Credit Union proposed for FCT members
The group that’s challenging the incumbent leadership at the upcoming elections within the controversial Filipino Centre Toronto (FCT) has proposed the establishment of a credit union for members.
Dr. Francisco Portugal, campaign manager and spokesperson for the Save the Centre Movement and one of the co-founders of the FCT, stressed that the general community not just a “privileged few” should be able to benefit from what the Centre has to offer.
“By establishing a credit union through the FCT, members can have access to affordable loans with favourable repayment terms, rather than going to high-interest lending institutions,” explained Portugal.
He added this could also benefit new immigrants who may need financial assistance as they begin their settlement and social integration process, but would not otherwise have access to credit because of lack of financial history in Canada.
The proposed credit union is a major component of the platform of government that Save the Centre Movement candidates are proposing in a bid to establish a new leadership at the FCT. Save the Centre Movement was formed by concerned community leaders and FCT members following an accounting scandal involving high-level FCT officials that began in September 2005.
The accounting controversy, which sprang from an audit report submitted by FCT’s former audit committee chair, has since sparked a full-blown legal battle between FCT directors, led by its president Lynda Javier, and Portugal’s camp calling for court intervention in seeking transparency at the FCT.
The financial scandal at FCT has also led many of its members to question the integrity of the incumbent leaders and to call for a long overdue election of new officers.
A Superior Court judge has ruled in April last year that the current FCT board “lacks a degree of legitimacy” and ordered that an election for a new set of directors be held.
FCT elections are to be held on February 4, 2007. Advanced polls will be held at the FCT on January 31. All members will receive an official notice with details of the voting procedure from the court-appointed Chair of elections Larry Banack.
Community leaders including Frank Aquino, a Filipino lawyer and professional accountant, Belle Tumbokon, Filipino-Canadian entrepreneur, and Camilla Jones, immigration consultant, are stepping up the campaign to establish a new leadership at FCT.
“We want to rid the FCT of corruption and that is why we want to change the leadership,” Portugal said. He added, however, that the elections is not merely about “getting rid of the incumbent directors, who have lost the trust of their constituents” but it’s the first step to introducing positive reforms at the FCT to serve the community better.
Portugal is actively campaigning on behalf of nineteen candidates running under the banner of the Save the Centre Movement, all with considerable experience in community service.
Notable among the candidates is Aquino, who holds a Law degree and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. Aquino plays an active role in various prestigious professional organizations both in Canada and the Philippines, including the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, National Council of Philippine American Canadian Accountants and Association of Filipino-Canadian Accountants.
Even in his university years, Aquino has already demonstrated his leadership qualities. He was once vice-president and then president of the University of the East Law Student Council. Even after migrating to Canada he never lost the urge to serve his community and was once a recipient of the Province of Ontario’s Achievement Award for his community service.
Another strong candidate is Belle Tumbokon, an optometrist by profession and a community leader at heart. Tumbokon brought prestige to the Filipino community when she established the first ever Filipino-owned optical clinic in Canada 28 years ago.
Tumbokon has also been recognized for her community service in various levels of government, having been awarded the Volunteer Service Award by the Province of Ontario and a Certificate of Recognition by Toronto Mayor David Miller.
Tumbokon is known for her strength of character and uncompromising integrity. Although she was one of the FCT directors under Lynda Javier’s presidency, she stepped down in protest to what was perceived as the injustices within the FCT leadership.
Another candidate of note is Camilla Jones, a member of the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants. Immigrants make up a huge percentage of the Filipino population in Toronto. Jones’s expertise is in immigration, a knowledge that can certainly come in handy for the FCT, especially with an almost 100 per cent Filipino immigrant membership.
Jones was also a former FCT director and was among those who actively opposed the current FCT leadership after the accounting scandal was publicized in the community media. She was also one of the FCT members that initiated the court case against the FCT directors that ultimately led to the calling of an election.
Other candidates vying for the director role at FCT include: Edgar Adan, Jamie “Jimmy” Arciaga, Alma Benemerito, Virgilio Bugtong, Araceli Rose Cruz, Bert Daan, Dr. Jorge Jose, Eugenia “Gene” Lara, Arlene Martirez, Ores Ting, Julius “Rey” Sunga, Aurora Medrano, Noel Tumblod, Teresa M. Torralba, Dr. Rodolfo “Rudy” Gallardo, and Helen Medina.
Together, the Save the Centre Movement candidates have pledged integrity, transparency and accountability at FCT. The group rejects the practice of Nepotism, where a director will not be allowed to hire a relative to work for the FCT.
Its platform of government states, “Hiring of relatives especially under the control of an elected officer does not only appear unethical but is clearly a violation of ‘conflict of interest’ rules. It is obvious that we are referring to the hiring of Felino Javier (the president’s husband) as building superintendent at FCT.”
To date, the FCT has over 1,000 members and Portugal has urged them to go out and vote for their new FCT leaders on February 4, saying the only way to establish reforms in the FCT is by bringing in new leaders with fresh, new ideas.