Embassy Raffle Brouhaha

by Philip Nemenzo

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”
– William Shakespeare (Hamlet)

Something is rotten, indeed, but not in Denmark.

One of the highlights of the recently concluded 1st Philippine Festival held on November 11-12, 2006 in Hibiya Park, Tokyo, was the Grand Raffle, which guaranteed a tour package for two to the Philippines as the top prize. In addition, consolation prizes, such as five (5) 50,000 yen and ten (10) 30,000 yen prizes were also at stake.

I was there that rainy morning when the first draw was held for the 30,000 yen consolation prizes. My memory is still vivid as I write this piece.

I went to Hibiya Park that day for two reasons alone, first, to meet my former UP classmate, housemate, and beer buddy Mudjie Santos, whom I hadn’t seen for ages, and to watch the Tampipi Band perform. Mudjie is a graduating PhD. student at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, while the Tampipi Band is composed of old acquaintances, some of whom also speak my dialect.

Mudjie and I were standing at the amphitheater holding our rickety umbrellas, unwary of the downpour that was quickly soaking our shoes and legs. But leaving was not an option. The Tampipi Band was to perform at 11:30 a.m. I glanced at my (soaked) watch; it was around 11:00 a.m. and the raffle draw was about to begin. Mudjie asked me if I had bought tickets for the raffle.

“How many tickets were sold?” I asked. Maybe more than 2,000, he replied. I rattled off on the mathematical probability of winning, then said, “That’s why I didn’t buy.” “Pag nanalo ako hindi kita babalatuhan,” he laughed.

The raffle started and we all heard that the winners of the 30,000 yen consolation prizes will be drawn next. Soon, the name Motoshige Yasuike was announced as one of the winners, and I could vividly recall how Mudjie, who was standing next to me, became very excited. Mr. Yasuike happens to be his labmate at the university, and it was another labmate, Fernand “Ambok” Fagutao, a Tampipi member, who had sold his ticket. Mudjie couldn’t contain his glee then; he even went to Ambok, who was preparing back stage, to talk about it. Their other labmates, who were also there, were visibly grinning from ear to ear.

I thought that was the end of it, and everybody was happy. Two days later, Mudjie called, and the first thing that he asked was, “Naalala mo ba kung ano ang napanalunan ng labmate ko?” Without batting an eyelash, I promptly said, “yeah, tatlong lapad (30,000 yen), bakit?” Mudjie chuckled at the other end; looking back, maybe that chuckle came from a very sour face. “Tumawag kasi ang raffle organizers, at sabi nila, ang napanalunan daw ng labmate ko ay “ABS-CBN gift pack”! he said.

“WHAAAAATTTT?”

“Ikaw na ang aking panglimang witness,” he said.

In the end, did Mr. Yasuike get the 30,000 yen that was really supposed to be his? Let the letters below speak for themselves.

—————————————————————————————
14 November 2006


Consul Bong Carino
Ms. Beth Ibay
Co-Chairs
Raffle and Prizes Committee
Philippine Festival 2006
Fax: 03-5562-1588


Dear Sir/ Madam,

This is regarding the winning raffle ticket bought from us by Mr. Motoshige Yasuike, our co-student at the Laboratory of Genome Science, Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology. His stub was picked first at the morning draw on Saturday, 11 November 2006 for a prize we heard announced to be Y 30,000. Mr. Yasuike was not in the festival so the next day, we happily told him of his winning ticket and his prize.

A staff from your committee contacted us last night about the winning ticket since it was our telephone number that was written in Mr. Yasuike’s stub (as per his advise). However, instead of Y 30,000, the staff told us that what he won was an ABS-CBN package. Initially, we insisted to her that what we heard was the former, but the staff, after conferring with presumably another member of the committee, said that the first 4 tickets drawn won an ABS-CBN package including Mr. Yasuike.

We find this troubling as we are sure that what we heard announced during the draw is that Mr. Yasuike won Y 30,000. To confirm this, we have asked 3 of our friends who were also there during the draw in different areas in the ampitheater. They too said that what they heard was the same as what we claim and they are even willing to testify to concur this.

This confusion has now created process and credibility issues, which has negative implications far and wide; to us, to the embassy, to the Filipino community. We are writing this complaint so your good office could carefully review what happened and make appropriate actions.

Should you need to contact us, our contact information is indicated below.

Sincerely,

Sgd:
Mudjekeewis Santos
(contact information deleted – Ed.)

Sgd:
Fernand Fagutao
——————————————————————————————

21 November 2006

Consul Bong Carino
Ms. Beth Ibay
Co-Chairs
Raffle and Prizes Committee
Philippine Festival 2006
Fax: 03-5562-1588


cc: Jeffrey Cabanday
Chairman, Philippine Festival 2006

cc: Hon. Claro M. Cristobal
Consul General
Philippine Embassy in Tokyo

Dear Sir/ Madam,

This is in reference to our formal letter dated 14 November 2006 regarding our complaint/petition on the winning raffle ticket of Mr. Motoshige Yasuike (please see attached). It has been a week since we faxed our letter and we have not received any formal reply. It has also come to our attention that the winners have already been published in the official website of the Philippine Fiesta 2006 at www.philfest.pagjapan.org.

