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Sunday, September 25, 2022

From Jackpot in the Lotto to Zero: The case of Mirando Jr. vs. PCSO

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Paul Tena
Paul Tena is an alumnus of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief of Politixxx Today and he also traverses into fiction writing in his spare time. Sometimes he goes by his pen name JPE Tena. His debut novel, The Lore Kingdom, was named an Honorable Mention in 2021 Lampara Prize. For more information, you may reach him via tenajpe@gmail.com.

Photo courtesy of Abante.

Every player wants to win it big in the lottery. In conjunction and perhaps, in the Philippines, the Philippine Charity and Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) sits up in the totem pole of betting games. Colloquially, it is referred to the Lotto by Filipinos and every year we witness tons of stories that lie on both the ends of extreme emotions of joy and despair. Nevertheless, lessons from past winners must be duly noted by those who aim it big in the arena of games based on luck. A perfect example is the story Carlito Mirando Jr.  

The back story

As narrated by the Supreme Court as it spoke through Justice Francis Jardeleza the tale began as follows: “On March 9, 1996, respondent Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) drew the lottery that yielded the following winning numbers: 15-22-23-24-34-36. It later announced that there was one winner of the jackpot prize of P120,163,123.00, who purchased the winning ticket at the Zenco Footsteps, Libertad, Pasay City lotto outlet (Zenco outlet).”

Allegedly, Carlito Mirando Jr.’s version added the following details: “On March 10, 1996, after he allegedly saw the winning numbers on a newspaper, he immediately went to the ACT Theater lotto outlet in Cubao, Quezon City where he purchased the ticket and handed it to the lady in the lotto booth. The latter fed the ticket in the lotto machine, after which the words “Congratulations, you win the jackpot prize” appeared on the monitor screen. Since it was a Sunday and the PCSO was closed, petitioner decided to go to Baliuag, Bulacan where he was working as a coco lumber agent. Thereafter, three months from the draw, he went to Aurora province and informed his family of the good news. After a week, or on March 18, 1996, he, together with his kumpare, went to the PCSO. He met with respondent Manolito Morato (Morato), former PCSO Chairman, to whom he presented his ticket to claim the prize. Morato allegedly asked him to sign the back of the lotto ticket then went inside his office with the ticket. After an hour, Morato told petitioner that he can no longer claim the prize because it was already claimed by someone else. Petitioner left the PCSO and later discovered that his ticket was altered.”

The beginning of the case

The allegation of alteration started the case. Thus, On July 3, 1996, petitioner Mirando Jr., through Atty. Renan Castillo, wrote a letter to PCSO requesting for the release of the jackpot prize. In a letter dated July 17, 1996, Morato replied that the sole winning ticket was sold at the Zenco outlet and the prize had already been claimed. He warned that should petitioner pursue his false claim, PCSO will charge him of attempted estafa through falsification of government security.

The ruling of the trial court

The RTC held that petitioner’s evidence left much to be desired. First, petitioner claimed to have validated his ticket on March 10, 1996, but failed to explain why it took him a week, or until March 18, 1996, before going to the PCSO. That he continued with his daily work and did not promptly claim the prize make his case incredible, especially in light of his assertion that he is poor.Second, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Questioned Document Division rendered a report stating that petitioner’s lotto ticket was tampered. Petitioner attributed the tampering to Morato.

However, the RTC opined that if Morato or his subordinates tampered with the ticket and had no intention of honoring it, petitioner would not have been asked to sign it in the first place. The RTC concluded that it was petitioner who actually tampered with the ticket, i.e., he bought the ticket after the draw, placed a bet on the winning combination after it was announced, erased the date and security code, and finally laid claim to the prize.

The appellate court

Unfortunately for Mirando Jr., the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court and took note of its own observations on his testimony. In other words, Mirando Jr. failed to persuade the court with his version of the story as the decisions was again ruled against his favor. Aggrieved for the second time around, he sought for the intervention of the Supreme Court to ultimately decide the fate of his quest to be a millionaire.

At that point, it became evident that there’s little to no credence in the testimony of Mirando Jr. and yet he chose to elevate the case before the Supreme Court for further scrutiny.

The Supreme Court’s say

Ultimately, the High Court found no merit on the bare allegations of Mirando Jr. As put by Justice Jardeleza, “At the end of the day, what petitioner has in his possession is a tampered lotto ticket, which by no stretch of the law he should benefit from. Petitioner does not deny the fact that the ticket was tampered, but accuses Morato of altering the ticket on the day they supposedly met at the PCSO on March 18, 1996. We agree with the RTC and the CA that neither the meeting nor the alleged tampering by Morato was proven by petitioner. Basic is the rule that he who alleges a fact has the burden of proving it, and a mere allegation is not evidence.”

Moral lesson

The story of Mr. Mirando Jr. must bring realizations for those who wish to enrich themselves by putting their lives in the hands of luck. Considering that the Court found that the alleged proof of his winning to be fraudulent, it should teach us to be faithful with our claims. In addition, we must know that betting comes with pros and cons, those who want to win properly must also prove them with the appropriate evidence otherwise they will suffer the same fate as Mr. Mirando Jr. who ended up fighting for a case only to have zero gains.

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