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Home Columns San Diego Happenings Sam Samson Breaks Silence on Microsoft Deal
Sam Samson Breaks Silence on Microsoft Deal PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - San Diego Happenings
Saturday, 08 September 2007 09:40

The News UpFront: (TOP STORY) as of Saturday, 8 September 2007

~ The quiet and gentle businessman Sam Samson finally breaks his silence on this recurring issue of a sponsorship deal with Microsoft involving a number of community organizations. Here, he shares new information that sheds light on who was telling the truth and who was lying.

'SCANDALOUS DRAMA'

Sam Samson Breaks Silence on Microsoft Deal

A liar begins with making falsehood appear like truth, and ends with making truth itself appear like falsehood. - Shenstone

By ROMEO P. MARQUEZ

SAN DIEGO - "I was upset and shocked with the lies and deceit of Edna Concepcion," declares businessman Sam Samson, owner and CEO of a thriving group of companies headquartered in National City that bears his name.

The lean and bespectacled entrepreneur, a consistent patron of community events, was unsettled by the latest e-mail blast that quoted him for saying things he had not said. He was also being blamed for what rightfully had been his prerogative as principal and business partner in a joint endeavor for Filipino overseas workers that was to see birth in San Diego's Filipino community.

Edna Concepcion, the litigious co-chair of PhilAm BID (Philippine American Business Improvement Districts) being referred to in Samson's statement, is suddenly thrust into the limelight by a number of controversial activities. (The other co-chair is Marilyn C. Mesina, her childhood chum, then school mate and now house mate).

The e-mail blast that got Samson to speak up originated from Concepcion and sent to unknown recipients on the afternoon of Sept. 2. Everybody but Samson seemed to have received it. In that missive, Concepcion harangued some individuals who had displeased her for disclosing yet unknown details of her business transaction with Microsoft Corp.

"This whole mess is really a scandalous drama," Concepcion admits in that same e-mail. "It is embarrassing to Microsoft," she adds. Dr. Maria Lourdes Reyes, founder of One Vision One Voice Movement, shares the same sentiment.

Indeed, Concepcion's admission is the first acknowledgement that the controversy she had generated for mingling PhilAm BID with an event it had no business being in, has reached unmanageable proportions.

From documents, interviews and e-mailed answers and questions with the parties, notably from officials of Samson PCS, Microsoft Corp., RCBC, One Vision One Voice, Filipino American Chamber of Commerce and others, it appears that Philam BID had over-extended its reach way beyond accepted norms.

Fraud and misrepresentations are being imputed against Concepcion and available documentations, including the statement of Samson, tend to sustain the general allegation.

Concepcion, however, tried to minimize the accusations by her rhetorical responses. For example, she asks: "What is your big hang-up on Microsoft being a member of Philippine American Business Improvement and Development (Phil Am BID)?"

The answers to that question and Concepcion's non-reply are the gists of the story she rightfully calls a "scandalous drama" for, more than a drama, the story has the shades of a pernicious scandal.

BACKGROUND

OVOV and FACC were the spearhead of the FilAm Trade & Cultural Expo that took place on Feb. 17 at Golden Hall of the San Diego Concourse. That event had been chosen by Microsoft to launch its "One Follow Me" phone and remittance service to the Philippines in cooperation with RCBC Remittance and Samson PCS.

Out of the many Filipino-owned businesses in the United States, specifically in the West Coast, Samson PCS has emerged as the front-runner to handle the joint venture between Microsoft and RCBC because of its technical savvy, experience and knowledge of the market. It has also the largest number of branches and a full complement of employees.

As early as December 2006 in Manila, Microsoft was already looking forward to the launch. Samson had recommended the Expo, which was already past the planning stage. Microsoft agreed. The decision was then reached that it would be the launching pad for the new service. Samson kept this information to himself until he came back to San Diego in early January 2007.

In the meantime, Dr. Reyes had asked Concepcion (who was an OVOV member) to enlist Samson's help as a sponsor of the Expo. At that time, Concepcion was ensnared in her own little wars with some FACC officials and told Dr. Reyes that she had no time to do it as she was "putting out fires here".

Before he could talk to Dr. Reyes about Microsoft's earlier decision, Samson mentioned to Concepcion that Microsoft was coming to San Diego for the launch. The busy Concepcion had suddenly found the time to deal with the new prospect and temporarily abandoned extinguishing her "fires".


