MAY 2017

By Mariano “Anong” Santos
PINOY Editor/Publisher


....." An Embarrassing Day to Remember at Rizal Center"

...continued from home page


left pic: elaine lehman

As previously reported in this column, Lehman was brought in by FACGC director Jerry Clarito to the Center last January as a resource person in a leadership training. Soon after, in a Jan. 27 board meeting, she got herself the position of executive director. Dr. Rufino Crisostomo, like a clueless gatekeeper, has soon let her turn into a de-factor usurper-in-chief.

It is important to point out that the ineffectual and ailing FACGC president, Dr. Crisostomo, has been mesmerized by Lehman. She was able to reduce him as her puppet-financier. It has long been conceded among the FACGC insiders that Dr. Crisostomo has been too sick. Having lost a sound mind plus other’s “politeness” not to let go of him on time have proven to be one of the main causes of these problems that befell Rizal Center.

Lehman ignored the FACGC constitution that calls for 21 elected directors and a dozen trustees.

In rapid succession, she was able to intimidate incumbent directors to resign until the number went down to six. The majority were easily manipulated to go along with her schemes. Lehman, it must be noted, is persuasive, persistent, wily, controlling and deceptive.

Lehman insisted to this columnist that the FACGC is a not a federation of community organizations. The six member-organization that stayed with the FACGC have expressed serious complaints on how she had dealt with them, imposing her decisions that go beyond the scope of one that represents the FACGC.

The Knights of Rizal Library that has been a main fixture of the Center was summarily closed and precious Rizaliana put in boxes with the KORs hardly having any say. The Saturday Devotees pulled out all of their religious activities from the Center after she decided to close their meditation room and put the image of the Virgin Mary in a closet.

Joy Dance members were angered when Lehman arbitrarily raised their rent and she moved out their equipment needed for their weekly ballroom dancing. They decided to find another venue for their activities. The Grandparents Association officers are up in arms over the way Lehman treats its elderly. She discontinued their Bingo sessions without proper notice—in the same way she took over and imposed rules on their monthly food distribution.

Sally Richmond, a FACGC director who also moved out her Tagalog Classes to another venue, sees in Lehman a lack of compassion and knowledge of Filipino traits and sensibilities. “Dealing with her is bad for one’s blood pressure,” said Richmond.

FACGC artist-in-residence and KOR stalwart, Wilfredo Buhay agrees with that observation. “Seniors find her “bastos” (rude) and intimidating,” said Buhay, who also shared his frustration over Lehman’s refusal to give back the art works he loaned to the Center.

Lehman changed locks at the Center and tailored the available hours to enter the place at her convenience. This is the reason why the disenfranchised officers led by Jerry Clarito informed her ahead of time of their board meeting scheduled April 22 morning. Making sure that they gain entry, Clarito requested the presence of a Chicago police officer to be at the Center.

The Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment (AFIRE), a paying tenant at Rizal Center, has also scheduled an event for the same time and date as the board meeting. AFIRE announced this a month earlier. This elicited a big response from workers needing immigration assistance. There were also at least a dozen resource persons and volunteers expected.

Lehman, whose motive is to prevent the FACGC board from meeting, fired out an email announcing the closing of the Rizal Center just two days before April 22, for pest extermination and fumigation. AFIRE executive director Michael Agujar responded to Lehman’s short notice that it was unacceptable given the preparation they already invested for their event. It was close to impossible to share her announcement to all people involved in the AFIRE’s April 22 event.

Lehman, with Dr. Crisostomo in tow, came Saturday morning, haughtily telling everyone to vanish but the collective voice of the people who came drowned out her command. The lone police present was able to negotiate an agreement among them to let the board meet from 10 am to noon time. Of the 18 directors present, 14 voted to demand the resignation of Dr. Crisostomo and the termination of the services of Lehman as executive director. At approximately 11:30 am, before the resolution that embodied the actions taken were to be handed to Dr. Crisostomo and Lehman, the latter had called police and seven squad cars responded. Their presence readily gave the Rizal Center the look of a place under siege.

Chaos and uproar ensued with the people demanding for Crisostomo’s and Lehman’s ouster. Despite the group’s proof that they have a right to be at the Center, Lehman prevailed upon the policemen to start throwing everyone out. Well, score one for lies and misrepresentation.

Lawyers who came for the AFIRE seminar were aghast with what they saw. They readily offered their legal services. Dr. Crisostomo pitifully avoided his constituents and escaped through a backdoor. Lehman, savvy on propaganda, promptly fired out a press release condemning the “intrusion” and assured a positive future for the FACGC under her watch.

Based on the swift reactions from the community, Lehman can only expect more trouble for herself, Dr. Crisostomo and for the FACGC and the Rizal Center if both ignore the demand of the board of directors for them to go.

Dr. Cleo Casambre, who heads the planning of a June 3 cultural event, is moving out her show to Loyola University’s Mullady Theatre, 1125 W. Loyola Ave. AFIRE has signified that they will definitely look for another place to lease—that will be a $1000/month income gone for the struggling Center.

FACGC director Carmen Estacio, a close friend of Dr. Crisostomo, said that her pleadings with him to resign were ignored and she is extremely worried for his well-being. “He is due again for his third major operation. I am afraid he’s not of sound mind anymore…” said Ms. Estacio.

From a perspective, it would be totally wrong to blame this fiasco solely on Lehman and her puppet, Dr. Crisostomo. It is an understatement to say that Lehman has a personal agenda. Lehman is married to an actor and band member active in the city’s north side cultural scene. Lehman’s possible plan is to convert the center to an inter-ethnic venue away from being an exclusively Filipino American. Go figure.
Opportunistic that she is, she readily saw a vacuum in the FACGC leadership. The lack of clear vision and firm commitment on the part of those who are involved in the Center gave her an easy path to gain power in such a short time. She moves in quick dispatch. She was never shy to grab whatever would give her the upper hand. Lehman divided, then, she ruled.

Lehman might yet be a blessing in disguise for the community. The key here is for the leaders and members to sort out the disturbing developments of the last four months and learn the lessons that can benefit a community that is in dire need of a clear, noble and collective goal. In the process, we might yet mature as a people.
Meanwhile, fumigate that interloper out of the way, pronto!



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