IS THERE NEED TO INVESTIGATE RIZAL STATUE FUNDRAISING?
By Joel Bander, Senior Columnist
The upcoming September 29, 2012, dedication of Philippine national hero Jose Rizal statue at the City of Carson’s International Sculpture Garden created a flurry of preparatory activity, along with PinoyWatchDog.com receiving ‘tips’ that the fundraising for this project, and the projects leader, Chito Mandap, needed investigation.
Some of the individuals coming to PinoyWatchDog.com with these concerns are the pillars of the community. However, other community leaders of similar outstanding reputation that I interviewed endorsed Mr. Mandap highly as a man of integrity. Others I interviewed that do not know Mandap personally offered the same mixed opinions. One events producer told me in confidence, “I have heard he is above board and beyond approach. And I have heard that he is secretive and questionable. I really do not know.”
On September 30, 1889, Dr. Rizal opined that “in order to read the future destiny of a nation, it is necessary to open the book of its past.” (Source: Filipinas, Dentro de Cien Años, La Solidaridad). So I run with this Rizalian endorsement on PinoyWatchDog.com’s ongoing advocacy of transparency as a basis for community standards on the subject. But I initially was left wondering, how could there be these two different views of the same individual?
It is unquestioned fact that a decade ago that Mandap had a dream, a mission, to bring a statue of Philippine national hero Dr. Jose Rizal to Los Angeles County. The record is replete with years of fundraising, along with Carson City records of his efforts to obtain the land that the statue will stand upon. I asked some of the doubters that if Mr. Mandap promised a statue and he is obviously delivering on that promise the basis of concern. And if he has done all that was promised wouldn’t he be entitled to make some money?
Mr. Mandap refused to be personally interviewed for this article. Various supporters urged him to talk with me about the finances. However, he wrote to me that he was simply too busy to deal with financial reporting before the big event, and promised full reporting and transparency after its conclusion. A member of the board of his Rizal foundation wrote me stating that “he is not averse to information sharing, he is just concerned about creating a potential media circus so close to the unveiling/ceremonies – in light of “some credible personalities” out there with their own axe to grind perhaps? (Not his expression but I discerned that from the tone of his voice).”
So I contacted Carson Councilman Elito Santarina, reportedly instrumental in arranging the land that the statue will stand upon. Councilman Santarina also demurred, stating in a text message to me that “it is best to interview me with the chairperson of JPRMM Chito Mandap for more complete information.”
“That’s not acceptable,” one Mandap supporter told me. “He is a councilman. He should be able to talk about a project without a private citizen looking over his shoulder.”
However, the investigation did reveal that Mandap has been singularly managing and accounting for the expenses over the long decade. A supporter admitted to me, framed in this fashion, that the financial administration of this project was a bit embarrassing.
But on June 19, 2011, Mandap did make a fairly comprehensive report to an assemblage at the Philippine Consulate detailing the creation of the non-profit in 2004, the sources of funds, costs for the statute, pedestal and other matters, including that amount of cash on hand. The full report is at www.pinoywatchdog.com/docs/JPRMM-presscon-briefing-100511.pdf
I reviewed the report and came to realize ‘hey, no one has ever said anything adverse to this presentation. What’s the beef?’ So I went back, again, to Mr. Mandap via email, asking for some update. He replied stating “As of last week the expenses on the 7-foot granite finished pedestal construction alone is already over $54,000 because of the unforeseen soil foundation and structural requirements, added few bench seats, concrete flooring without tiles yet, etc. These are all receipted and documented. The $60,000 budget last year was supposed to include the Rizal 8-foot bronze statue, shipment, simple pedestal, without flooring and bench seats, etc. Right now a substantial part of the statue itself, storage, shipping, etc is coming from my personal money and I am lucky if I can reimburse all even if I am complete with documents. Hence, needless to say, the money already raised before is much short and that is why JPRMM [Jose P. Rizal Monument Movement] is trying to raise funds in the Sept 29th event to cover the unveiling expenses, the Appreciation Gala, future maintenance, etc.”
So I went back, again, to a loyal Mandap supporter to understand the long resistance to disclosure. I was advised that Mandap “does not seek the limelight. He is not into public relations. He just has a dream of putting up the Rizal statue.”
On February 22, 1889, Dr. Rizal advised that “some become treacherous because of cowardice and negligence of others.” (Letter to the Young Women of Malolos, London) .
And some obviously do not become treacherous. This PinoyWatchDog.com investigation was unable to reveal any treachery by Mr. Mandap. The only failing found was not being primarily concerned with public relations.
“My ambition is not to win honors or hold positions but to see that what is just, exact, suitable, is done in political matters,” Dr. Rizal wrote in a letter to Juan Zulueta, August 14, 1891.
Perhaps Mandap is just following Dr. Rizal’s example.