As it turned out, Concepcion also dispensed with her OVOV robe and dressed up as PhilAm BID. Three weeks before the Expo, PhilAm BID had a coming-out party on January 27 announcing its formation and inducting a who's who list of officers, directors and advisers in a four-and-a-half hour extravaganza at the Chula Vista Golf Course in Bonita.

ENTRY

Samson was among those inducted. His name still appears in the PhilAm BID list as one of the three vice chairs. Dr. Reyes was in the Advisory Council but promptly quit the largely honorary post when it became clear Concepcion was engaged in activities Dr. Reyes had found objectionable.

Microsoft came into the Expo with a bounty, being the main sponsor. By category, Microsoft ended being a "Titanium" sponsor which, translated in dollar terms, meant shelling out $10,000. The amount was OVOV's highest level of sponsorship.

One day in January, Dr. Reyes dropped by Samson's office to thank him for the Microsoft sponsorship of $10,000. Samson thought he misheard her mention the amount and he tried to correct her that it was actually $15,000.

No, no, no, explained Dr. Reyes. It was $10,000. Titanium sponsorship means $10,000 - that's the maximum! Samson insisted it was $15,000. He swore he saw it was $15,000. The conflicting claims finally led them to check the paper work. Indeed, OVOV's Titanium was only $10,000!

Samson recalled that he saw an oversized sponsorship form that listed Titanium as $15,000. He emphasized that "At that meeting Edna showed me a flyer from the Expo indicating OVOV, FACC and Phil Am BID as the organizer of the event and with that flyer, a Titanium sponsorship for $15,000 which was then selected by Microsoft."

That's when the whole mess unfolded. He said Concepcion changed the form from the original size of 8.5 x 11 to a bigger sheet of paper which included PhilAm BID's logo between that of OVOV and FACC.

"I was shocked and surprised when Dr. Reyes showed me the original solicitation flyer of the EXPO listing the Titanium sponsor for only $10,000 which was a different flyer that Edna (Concepcion) have shown to us with Microsoft," declares Samson.

He continued: "I kept quiet because Microsoft already had a copy of the altered flyer presented by Edna (Concepcion) showing $15,000 as the Titanium sponsor without the knowledge of OVOV, FACC and myself."

It surfaced later on that the $5,000 difference between the Titanium sponsorship and Concepcion's altered flyer was to be for Microsoft's surprise membership in PhilAm BID. "Would they issue a $5,000 membership fee if they did not want to be a member?" Concepcion asked.

Membership in PhilAm BID was far from Microsoft's mind, however. It came to San Diego for the one and only purpose, which was to launch a new remittance and phone service in a venture with RCBC and Samson PCS.

But granted that Microsoft really wanted to join PhilAm BID for whatever reason, the highest membership level -- corporate diamond -- entailed only $2,000. Did Concepcion again alter the paperwork so she could take in the $5,000 from Microsoft?

"I'm wondering what she (Concepcion) showed to Microsoft that the PhilAm BID ended up receiving $5,000 for the diamond membership," states Samson. He then showed a copy of the PhilAm BID membership solicitation form showing $2,000 as requirement for membership in that category.

Concepcion has not addressed this issue though she claimed she had a contract (which has never been seen by anyone or by this writer) with Microsoft stipulating that $5,000 -- to quote her own words -- "go towards Microsoft's membership to PhilAm BID".

By Concepcion's reckoning, Samson became upset upon learning of the $5,000 for PhilAm BID. Samson denied this.

"I got upset because Edna (Concepcion) has been contacting Microsoft without my knowledge and all their exchanges of e-mails were being forwarded to Manila and to my surprise, my partner in Manila called me," Samson explains.

By going directly to Microsoft and bypassing Samson, Microsoft officials had thought Concepcion and Samson were partners. "So they approved those agreements," Samson stresses.

Concepcion had a different take on this. Instead of a responsive answer, she poses two questions: "Will a company as huge and strong as Microsoft with its own Legal Department just be signing contracts without thoroughly understanding what it is they are signing? x x x Do you think Microsoft would sign a contract and issue a check for $ 5,000 to Phil Am Bid and $ 10,000 to the FilAm Expo without thinking?"

