behaviour while she was Vice-President. The SAFSI Constitution has a clear outline on Resolving Disputes and the President and her officers only need to read and follow the Constitution. Resolving disputes between members of an organisation, is one of the most important functions of officers and it is the duty of the President to lead and resolve. Sadly, it seems that the current President is more content in pumping the cholesterol level of our senior citizens by offering not one but four lechons on every important occasion. Indeed, what is easier role than serving the dying, rather than the living fighting members by her generous promise of $1500 personal contribution to the family.
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