ABS-CBN signals a return to honesty, integrity and respectability in fund-raisings
By Dionesio C. Grava, Chief of Reporters
ABS-CBN Foundation International headed by Robbie Fabian deserves plaudits for its decision not to go through with its participation in the 100 Outstanding Filipino Americans in the USA awards-dinner slated tomorrow, July 28, at the Universal Hilton, Los Angeles.
Earlier, Mr. Fabian, president of the Foundation, also informed that Tina Palma, Program Director of Bantay Bata, “has decided to cancel her trip to the U.S. to attend this Saturday’s awards dinner for the 100 Outstanding Filipino Americans.” It was also learned that Gina Lopez, Managing Director of ABS-CBN Foundation, had aborted an earlier decision to attend the event.
Mr. Fabian’s announcement contained in an email blast dated July 26 reads in part: “After careful deliberation, the board of directors of the Foundation has concluded today that recent statements made by Ms. Umayan will make it untenable for ABS-CBN Foundation International to be part of this initiative. The Foundation regrettably has also decided to decline the planned donation to Bantay Bata.”
Admittedly the Filipino-American community has in its midst a fair share of schemes preying on the unwary. However, the so-called ‘pay-to-play’ 100 Outstanding Filipino Americans in the USA project may take the cake in the large number of proposed awardees amid allegations that except for a few of them, each was asked to raise advertisements of at least $1000 in addition to a non-refundable $100 registration fee in order to obtain an award.
Out of the estimated $100,000 proceeds the OFAUSA project has committed to donate only $7,500 to ABS-CBN Bantay Bata, the charity that OFAUSA organizers had initially referred to as its only beneficiary.
PinoyWatchdog.com has called on the organizers to increase the donation to at least 50 percent of the proceeds. In a series of stories journalists of the publication had alleged the following against OFAUSA, a joint undertaking of the Philippine Press Photographers-USA (PPP-USA) and Philippine Children’s Charities, Inc. (PCCI):
1. Its project director, Darna Umayam, claimed that both organizations had zero funds from the start prompting the question of how she was able to personally interview, as she insisted she did in an amazingly short time, the nominees considering that they are supposed to be from different parts of the USA and accordingly she and her organization would have needed immense resources in accordance with the nature of the undertaking.
2. She had not answered categorically questions of whether or not there is a committee vetting prospective awardees. PWD is not aware of any public announcement or press releases about the supposed national search for nominees. One has yet to see posters/flyers/banners/news advertisements and the like indicating that indeed there was an effort to look for candidates to this USA-wide ‘Outstanding’ project.
3. On March 25, 2012, more than 80 men and women already hailed as “Distinguished Honorees” were presented to the public at the Universal Hilton Hotel. Four months to this day, Ms. Umayam had continued to refuse requests to divulge the names of those already presented giving rise to suspicions that organizers do not want them to be scrutinized regarding their fitness to be addressed as Outstanding Filipino Americans in the USA.
4. Reports were that most of those in the photo presented as Outstanding Filipino Americans in the USA are from the Los Angeles and nearby areas and that many of them are photographer-officers/members of one of the organizers, PPP-USA, as well as other friends of the project director. No name has been submitted so far to indicate that any of them are from other states in this country where many FilAm achievers are known to also reside.
5. According to a report from PWD Senior Columnist Joel Bander, PPP-USA has no legal status to raise funds while PCCI, the other half of the organizing team, is not even owned by any of the organizers but its non-profit status is being used in the project without the authority of its owner.
Ms. Umayam, known to have organized other fund-raising projects in the past, responded to PWD’s questions selectively and sometimes with conflicting claims. She also retaliated to PWD’s findings by denigrating the character of the publication’s reporters and editors and, worse, attacking Columnist Bander’s Jewish heritage.
The challenge is whether or not awardees to the 100 Outstanding Filipino Americans in the USA would still show up for the event considering that their main excuse — that it is supposedly for the cause of Bantay Bata — has exploded in their faces. PinoyWatchdog.com has received reports that many of them may not be coming.
Understandably some of the awardees may have been deluded into believing the organizers’ propaganda that it is all for a good cause. Incidentally it resonates with this writer’s own experience of being enticed to accept a supposedly “award for journalistic excellence and distinction” held in a top-class hotel in Los Angeles in the past but had to return it when it became apparent that it was not what it purported to be.
In the instant case PinoyWatchDog Managing Editor Rene Villaroman wrote that, “in the list of the 85 honorees so far available to us, there are five or six who are worthy of being endowed the honor. But it would be an even greater honor if these worthy honorees declined to receive their awards, and as a consequence, included with a larger group that did not deserve the honor. As Executive Editor Al Aquino stated in this issue’s column, ‘and what would really double the sheen in the armor of excellence is to decline the honor so as to avoid humiliation and degradation of being associated with the undeserving and the unqualified.’”