But thinking and being duped are two different things. Did Concepcion mislead Microsoft? Was she candid with them?

Randy Granovetter, Microsoft's general manager who was also interviewed earlier for this story, admitted to Dr. Reyes the day before the Expo that she did not know Concepcion

was not part of the Expo team.

Concepcion had cautioned OVOV members visiting the Expo site with her and Microsoft officials, including Granovetter, to keep their mouths shut.

"We were advised by Edna (Concepcion) that under no circumstances were we to speak with anyone at Microsoft, that she was the sole point of contact, and 'other people' contacting them (like OVOV) could mess-up or jeopardize the FilAm Expo's chances of receiving anything from Microsoft," recalls OVOV officer Mimi Estrada.

That could indicate that Concepcion was withholding some information from Microsoft that if spilled would break her grasp of the situation in which she looked like she was already calling the shots. Considering that neither she nor PhilAm BID was part of the Expo, the surge of power in her was tremendous.

Concepcion knew what she had and played it to the hilt. For one, she had inserted the PhilAm BID logo at the very center of the flyer to indicate that PhilAm BID was now one of the organizers of the Expo along with OVOV and FACC. This altered sponsorship form was the one shown to Microsoft.

Dr. Reyes only learned about the changed contract when she re-visited Samson at a later time the week prior to the Expo.

Indeed, Concepcion had usurped the combined roles of Samson, OVOV, FACC and was now exploring and exploiting with Microsoft and RCBC.

Dr. Reyes said Concepcion harassed her with intimidating phone calls and text messages.

In one of those calls, Concepcion sounded hysterical in her message, thus: "What makes you think that OVOV and FACC could make money out of the sponsorship of Microsoft and PhilAm BID could not? So we are getting our 25 percent then and we'll give $7,500 and could split it as you wish".

From the time Microsoft had agreed to sponsor the Expo, Concepcion seemed so obsessed with the money share she wanted for PhilAm BID. In fact, she had dispatched lawyer Connie Viado, who is listed as a member of PhilAm BID's legal team, to negotiate the terms of a sharing arrangement.

Asked once if she was lawyering privately for Concepcion or officially for PhilAm BID, Viado did not respond. It's not clear either if all the acts of Concepcion and later of Viado had the knowledge and consent of the entire PhilAm BID board.

In the hectic days before the Expo, Viado, presumably on the orders of Concepcion, had come up with six different variations of a proposed memorandum of agreement outlining the percentage and amount of money PhilAm BID was supposed to receive from the $10,000.

That amount was outside of the $5,000 that PhilAm BID was already getting from the Microsoft deal. None was accepted by OVOV.

Concepcion had also asked Granovetter to take $2,000 from the already-allocated $10,000 for the Expo, the amount supposedly to be used for promotions and advertising.

Says Concepcion: " Ms. Granovetter was gracious and generous enough to offer another $2,000 to Phil Am BID in lieu of the check that the organizing group said they’d give us but retracted on their words. x x x I respectfully declined the additional check from Microsoft since that was not part of our original contract."

While Concepcion confirmed the $2,000 "offer", she did not explain the context upon which it was being given. Granovetter was already blowing her top when Concepcion demanded the money, saying she already had been given $5,000 and she did not have to trim down the $10,000 so she can have another $2,000.

That was when Granovetter called her "unethical," according to Samson who was on another phone line during their three-way conversation. That was also the moment when Concepcion, as she correctly claimed, "respectfully declined" the additional money.

Concepcion's blatant attempt to take over the Expo for PhilAm BID had not only been pitifully thrashed while it was on the surge, it was also totally nipped in the bud!.

On the day of the Expo on Feb. 17, Concepcion, who was initially calling the shots, and her chum Marilyn Mesina, sat quietly with their common friend away from the celebration. She was not called to the stage. Her name was not mentioned. Her presence wasn't even acknowledged.

 

BREAKING NEWS - A PhilVoiceNews Exclusive
Issue No. 65 NEWS WITHOUT FEAR OR FAVOR

A community service of San Diego's Philippine Village Voice (
PhilVoiceNews@aol.com or at 619.265.0611) for the information and better understanding of the public.



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Last Updated on Thursday, 25 October 2007 07:44
 

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