APCO’s Leadership Spill Breaks the Spell

October 15th, 2018 · No Comments

While most were focused on uniting the Philippine Community Council of NSW (PCC-NSW) the peak community organization of Filipinos in New South Wales, and the Alliance of Philippine Community Organisations (APCO), the group that broke away from PCC in 2010, little did everyone know that trouble had already been brewing within APCO’s own ranks.

Finally, an alleged push and a shove incident saw Ms. Cen Amores playing victim and running to the Police station alleging that Ms. Cora Paras had slammed the door on her on April 20 during a meeting at the  Liverpool library.  However, Paras faced  up to the Police Station, explained her side and the allegations were dismissed as there was no evidence of the incident .   This was a result of Ms. Amores insistence on attending the Board meeting in her capacity as an adviser.  Despite Board refusal, then President Violeta Escultura invoked her presidential power that the Amores, mere advisers, attend – “I do it my way. I am the President.”

Despite the police’s dismissing the Amores complaint, the antagonism between the two groups had grown  deeper.  Meetings for the planning of the Philippine Independence “Pista sa Nayon” were happening with Escultura, the Amoreses and their allies  minus the rest of the board. Decisions were also being made without prior Board consultation.

Finally, the clincher!  As expected with any newly elected Board, a change of signatures is required at the bank.  The Treasurer marched down to Commonwealth branch in Campbelltown armed with the minutes of the meeting giving her the authority to access the bank account. However upon presentation of the documents, she was advised that “somebody” had already signed on her behalf.  The surprise signatory was Jimmy Lopez who allegedly presented fake minutes of a meeting allowing him to access the accounts as Assistant Treasurer. However, no position exists nor had he been voted in.  Jhun Salazar confirmed that Lopez has had no access to APCO accounts for years. The account was subsequently suspended following bank investigations and then reinstated to the proper signatories and the treasurer, Rita Agostino.

On August 5, the Board met and agreed to a leadership spill, ousting the President, Violeta Escultura. Of the 13 Board members, 9 voted in favor of Escultura’s removal, 3 were not in favor and 1 abstained.  On August 26, the Board filled in the vacant positions and elected:  Cora Paras as the President of APCO; Fe Hayward as Senior Vice President; Charles Chan as Junior Vice President; Linda Price as Secretary; Rita Agostino as Treasurer; Richard Ford as PRO; and Mick Miguel as Auditor.

Members:  Cora Bojonski, Emma Braceros, Dean Ford, Douglas Myers, Glorina Paparioannou, Albert Prias, Linda Trinidad and Edna Voros.  Jhun Salazar remained as Public Officer and Adviser.

The APCO Officers as of September 4, 2018 along with community friends.

Note that as per APCO’s constitution, the elected board vote for the officers themselves.  Therefore, the Board that has the right to put them in post and remove them. There was no need for an election as the rest of the board was intact. They were simply filling in vacancies.  The officers were announced at a press conference on September 4 , in response to Amores’ prior press release to a private media group. This press conference was called for the purpose of clarification and to respond to innuendos and unfounded rumors.

Even more suprising was the revelation that Amores is not the founder of APCO, a myth that had been perpetuated for years. According to Salazar, APCO was formed by a group of individuals.   In fact, Bobby Lastica was named as being instrumental in the writing of the constitution, and likewise Salazar was responsible for the registration and documentation.  Even Richard Ford, a one time avid recorder of Amores’ activities admitted “I woke up.”

“With the new Board, it’s a new dawn for APCO, said Cora Paras.  She continued: “We hope to render humble service to the community, to restore harmony  and collaborate with other groups in the community, devoid of any personal glory. It is a new era for APCO. We hope to be united in thoughts, words and deeds; with honest truthful members supporting one another for the good of the community.  With the Bayanihan spirit, we aim to work with PCC to achieve harmony, and one voice for the community.”

