Superior Court rules: FCT board ‘lacks degree of legitimacy’

Community News & Features Apr 16, 2006 at 3:42 pm

TORONTO–The Filipino Centre Toronto (FCT) may have “lost its way,” but a recent court ruling has given the beleaguered organization a new chance at redeeming itself.

In a decision by Superior Court Justice Geoffrey B. Morawetz, the two opposing parties – the incumbent FCT board of directors on one side and some former FCT officials headed by Dr. Francisco Portugal on the other – were ordered to convene a three-person Committee on Admissions, tasked to review the status of existing members as well as all pending applications for membership. The committee has been directed to produce the complete list of members by May 20th.

Late last year, Portugal and two former members of the FCT board – Edgar Adan and Camilla Jones – petitioned the courts to settle the membership dispute at FCT, claiming that membership list produced by the FCT board was inaccurate.

Portugal’s group also asked the court to intervene on the issue of holding an annual general membership meeting and elections. They claimed the FCT board was remiss in its duty to adhere to its constitution and by-laws by not convening the prescribed annual general membership meetings and elections “since the inception of the organization.”

“In view of the failure to hold an annual meeting and to elect directors in a recognized fashion, it can be said that the current board lacks a degree of legitimacy,” wrote Morawetz on his seven-page decision.
He added: “Clearly the operations of PFCT have not been conducted in accordance with the provisions of its own constitution and by-laws.”

The court has directed Portugal’s group and the FCT directors to each appoint one person to the Committee on Admission, and jointly select the third committee member who would sit as the chair.
These should be done within 10 days of the release of the court decision and the membership list must be completed by May 20th, the court said. In the event that the two parties are unable to appoint the third member of the committee, the court will appoint one.

“At the present time, it would appear that PFCT has lost its way,” said Morawetz. “PFCT is consumed with a power struggle over who is going to run the organization and who can be a member of the organization.”

Last year, FCT officials became the subject of controversy after its then auditor Julito Longkines filed a “draft audit report” that questioned certain financial transactions undertaken by its incumbent president Rosalinda Javier and husband Felino, who was working as a volunteer for FCT.

Upon learning of Longkines’s report, Portugal and some former officials and members of FCT immediately asked its chairperson Dr. Victoria Santiago to convene a general membership meeting. That meeting was scheduled in November and was later cancelled pending a resolution of the court petition.
“The court decision is a clear vindication of all our efforts,” exclaimed Portugal. “The (FCT) constitution was not followed and the affairs (of the FCT) were not properly carried out and that’s why we went to court.”

Justice Morawetz also directed the soon-to-be created Committee on Admissions to convene a general membership meeting and elections on the week of November 20, 2006, or six months after the May 20 deadline set by the court to produce a complete membership list. The November 20 meeting was prescribed to comply with FCT constitution that states only those that have been a member for at least six months will be qualified to vote in the elections, according to the court decision.

“The list prepared by the committee shall form the basis of the members who are eligible to vote at the annual meeting,” wrote Morawetz.

Portugal’s group is expected to meet with the FCT board to iron out the details of the creation of the Committee on Admissions.

Chito Collantes, another former FCT director, who has advocated the restructuring at FCT, called on the board of directors headed by Santiago and Javier to “resign immediately” and allow a “skeletal administrative” body to run the centre on an interim basis.

“We also request that whoever is elected as the new board to charge back these former FCT directors for any (financial) liability that FCT will incur as a result of this court action,” said Collantes.
The court also ruled that the FCT will pay for all legal costs incurred by Portugal and his co-applicants, and declared that the FCT board, as respondents, shall also be “indemnified” for their costs. In their petition, Portugal said they asked the court to rule that the individual respondents at FCT should pay for the legal costs out of their own pockets and not take the money from the FCT coffers.

On Morawetz’s decision, however, he indicated that the “affairs of PFCT are to be administered by the existing board up to the time of the annual meeting.”

As of press time, Santiago could not be reached for comment. A letter of invitation for a press conference on April 17, 2006 was sent by email to The Philippine Reporter by Aida D’Orazio, FCT PRO, on Wednesday, April 13. Reporter editor Hermie Garcia asked for a statement from Santiago thru D’Orazio who promised to provide one on the same day. By Thursday, however, no statement has been received.