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Judge removes FACLA officials, orders new election May 31

by Dionesio C. Grava Saturday, May. 30, 2009 at 2:07 AM

Complaint alleged defendants conducted a fraudulent and improper election on Nov.16, 2008.

LOS ANGELES -- Members of what used to be the foremost Filipino-American organization in this area will troop to the polls anew after a Superior Court judge invalidated the results of the previous election and removed the 15 members of the board of directors who had assumed office.

Judge James C. Chalfant of Dept. 85 in Los Angeles ordered a new election to be held on Sunday, May 31, 2009.

The case was initiated by Cynthia Gatus and Erlinda Guerchoum, members of the Filipino-American Community of Los Angeles, Inc. (FACLA), alleging that “Defendants ignored the Bylaws and the FACLA Election Code, and conducted a fraudulent and improper ‘election’ on Nov.16, 2008.”

The court decision dated April 16, 2009, also said “that Defendants, their agents, servants, officers and directors and those acting in concert with them ARE HEREBY RESTRAINED AND ENJOINED from: 1) Acting, continuing to act, or purporting to act as a Director of FACLA unless they are so elected at a future election of the membership. 2) Meeting as a Board of Directors or taking any actions as a Board of Directors of FACLA. 3) Incurring any expenses on behalf of FACLA or spending any monies belonging to FACLA. 4) Interfering with, or otherwise preventing the new election for the 15 members of the Board of Directors of The Filipino-American Community of Los Angeles, Inc. (FACLA) from being held on May 31, 2009.”

According to plaintiffs Gatus and Guerchoum, the previous board of directors illegally extended the registration for new voters to benefit the Coalition for Better Community (CBC) in that election. CBC dominated that board and its candidates swept the November elections.

Additionally the plaintiffs contested the candidacies of CBC’s Rizalino Manuel, standard bearer of the party, and Perfecto Tobias. The two were previously disqualified by the FACLA COMELEC, ruling that Manuel’s was in violation of term limits while Tobias was not qualified to run at that time. That COMELEC also ruled that the board could not extend the registration of voters.

Instead, that board of directors voted to dissolve the COMELEC composed of Alfonso Aquino, chairman, and members Policronio Domingo and Jaime Salazar. A new COMELEC was constituted in their stead. The voters’ registration was extended and Manuel and Tobias were allowed to run.

In sustaining the original COMELEC decisions, the court said: “The decisions of COMELEC on issues related to the conduct of an election are final and not appealable…This means that the Board of Directors had no authority to overturn COMELEC's decision concerning voter registration.5 If any Board member or FACLA member disagreed with COMELEC, its only remedy would have been mandamus review by a court... Therefore, the Board erred in extending the registration deadline for the November 16, 2008 election.”

The court also ruled that Defendants Aquino and Tobias were not qualified to run. It also commented on the board’s act terminating the original COMELEC, as follows:

“The court does not need to decide the issue of whether the Board illegally fired the commissioners, but it appears relatively clear that it did so. The Board of Directors purported to remove the entire COMELEC and ‘ratify’ this decision through a hastily called General Membership meeting. Nothing in the Bylaws allows the Board to remove a COMELEC commissioner. Nor can the General Membership vote to ‘ratify’ the Board's illegal actions.”

In addition to Manuel and Tobias, those affected by the court’s order for them to vacate FACLA positions reportedly include Adolfio Aguayon, Terry Herrera, Gloria Resureccion, Darlene Salvador, Cris Florendo, Romy Jaravate, Letty Reyes, Alice Parino, Luz Garcia, Arturo Garcia, Senen Dela Torre, Teresita Eligino, and Ricky Songalia.

The May 31 election will be from 8 am to 5 pm. Voters need to bring valid identification documents such as driver’s licenses, California IDs, passports, or greencards.

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