BICOL Protests 2020 PCC-NSW Elections

February 29th, 2020 · No Comments

By Benjie de Ubago

Alric Bulseco retains his post as PCC President.

The Philippine Community Council of NSW (PCC-NSW) held its annual general meeting and elections last February 16, 2020 at Marayong Community Hall. Alric Bulseco was re-elected to the presidential post for a second term as most of his previous team members.  Returning to PCC were Cesar Bartolome as External Vice President and Darryl Swadling as Internal Vice President. Rod Dingle retained his post as secretary; Alice Tayaban remained the Treasurer.  Espie Pogson shifted to Internal auditor and Sheila Collantes moved to the PRO post. Directors included:  Angie Jenkins, Grace Liston, Rox Molaven, Lillian de los Reyes, Emily, Rudd, Rowena Turnbull and Vangie Leones is a newbie. Serna Ladia remains the immediate past president.

Opposition candidates, Demi Robinson and surprise last minute runner, Ronaldo Villaver lost the elections by a clear margin.

However, as is typical with most elections, this year’s was marred by incidents which saw the Nurses Association resigning as an affiliate, and the Bicol Association disenfranchised and subsequently filing a protest.

The Philippine Nurses Association was being represented by Julie Nuñez but apparently, the authorizing signatory was not from the President, Marvin Ang.  According to Julie Nuñez, the voting authorization form was signed by CEO and founder, Wally Severino since the President, Marvin Ang was in the Philippines.  This was an acceptable practice by their Board. 

The Bicol protest is a little more complicated. Simply put, the Bicol Association at a Board meeting authorized Bobby Lastica to vote at the February 16 elections. In some twist of fate, Ben Bongat, Bicol Chairperson had a change of heart and revoked his voting authorization for Bobby Lastica, claiming he “did not know” what he originally signed. To add to the confusion, the authorization form held by Bobby Lastica had the wrong date (instead of 23-01-2020, the date had been amended to 23-02-2020) which the Returning Officer, Manoto, considered the authorization form null and void.

For the purpose of clarity, here’s the sequence of events:

January 15, 2020   Bicol held a Board meeting authorizing Mr. Bobby Lastica to represent Bicol and authorized him to vote. Bicol chairperson, Ben Bongat was present at that meeting.

January 23, 2020   Lastica met with Bongat and the relevant papers for the election were signed by Ben Bongat, which he later claimed not knowing what he was signing.

January 28, 2020   Mr. Bobby Lastica submitted his authorization to vote to the Philippine Community Council of NSW.  These forms were posted and emailed to the secretary, Rod Dingle.

February 5, 2020   Alric Bulseco, PCC President responded to Lastica’s email of Jan. 28 stating:

Please be advised that we have received specific instructions from the President of the Bicol Communities League, Mr. Ben Bongat, to ignore and disregard this document as he does not recall signing a document for that purpose. He has also confirmed that as President of Bicol Communities League Inc., he will personally be responsible for casting the vote on behalf of your Association on February 16, 2020 as mandated by the PCC Constitution.

February 9, 2020

Ben Bongat, Bicol Chairperson sent via email a revocation notice.  In a conversation with Ben Bongat, he claims:  “Ako sumulat. Tapos kinunan ng asawa ko ng picture, tapos pinadala sa PCC.”  (I wrote it, then I asked my wife to take a picture of it and send it to PCC.) . His notice reads:  “I, Ben Bongat, Chairperson of Bicol Communities Inc. hereby revoke the authorized represented (sic) form allegedly signed by (sic) authorizing Roberto Lastica to vote in behalf of our association.”  It would seem that the date was also tampered with.  Bongat also confirms that he did not provide Bicol a copy of his revocation notice but instead sent the notice to Bulseco.

February 14, 2020   Lastica sent an email to Mr. Rey Manoto, the designated Returning Officer and the Election committe, for the 2020 elections complaining re Bulseco’s decision as per his email of February 5. 

Mr. Manoto’s same day response was:  As Returning Officer, I cannot comment on the internal policies and procedures of your association as my role is purely to check validity of documents as presented, conduct the election and canvass its results and declare the winners. I will abide the parliamentary procedures and the PCC Constitution, including the regulations and guidelines of PCC. I will, of course, support the interest of the majority and listen and understand the minority report. The interest of PCC in general shall always prevail.”

February 16   Elections Day.  Bicol was disenfranchised and Bobby Lastica was not allowed to vote. A copy of an email from Ben Bongat dated February 9, 2020 surfaced at the proceedings revoking his authorisation.  Returning Officer, Rey Manoto also noted that the date on the authorization form had been altered – from 23-02-2020 to 23-01-2020. Lastica admits to changing the date and said it was an honest mistake, since there was an authorization from the Bicol Board as of January 15.

Rod Dingle further alleged that Mr. Bongat went to his office and complained that he did not know what he was made to sign. According to Bongat, he went to Rod Dingle’s office to submit his nomination (from ADOLP) for PCC Director.  He later found out that his nomination for PCC Director had been revoked, and he too reversed his decision to authorize Lastica, in retaliation. However, there can be no revocation if there was no prior authorization. Otherwise, what was being revoked?

Then there’s the question of Alice Tayaban’s nomination date. If dates are strictly to be adhered to, then Tayaban’s date on her form is also questionable.  Tayaban signed her nomination form on February 7, 2020, a day prior to her nomination as dated February 8, 2020.  

Subsequently, Bicol filed a protest and requested for a public hearing. Despite this, the newly-elected team proceeded with their induction at the Philippine Consulate in secrecy despite the presence of other community leaders at the Consulate who were there for an EDSA Remembrance day event. 

February 24   Bicol submitted request for a public hearing. Subsequently denied by Manoto on Feb 25. We await the results.

The elections should have been run by an independent election committee,  free and without any interference from the candidates. Documents should have been sent to the election committee and not to the president who was also a candidate.

On other fronts – oooh…Australian Consumer, an Emma de Vera concoction, continues to vote despite the fact that the club does NOT exist.

Of course, questions were raised in whispers on the financials but were not brought out at the AGM due to lack of time to scrutinize the financial statement, which was also not signed by an external auditor as required.

And here’s another point of contention which no one has noticed, nor has the Returning Officer. As per the PCC-NSW constitution, no two people from the same Club/Association can be on the Board during the same term:- 

Article 13 – Constitution and Membership

    (4)  Only one representative from each association is allowed to sit on the Board. 

During her terms of office (2017-2018), Serna Ladia represented Australian Mindanao. Bulseco shifted from Australian Visayas in 2019 to Australian Mindanao in 2020.  Ladia is still a member of the Board as she is PCC’s immediate past president.  Therefore that’s two (2) representatives from one (1) organization. That should have disqualified Bulseco’s candidacy and invalidate his win as it is a clear breach of the constitution.

At last year’s Philippine independence day, Bulseco called for unity.  Surely unity would mean inviting people to speak, to engage, and to participate. It’s about inclusivity, equity and mutual respect.  It is not a one way street! However,  it would seem that these were simply words spat out for effect but unaccompanied by action. Then again, it was expected…Bulseco is the King of double standards.

My, “what a tangled web we weave!”

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