MANILA, Philippines?So this is probably how a lottery jackpot winner feels?paranoid, insecure and uneasy.
But in my case, I?m neither P741 million richer nor a consolation prize winner, and yet I share the burden of the mystery bettor.
On Monday night, I filed breaking news on the winning combination of the 6/55 Grand Lotto, a much anticipated result because the jackpot was the biggest prize ever in the country?s lottery.
Monitoring the radio, I took note of the numbers and sent them as soon as the combination was complete. I was told the combination was flashed on the INQUIRER.net website, sent via SMS and Twitter.
A call to the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office turned my draft?which assumed there was no winner since bettors were luckless the past 85 times?180 degrees. ?There is a winner from Luzon,? PCSO assistant general manager Liza Gabuyo told me.
The adrenaline rushed through my veins. I told myself the one in a 29 million chance did exist. It was the odds a punter must hurdle to win the top prize.
I called up the duty editor to inform him that there was a winner, and that I would file a story shortly. I rehashed a draft I prepared last week.
I sent a one-line e-mail to our Twitter operator saying ?One winner from Luzon confirmed.?
Minutes later, I filed the story, headed home and called it a night.
Then the unthinkable happened.
?Did you really win the Grand Lotto?? was the first line my college pal told me as he rang my phone.
?Huh? I didn?t even get a chance to place my bet,? I replied.
?You should tune in to Magic 89.9 because people are saying you won,? he said. I tuned in to the FM radio station only to miss the announcement.
Call from mother
My mother was the second person to call me up. She posed the same question. I gave her the same answer, and she said my sister was being asked by her friends about Monday night?s draw. My mother passed the phone to my sister, who said her friends had learned about the information via Twitter.
I mumbled profanities and curses on my way home. Once there, I immediately logged onto my social networking accounts. To my surprise, what my friend, mother and sister had told me was no bad joke; people took the information as gospel truth.
Stream of messages
I had over 100 people I never personally met asking me to add them as a ?friend,? while a stream of congratulatory messages flooded my inbox. I told myself the situation was getting out of hand.
The first thing I did was to snoop around while replying to concerned friends who exerted efforts in trying to clear the miscommunication. The snafu even reached a couple of my friends based overseas who also tried to clarify the issue by sending retweets.
I discovered who the culprit was.
Apparently, it was celebrity host Tim Yap who branded me the winner in his tweet a few hours earlier.
?Eto na, PCSO confirms one winner?his name is Miko Morelos. He gets to take home the P741.2M peso Grand Lotto 6/55 Jackpot! #magtagokana!? he said in his Twitter account (@iamtimyap Tim Yap)
The first thing that crossed my mind was how clueless Yap was on the subject. The PCSO does not disclose the identity of any winner for obvious security reasons.
What was appalling was the hundreds of people falling for the false information. They even set up a fan page on Facebook encouraging me to spend the money wisely, while not taking seriously the clarifications from the Inquirer Twitter account and ?Mr. Bigshot socialite? (Yap) himself.
Yap continued with his tweets: ?And guess what? Miko Morelos is on twitter! @mikomorelos I already sent a request. He protected his tweets already. #afraidforhislife,? @iamtimyap Tim Yap said.
He tried to clarify the matter when he tweeted: ?Okay, ladies& gents excited about the winner of the lotto jackpot?I received reports that Miko Morelos is the Inquirer reporter who reported about the lotto. Not necessarily the winner. #sorrynacarriedawaylahat.?
(I personally find the hashtags contentious bordering on the malicious.)
The damage had been done.
My mother called me up Tuesday afternoon saying the classmates of my sisters appeared to be convinced that I won the jackpot, no matter how much they denied the information.
With the desperate times as indicated by the surge in petty crimes in the streets, I feared for our safety.
I commute to work from our house and the dangers of public transport are as obvious as the color of the sky. My family, likewise, does the same.
I?ve taken precautions to salvage what was left of my identity in my social networking accounts, claiming a copyright infringement on my part for the unauthorized use of my name on the Facebook pages (including the one that?s supporting me for the sake of a level playing field).
What bothers me is how people take information at face value, without reading or even processing these bits to form a coherent thought. Is this a sign of the times that people aren?t thinking critically anymore?
I hope not.
(And even if I did win the jackpot, you probably wouldn?t see my byline tomorrow.)