MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) to give the over P12 million prize to a man whose jackpot-winning ticket was damaged by a hair straightener.
In a 17-page decision, the Second Division of the SC, through Judge Jhosep Lopez, dismissed the petition for review filed by PCSO, which seeks to reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals ruling affirmed the decision of the Batangas Regional Trial Court in favor of the lotto jackpot winner.
On October 2, 2014, the man placed three bets for the Lotto 6/42 draw using the lucky pick method. The next day he learned he had all six figures. However, his granddaughter accidentally crumpled the winning ticket, prompting his daughter to flatten it with a hair straightener protected by a cloth. However, the process partially damaged the ticket, leaving few details visible, such as the first two digits of the three bet combinations, the purchase location, draw and purchase dates, and the time of purchase.
He handed over the ticket to the PCSO in Mandaluyong City on October 5, 2014. He was instructed to provide a handwritten account of the incident. However, after he submitted his affidavit to the Legal Department, PCSO told him that the ticket could no longer be validated; so he couldn’t claim the prize.
His situation became the subject of several hearings in the House of Representatives, during which it was recommended that he be awarded the prize. He made demands to PCSO but was ignored, prompting him to file a case with the RTC of Batangas, which ruled in his favor. PCSO took the matter to the Court of Appeal but they too lost, prompting the filing of a petition in the SC.
Agreeing with the Court of Appeal, the SC said that the PCSO Amended Games and Rules and Regulations for Lotto 6/42 contain ambiguous provisions, open to two interpretations.
According to the rules, tickets where all six selected numbers match the official winning numbers are classified as Category 1 prizes. While the PCSO emphasized the need for complete physical tickets for prize money disbursement, the House Committee on Games considered the selection of the winning number combination as the main condition precedent.
The SC said the PCSO rules did not refer to a ‘winning ticket’ but only defined ‘ticket’ as that produced by a terminal to confirm the customer’s selection of the song.
“Put differently, the ticket is merely evidence of the fact that the gambler has selected the winning combination of numbers,” the SC said.
Moreover, the SC said that the gambler established, based on secondary evidence, that he succeeded in betting on the winning numbers.
“The testimony of the (winning gambler) and his family members, substantiated by data from the sweepstakes office itself, surrounding the fact that he had placed a lotto bet and that the numbers chosen corresponded to the winning lotto number, was properly admissible and given weight, ” the SC said.
To be precise, the SC said that the PCSO should pay the jackpot prize of P12,391,600.00 to the gambler. Statutory interest of six percent per year will be charged on the amount from the date the decision becomes final until it is paid in full.
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