Paras has been a community leader for years, long before the Amores appeared on the community scene. Cora Paras has been connected with the Sampaguita group which was later renamed to FilOz Group Liverpool District.


Losing is not an Option.

The battle of APCO presidents.

It would have been better if they simply mopped up the spill but of course, losing is not an option and the spill has since turned into overflowing murky waters. Suddenly, the Amores’ tight reins on APCO was let loose and the flood gates have been flung wide open. The spell had been broken. And it has turned ugly as words, insults and whatnots were oozing out from facebook.

One of the posts by Ruben Amores on the APCO site reads: “The leaders of this Pin-ita mob are like dogs. They do not know what is right or wrong – their greed lead them even to vomits.”

A source from the Amores camp defended them with  “Alam mo naman sina Ate Cen at Kuya Ruben. Ganoon yon!”   Ooops sorry, but that it is still totally unacceptable and unbecoming of leaders. According to the source “Ate Cen has the connections in the community and was simply guiding the new president. “

Ruben & Cen Amores

Unrelenting and  guided by the voices of the Amores, Escultura reclaimed her presidency. “ I am the legitimate president” she said with her voice quivering.

On September 15, although she had already been ousted, Escultura declared the APCO appointments by Paras null and void.  The Amores-Escultura group in an effort to hold on to APCO to their last breath, decided to expel and suspend the members and have their own election of new officers.   Although this was the very issue they accused the other group of, they proceeded to do exactly that.  Looking at the names released, it would seem that the other members jumped ship from Paras to Escultura, and it is obvious that most who did were tied to a roof over their heads. Violeta Escultura, President; Cora Bojarskim Senior Vice President; Charles Chan, Junior Vice President; Carmelita Fraser, Secretary; Jimmy Lopez, Treasurer; Albert Prias, Auditor; and Ralph Improgo, PRO. Directors: Emma Braceros, Cleo Baltazar, Rose Lay, Josephine de los Reyes, Glorina Papaioannou, Ester Arador, Zeny Piosik and Lee Meekan.  Ruben Amores, Public Officer.

While names had already been released, a meeting was being called for October 13 – a case of after the fact!  On October 8, Escultura issued a demand letter (and posted on facebook) to the APCO-Paras group demanding that all documents and accounts be turned over by October 31, 2018.

Speaking to Violeta Escultura on October 11, she said “Hindi ko tinatanggap na alisin ako.” “I am hoping that we can find an arbitrator to mediate and decide” she added.  When pointed out that it would seem that her group was doing exactly what they were complaining about, she disagreed and said she and her group went through the process, although she was unsure as to what the process was.  When asked why Lopez changed the signatories, Escultura said “he had authority for accounts as he was assistant treasurer.”  However no position exists and adding Lopez’ signature was something that was done recently to include faking minutes of a meeting to include his name.

The Final Straw

While Escultura-Amores group chant of  truth, transparency and honesty, their actions are contradictory to their words.  There have been other allegations of gross misuse of grants and funds, and self-remuneration.  To date, income and expenses along with receipts are still being chased for the Independence day event last June. A sponsorship fee of $3,000.00 and a $62,948.00 grant from Dooleys  for  the Auburn Small Community  Organisation Network’s (ASCON) “Connect to Work” project still has to be sighted. Cen Amores is the committee chair for ASCON.

While a deadline of October 31 was provided for turnover in Escultura’s demand letter, there are allegations that armed with Minutes of a meeting document, Jimmy Lopez  walked into a Commonwealth Branch at Lidcombe on October 9 claiming that he was again the designated treasurer. It is alleged that Lopez was able to withdraw a total of $12,000 from the APCO accounts – $5,000 from the Charity fund, and $7,000 from the operational funds. When Escultura was asked whether the accounts were still under the Paras group, she simply responded “siguro” and no further clarification was given.  It is obvious what their priorities are. It’s the spill that keeps on spurting leaving the community in dismay.


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