By Ike Suarez
Lotto draws by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) have now become an institution in the country. This is a no-brainer.
They are now also social safety valves, a tool for mitigating the possibility of unrest among the masses. For the middle class, it is a means to shorten achievement of a goal that requires delayed gratification.
For the masa, it is the P20 ticket to social mobility, a quick escape from poverty and the nasty, brutish life that accompanies it.
The middle class, on the other hand, views it as a way to fast-track the attainment of their aspirations: enough capital to start a business, tuition fees for graduate school or whatever else needs much saving and scrimping of their modest incomes.
Thus, any slight suspicion that a particular draw had been rigged would likely arouse quick response from Filipinos. And woe to the country and PCSO if found true.
Since many Filipinos today have social media accounts, suspicion about alleged rigging could quickly be posted online and go viral. Such was nearly the case last April 7 when the Grand Lotto draw took place.
A laborer who had bought a ticket in a Makati City outlet came out the winner of the P249-million pot. He also did collect his winnings a few days later.
But a post in the Facebook site, a group named ?Filipino?s Patriotism,? initially threw doubt on the draw?s credibility. It said that the ticket printout for the winning report indicated there was no winner.
Almost immediately and as expected, the post generated several hits and was shared in other sites. As one newspaper reporter put it in his article, ?likes? numbered 700 and comments, 500.
Only when the PCSO announced that the winner had finally collected his winnings did the controversy die down.
Nevertheless, there took place a challenge to the PCSO?s credibility. The cause of it all was the way the PCSO IT system conducts the draws. For security reasons, not even its broad outlines have been made publicly known.
About this fact, this writer had the good fortune to obtain from a source a copy of the memo from PCSO assistant general manager (AGM) Conrado Zaballa had sent to PCSO chairman Margarita Juico and the board of directors.
Zaballa is AGM for gaming, product development and marketing sector. His memo, written April 10 is titled, ?Ticket Report for the GrandLotto Game Results?. It gives out a semi-technical explanation and possibly for the first time, some broad outlines of the IT system behind the draws.
Its full text is as follows:
This is to respectfully report to you the incident that took place after the GrandLotto 6/55 game prize pot worth more than Php249 million pesos was won on 07 April 2014.
My attention was called to a Facebook newsfeed of a certain group called Filipino?s Patriotism that a ticket print out supposedly for the winning report of the GrandLotto for 07 April 2014 indicated that there was no winner. Apparently, the Facebook report pictures PCSO to have been defrauding the public for announcing that there is one winner when in fact the Lotto Ticket Report indicated that there was no winner.
After verification of the said report, it was discovered that the said ticket report that there was no winner was generated from the Pacific Online Systems Corp. (POSC) terminal in Luzon, particularly their SGI terminal which is being provided by the Scientific Games Inc., one of the POSC?s system providers. The SGI terminal generated a ticket report that there was no winner as far as their terminals are concerned since the winning jackpot ticket was not bought from any of its terminals. This is so because the ticket for the jackpot prize was bought from one of the terminals of the PGMC in Luzon. For us who are familiar with our system, we all know that there are two (2) authorized corporations for PCSO online lottery operations, PGMC and POSC. There are two system providers for Pacific Online, and they are SGI and Intralot. Likewise, PGMC has only one system provider, ILTS. If there is only one winner, naturally it will be registered in only one system provider while there is no winner coming out from the reports from the other two system providers. But the fact remains that there is one winner and, hence, will only be reported by only one of the three providers.
All of these processes were documented at the Remote Access Management Terminal (RAMT) at the Main Computer Center and witnessed and certified correct by all the draw participants, namely: Commission on Audit, Accounting and Budget Department, Internal Audit Services, Gaming, Product Development & Marketing Sector, Branch Operations and the draw team. The conduct of the live draw was also witnessed by the representatives of NBI and OGCC among others.
Further, I learned that just this morning, the lone winner had claimed the jackpot prize from our office.
Moreover, as always and in our nineteen (19) years of online lottery operations, we have been transparent with the conduct of all our lotto draws and we are prepared to present all documents showing the profiles of all the jackpot winners, past and present, to the proper Court of justice or any investigating bodies as the need arises to prove the veracity of all our draw results.
Respectfully submitted for your information.
And so, there you have it folks.
Meanwhile, some clarifications on the acronyms:
? PGMC is Philippine Gaming Management Corporation,
? Intralot is the brand name of a lottery gaming system sold worldwide,
? ITLS is International Lottery Totalizator System
True, the incipient controversy has at last died down. But it illustrates the emotional impact the lotto now has on many Filipinos? lives. And it points out once more that one must never underestimate the power of social media.
All — especially those in public office — must take heed of these facts.