MANILA, Philippines?The winner of the P741-million lotto jackpot, who has yet to claim his/her prize but is likely to remain anonymous, beat odds of one in nearly 29 million to guess the right combination of six numbers between one and 55.
Margarita Juico, the chair of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), which operates the Grand Lotto 6/55, said the PCSO had no idea about the winner of the biggest pot ever save for the fact that the person had placed his or her bet somewhere in Luzon.
Later in the day, Liza Gabuyo, PCSO assistant general manager, said the bettor?s ticket, a lucky pick, was purchased in Olongapo City, Zambales province.
?It was bought in the day prior to the draw,? Gabuyo said.
She said the winner would be given one check for the full jackpot, which is tax-free.
To dispel doubts about the integrity of the process of picking winners, Juico said she was open to revising the PCSO protocol and allowing the winning tickets to be made public.
?That can be done. I don?t see any problem with that,? Juico told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a phone interview.
In a country where one in three people live on a dollar a day, the lottery created a frenzy as the jackpot slowly built from mid-May?there had been no winners in 86 consecutive draws.
?The number of bettors grew as the pot increased,? said Manny Arazas, an accountant at the Bataan-Zambales lottery office.
?And they began betting on up to five-number combinations at a time, instead of just one.?
Juico acknowledged concerns that the process of picking winners might be rigged in the absence of greater transparency.
?You can never be sure until he or she presents himself,? she said. ?But on the part of the PCSO, we have a process of verifying winning tickets presented to us by lucky bettors.?
On Tuesday morning, for instance, a tricycle driver in his late 20s arrived with his wife at the PCSO office at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City to claim his P18-million prize.
Juico said the lucky couple took only around 30 minutes to receive their check from Land Bank of the Philippines and walk home as instant millionaires.
Winning tickets are verified by the PCSO?s internal audit department, after which the treasury department will issue a check to be signed either by the agency?s chair or general manager. A photo is taken of the winner receiving the check from a PCSO official.
Juico said winners could deposit the check at the Landbank branch at the PICC. She said encashing the full amount was also an option.
Amid questions about the veracity of lotto winners, she said she was more concerned about how new-found wealth would affect the general well-being of winners.
?Of course, I?m happy that lotto winners are mostly poor,? Juico said. ?But I?m worried that the instant millions would make their lives more miserable.?
Citing cases of instant millionaires who turned to womanizing, drugs and other vices, retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz said lotto winners were ?ultimately the loser.?
?I wouldn?t want any of my friends to win that much money because I?m sure it would mess up their lives,? he told the Inquirer.
?When you win, you will have to worry about so many things. You will gain more friends, but also enemies. You will be in constant fear of being robbed or kidnapped.? With reports from Christine O. Avendaño, Jocelyn Uy and Agence France-Presse