By Alex P. Vidal
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Embattled Multicultural Helping House Society (MHHS) vice president Amado N. Mercado, Jr. has rejected the invitation of president and CEO Tomas “Tatay Tom” Avendano for him to attend a “crucial” board meeting on February 24 saying “he was still hurting” after he was “illegally” ousted as vice president.
“Hindi ako mag aatend. I have already consulted my lawyer at hindi ko masabi kung ano ang gagawin namin (I will not attend the meeting. I can not divulge our plans as of now but I have already consulted my lawyer,” Mercado said in a phone interview Thursday (February 23) evening.
Several hours earlier in an exclusive interview at the MHHS on Fraser Street, Avendano, 83, said he appealed for Mercado to attend their regular board meeting on Friday (February 24).
“The board resolution (that ousted Mercado as vice president) is not yet official because we have not yet ratified the minutes of that meeting,” said Avendano. “And besides, he is still a member of the board.”
Avendano wants Mercado’s presence during the meeting “so he can clarify matters and answer questions from the board of directors.”
Mercado chaired the committee on infrastructure when the multi-million MHHS building was constructed in 2010 and inaugurated last year.
“I believe Amado Mercado is clean,” explained Avendano. “In fairness to him, he did his job well and I am a witness how he sacrificed a lot when this (MHHS) building was being constructed.”
The Vancouver city government, British Columbia provincial government, and the Federal government chipped in $500,000 each for the construction, confirmed Avendano, whose term as president will expire on May this year when the MHHS, formerly known as the Filipino Canadian Support Service Society (FCSSS), convenes in a general assembly to elect 15 member of the board of directors.
Avendano said the imbroglio started when some members of the board asked Mercado to provide them with copies of the job order for additional works done in the building.
MHHS completed its additional facility last year dubbed as the MHHS Newcomer Resource Center, the office intended as “expansion of services for newcomers and recent immigrants alike.”
Instead of explaining his side, Mercado was “very emotional” and raised his voice, Avendano disclosed. Some members of the board resented Mercado’s actuation, especially director Jose Ong, added Avendano.
“I’m sad because Ong and Mercado are supposed to be good friends and their families are close,” he said. “But I think a legitimate question deserves a legitimate answer.”
Avendano, a former councilor of Pasay city in the Philippines, said he could not protect or side with Mercado even if he believes in his integrity “because I am neutral like a presiding judge.”
“And I don’t want to be defensive here,” Avendano quipped. “Everything is alright and I believe there is no irregularity here.”
Avendano said he himself is against the directors’ decision to further squeeze Mercado on the additional works done on the building saying “eh total tapos na ang project. Nandyian na yan eh (what is there to be worry when the building is already done?).”
Avendano confirmed they are being “badgered” by at least three auditors — their external auditor, the British Columbia government auditor, and the city hall auditor. “But I understand it’s but natural for them to do (audit us) that because they donated large amount for the project,” he said.
Mercado accused the board of “controlling the meeting.”
“Sila ang nag co-control ng meeting eh. Before the meeting, I asked Tatay Tom what was the agenda and he told me ‘hindi ko alam.‘ In any meeting, there should be a communication. I am not perfect but I believe in communication,” Mercado thundered.
He said the board meeting had no quorum and was illegal because there were only six members present, including Avendano.
Avendano identified those present as directors Ong, Ric Asistio, Robert Montes, Ching Concepcion, secretary Pocholo Insua, treasurer Michael Cayetano, and himself. “Some of the names you mentioned (in my previous article) are no longer members of the board because they have already resigned,” Avendano said.
Mercado said it was Avendano who informed him that he had been removed as vice president; Avendano ribbed him for not attending the meeting when the resolution was passed to yank him out as the MHHS’ second highest official.
“I told Tatay Tom that I could not attend the meeting at that time because I was at home attending to an important communication in the Philippines,” Mercado explained. “I already wanted to resign then but Tatay Tom told me to stay put. But when I stayed, he did not protect me.”
Mercado said despite what happened, “I still continue to receive favorable feedbacks from my supporters in the community. I assured them that I would continue to serve the community and the society (MHHS) in my capacity as a private individual even if I am not anymore the vice president.”
“We are not at war with Amado (Mercado). I want him to attend the meeting tomorrow (February 24) because he is still a member of the board. His problem is only with the board,” assured Avendano.
Avendano said Mercado should attend the February 24 meeting because it will be attended by newly appointed directors he identified as Mel Cruz, Patricia Diamzon, Roy Ricarse, and Marius Alparaque.
“These new members of the board of directors have nothing to do with the resolution (that stripped Mercado of his position as vice president),” explained Avendano. “And besides, Ong is scheduled to go to the Philippines and might not attend the meeting.”