A rallying call for community support
One Group’s Fight to Reclaim FACGC and the Rizal Center
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
I thought this case was a no-brainer. That all it would take was to look at what happened, hear the story straight from the horses’ mouths and it would be obvious who had the legitimate claim. But the case, unfortunately, dragged on for years. To date, the plaintiffs are allegedly looking forward to ultimately present their case at trial.
I consider myself as one of the community’s stakeholders of the legacy of our pioneers who instituted the election of trustees or directors on a regular period, usually every four years, to ensure that those elected follow the vision and agenda of our pioneers and the community’s interest at their heart. To take leadership in a different way is a betrayal of the pioneers’ vision and a violation of the democratic tradition of our community.
I found Margaret Mead’s words fit to my call to muster community support in reclaiming the Rizal Center for the benefit of the Filipino American community, and restore the democratic traditions of Filipino American Council of Greater Chicago (FACGC) . I have seen it many times, new and old faces stepping up and passionately discussing the issues of the community. I have been involved in the affairs of FACGC as patron, member and as part of the local media with intrinsic duty to look into and report its goings on. Organizing a gofundme fundraiser (https://gofund.me/1e362761) to help the plaintiffs pay their lawyer’s legal fees is just an extension of making the legacy of our pioneers alive.
The plaintiffs allege, among other things, that the ongoing lawsuit was prompted by the defendants’ hostile takeover of the FACGC in violation of the organization’s 2016 “Constitution” and “By-Laws”, including acting without required quorums, failing to provide proper notice of purported “special meetings,” purporting to terminate existing board members, and improperly amending FACGC’s Constitution and By-Laws, resulting in two competing Board factions: 1.) the Clarito Faction (Plaintiff), comprised of a majority of the rightful, original FACGC Board; and 2.) the Gonzales Faction (Defendant), the rogue actors led by Defendant Elaine Lehman, who was not previously a member of the FACGC, much less, a member of the FACGC Board, but spearheaded the takeover.
The hostile takeover, in my opinion, is tantamount to a self-coup, or autocoup (from the Spanish autogolpe), whereby the incumbent chair at that time (Rufino Crisostomo), having come to power through legal means like the rest of his board, dissolves or renders powerless the board of directors and unlawfully assumes extraordinary powers not granted under normal circumstances. Purportedly, in underhanded maneuver, the defendants removed and/or shortened the term of service of the other 18 members of the 21-member board of directors.
Since claiming control of the FACGC, Elaine Lehman allegedly assumed the position of resident manager in-charge of the Center on top of her executive directorship function, which effectively became the supervisor and the supervisee at the same time. She and her husband have resided, rent free, in the Rizal Heritage Center, where members of the Filipino community would ordinarily exercise their right to peaceful assembly and gathering.
SAVING THE RIZAL CENTER
The Dr. Jose Rizal Heritage Center was purchased, sustained, and maintained by the Filipino American community of leaders and volunteers in Greater Chicago. It has been our home away from home for well over 50 years.
In early months of 2017, a hostile takeover of both the Center and the FACGC Board compelled the unconstitutionally termed out Board to seek redress in our court system. I am with the plaintiffs in their rightful fight to reclaim FACGC & the Rizal Center. Your donation (https://gofund.me/1e362761) will help us in this effort to restore the democratic traditions of electing our leaders, bringing back the glory days of serving our FilAm community, and ensuring that no one, let alone a stranger who had zero history of service to this community, can successfully conspire to mount a coup against our institution ever again.
Our Filipino forefathers waited half a century to fight in taking back our country from Spain and other foreign aggressors. Our court battle to reclaim Rizal Center and FACGC has taken us more than three years now. But we will not waiver in our commitment to win this fight because we know the truth is on our side.
We have done it before. WITH YOUR HELP, WE CAN DO IT AGAIN!
You can also WRITE A CHECK TO: RCAI and send it to:
Rizal Center Advocates, Inc. (RCAI)
Attention: Corazon Sopena
4660 N. Avondale Ave.
Chicago, IL 60630-3807