Four complainants demand payments
Officials Mum on Money Issues
By Romy Marquez | November 1, 2015
The Filipino community’s “premier” business organization in the Greater Toronto Area is literally up to its neck in debts, owing thousands of dollars to individuals and companies, and seemingly unmoved by accusations of “scamming” at least three individuals belonging to the local entertainment industry. Since staging its event in August 2014, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce Toronto has yet to fulfill its commitment to pay people it owes. One firm, tired of the run-around, has gone to Small Claims Court to force payment.
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TORONTO – Two singing artists, an entertainment director and an audio-visual services company have come out separately deploring what they claimed was a scam in the Philippine Chamber of Commerce Toronto (PCCT).
The accusations, made public in video interviews with this reporter, involved non-payment of services and cash prizes amounting to hundreds of dollars during the Filipinas Expo & Multicultural Show at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in August 2014.
PCCT was then headed by Oswald Tugadi. Among his board members were Ace Alvarez, who owns and manages Front Page Philippines (FPP) with his wife Gertrude, aka Gie, Alvarez, hosts of the program. FPP was paid at least $1,000 for a video coverage that otherwise would just be a free publicity promo on Facebook or You Tube.
Quest Audio-Visual Inc., a supplier of audio-visual equipment in Toronto, has gone to Small Claims Court to force payment of a remaining balance of $15,000 PCCT owed. (Video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dc47ASw7GwM).
“They (PCCT) signed a contract with us for $25,000. Steve (Pagao, then treasurer now PCCT president) gave me a deposit three days before the event for $10,000,” recalls Noel Lising in an interview on Monday, Oct. 26.
“On the eve of their show, my boss asked me ‘what about the full payment of this event?’ So I’ve been bugging him (Steve) about the full payment and he told me that ‘Noel let’s settle this the Monday after the event’, he states.
Lising narrates: “So basically, I vouched for them with my boss, and told him ‘you know what, this is the chamber of commerce so I don’t think they’ll not pay. So three weeks after the event, we never heard from them until they sent me an email with a letter telling that they can’t pay and what they can do is just do some fundraising and they’ll just pay from funds raised”.
“That didn’t it well with my boss, so my boss basically filed a claim on Small Claims Court. Up to now, I don’t know what happen,” he says.
The PCCT, which contracted Rei Ching to put up and direct the entertainment part of Filipinas Expo for $15,000, also owed him the full amount.
“I’m also asking for payment,” Ching said in an interview on Monday, Oct. 26, to highlight the situation he’s in and deflect insinuations he was part of the alleged scam that has already deceived Filipino musical artists Mae Janelle Berte and Klaryzza Gregorio.
Berte, the winning champion of the “Star Ka Na” Toronto singing contest, which was a segment of Filipinas Expo, has been seeking payment of her $1,000 money prize since last year, only to be given the run-around by chamber officials.(Video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Zu_PaiKFAc).
Gregorio, vocalist of The Unwavering Band, which won the top prize in the Band Xplosion portion of “Star Ka Na”, suffered the same experience of being tossed around after she demanded her band’s $1,000 cash prize. (Video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qenE_q9VLQ)
Since Berte’s allegations came out on videos last week, PCCT officials have not said a word. Soon after that, Gregorio emerged to document her band’s many attempts – horrible, as she described the ordeal – to collect their money.
Ching explained that he had no role in handing out prizes to Berte and Gregorio as that belonged to PCCT, which was the main promoter of Filipinas Expo.
PCCT had gone on its own following a break-up with its partner, the Philippine Canadian Charitable Foundation, the organization with a questionable status as a charity, founded by Tobias Enverga Jr. (Related story at: http://www.balita.ca/2014/04/17/the-walis-broom-bristles-is-unbound-chamber-of-commerce-breaks-away-from-tobias-envergas-charitable-foundation/)
An alleged volunteer, Cheryl Cantonjos, is distancing herself from the mess. “I am not and was not a partner nor a member of PCCT. Therefore, not responsible in any way for their actions,” she explains in an email.
In the same breath, however, Cantonjos admits that she was a “segment producer for the talent show and entertainment only for the Filipinas Expos and Multicultural Tradeshow 2014”.
It was in the entertainment portion of the expo that three of the complaints are directed. “When they (referring to Ms. Berte and Ms. Gregorio) did not get compensated,” says Cantonjos, “I was actually the one who was trying to help them get paid”.
“Majority of the complainants are aware that I am not responsible for the payments, compensations and prizes,” she adds.
Founded in 1991 as a not-for-profit organization, PCCT is said to be the “premier” business association representing Filipino Canadian businesses in the Greater Toronto Area. It has 34 individual and corporate members.