We were at least expecting a formal explanation of the matter from your committee to tackle this issue. However, it appears that our formal complaint has been disregarded and was not given any due process. We are left with no choice but to seek other means so that our petition could be heard. As such, we have furnished a copy of this letter to the Chairman of the Philippine Festival 2006 and to the Consul General of the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo.

Hoping for a quick resolution of this matter!

Very truly yours,

Sgd:
Mudjekeewis Santos
(contact information deleted – Ed.)

Sgd:
Fernand Fagutao
————————————————————————————–

November 27, 2006

Mr. Mudjekeewis Santos
Mr. Fernand Fagutao
Laboratory of Genome Science
Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology
Tokyo, Japan

Dear Sirs:

This has reference to your two letters addressed to Raffle Committee’s Ms Beth Ibay, chair, and Consul Felipe “Bong” Carino, co-chair, concerning an inquiry on official winners of the Philippine Fiesta’s Raffle draw on the 1st day of the festival held on 11 November 2006 at Hibiya Park, Tokyo.

The committee needed time to undertake its own findings on which to base its conclusions. Mr. Yasuike Motoshige won a gift pack courtesy of ABS-CBN. The official list of winners has been released to organizations (thru their presidents or representatives) and thru the Philippine Festival’s official website. Having now informed Mr. Motoshige that he had actually won an ABS-CBN package, we hope this letter clarifies and conclusively answers your initial questions on this matter. We regret any confusion and misunderstanding or disappointment on your part that might have arisen from this incident.

On behalf of the organizing committee, I would like to thank Mr. Motoshige for joining the raffle bonanza and for his generous donation. His winning may be claimed at the Consular Section of the Philippine Embassy. For other details, please visit the Philippine Fiesta website.

Thank you for your continued support and understanding.

Truly yours,

(sgd) Jeffrey E. Cabanday
Chair, Executive Committee
First Philippine Festival in Japan

—————————————————————————————

01 December 2006

Jeffrey E. Cabanday
Chair
Executive Committee
Philippine Fiesta 2006


Dear Sir,

Thank you for your letter dated November 27, 2006 regarding our complaint/petition on the winning ticket of Mr. Motoshige Yasuike as stated in our 2 letters addressed to the Raffle Committee’s Ms. Beth Ibay, chair, and Consul Felipe “Bong” Carino, co-chair dated November 14 and 21, 2006.

While we appreciate your formal reply, we’re afraid that our complaint was not really addressed or “clarified” as you have indicated in your letter. The committee’s decision of Mr. Yasuike Motoshige’s winning an ABS-CBN package rather than the 30,000 yen we and our witnesses heard is precisely what we are complaining about. We were not even consulted. And, we disagree that the matter is a “confusion and misunderstanding or disappointment”. It is a matter of presenting evidence and witnesses on what really was announced. It is the word of the committee (we hope it has evidence) against ours and our witnesses.

What is disappointing is how this matter was handled by the committee. We wrote in our first letter that this has far reaching implications if not dealt with properly. We have done everything we can to contain the issue but it seems that the committee has decided for us to do otherwise. We will explain to Mr. Yasuike about what transpired on his winning ticket and we are sure that he will understand. What we are not sure though is if it will be understood by the people who we are furnishing a copy of our letters and yours. We will let them decide!

Very truly yours,

Sgd:
Mudjekeewis Santos
(contact information deleted – Ed.)

Sgd:
Fernand Fagutao
———————————————————————–

Mudjie and Ambok no longer received any reply after this letter (as of this posting). “Dedma ang mga kinauukulan,” Mudjie said. I also sent an email to Jeff Cabanday but there was no reply. In the end, Mudjie just explained the “situation” to his Japanese labmate and had the “ABS-CBN gift pack” delivered.

What is sad about all this is that this isn’t the first time that it has happened. Is changing the prizes of winners the modus operandi of raffle organizers? You be the judge.

Jerry (not his real name) belonged to one of the companies that sponsored the raffle during the most recent embassy-led Independence Day celebration. What is peculiar about this raffle is that, according to Jerry, the prizes were not printed on the tickets nor posted anywhere else. Since he was working when the winners were drawn, he only heard from his friends that he actually won the second prize, which was announced as 50,000 Japanese yen plus hotel accommodation.

Being part of a sponsoring company, he had direct access to the people in-charge of the raffle. When he later asked how he could claim his prize, he was initially told that he won “10,000 yen plus hotel accommodation.” He told them that that was not what his friends had heard.

To cut the long story short, after much prodding, the raffle organizers said: “Oo nga pala, 25,000 yen plus hotel accommodation ang premyo mo”.”

“Ang galing ano? Papaano na lang kung hindi kami kasama doon sa event?” Jerry told me.

I have always thought that these things happen “only in da Pilipins”. Unfortunately, wherever in the world you find Filipinos, these “misunderstandings” are sometimes bound to happen. It is a shame on our country, our culture, and our race.

There are many good, honest and highly professional people in the Philippine Embassy and we hope that, through them, we can put an end to “raffle bonanzas” that are clouded with suspicion and doubt.

Allow me to end this piece with another quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet:
“This above all: to thine own self be true …”