POSTSCRIPT / October 10, 2002 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Can bogus Lotto winners be inserted after the draw?

DOUBTS BUG LOTTO: With the SuperLotto jackpot having soared beyond the dizzying P150-million mark for tonight’s draw, questions are again being raised about the honesty of the game that is vulnerable to human intervention.

One question being asked, for instance, is how sure are bettors that additional winners are not inserted after the draw to split the prize between the legitimate winner and some fast operator who has control over the process.

Reader Vicente F. Gambito of Cebu noted in an email:

“Lotto managers put a lot of hullabaloo in weighing the balls, in showing that they are not capable of rigging the whole thing. What amuses me though is that when the numbers are drawn, they are unable to say promptly whether somebody bought the winning number or not. The public will know the answer to that only at some later time, usually the next day.

“This time lag allows a program specialist back at their operations center to issue a command to print out a winning ticket or tickets ostensibly sold by some unwary or conniving agent. Nobody ever checks this, right?

“To discount this possibility and probably for the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office to stop assuming that they have an unthinking public to continue fooling, the PCSO must bring to the TV studio a CD (compact disk) that contains all the numbers sold for the draw. After the number is drawn, and still on the show, the CD is placed immediately into a computer drive for one of the special judges/guests to verify whether or not the winning combination was sold.

“That way, the possibility of a last-minute insertion of a winning ticket is eliminated and the transparency which the PCSO is trying to project is complete.

“The CD must contain the combinations sold only in ASCI format. This is to make sure there is no embedded program to manipulate the search for the winning bet.”

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INFERIOR LOTTO PAPER: Many betters are also demanding that the PCSO use better technology and better paper to print tickets at point of sale so as not to rob winners of their legitimate prizes.

Reader J. de Quiroz using a yahoo address noted that Lotto prizes may be claimed within one year, but that the paper used for the ticket printout fades after only a few weeks. Once the print on the ticket becomes unreadable, the bearer may no longer claim his prize.

In contrast, we have Lotto tickets bought in New York more than two years ago and the print is still crisp, clear and readable.

The local Lotto ticket fades even faster when exposed to sunlight or heat, robbing the ticket-holder of his winnings. After one year, the prize is considered unclaimed and added to the huge pile called a Social Fund of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

In effect, the President becomes the biggest Lotto winner – without having to place a single bet! So if you want to continue contributing to GMA’s war chest, rush to the nearest friendly Lotto outlet and bet your last 10 pesos.

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REMOTE CONTROL OF NPA: The rash of attacks by the New People’s Army on various targets lately have raised the question of how much control dissident leaders abroad still have on local armed partisans in carrying out terrorist campaigns.

There is also the related question as to the status of Jose Ma. Sison, Communist Party of the Philippines founder who claims to being able to direct from his safe haven in the Netherlands the terror attacks here of the NPA.

We asked for information from various sources. Among the first to respond was Carlo Butalid, one of the National Democratic Front leaders in Western Europe who, with several others, split from Joma’s group in 1993.

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WHAT’S JOMA STATUS?: Emailing from the Netherlands, Butalid told us:

“Joma Sison is a terrorist. I agree with this description, even though I am highly skeptical of the United States’s classification of the CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations. The basis for this seemingly contradictory position is that Joma has acted like a terrorist in a number of cases, which (as far as I could find out) do not necessarily correspond to the will of the CPP’s central committee nor of the general CPP membership. I disagree with the vision or methods employed by the CPP; but these are not terroristic per se.

“In 1997, the Dutch government came out (for the third time, Joma had originally applied for political asylum in 1988) with a decision to reject Joma’s application for refugee status. Unlike the earlier two rejections (which were overturned by the Raad van State, the equivalent to our Court of Appeals), the third rejection was quite harsh and specific in its basis for its decision.

“According to the government, ‘Mr. Sison’s presence in the Netherlands constitutes a threat to the security of the Dutch state, because of his personal links with known terrorist organizations.’ It further recommended that Sison be immediately expelled from the country. This time around, however, the Raad van State did not reject the government’s decision.

“According to experts on refugee-related laws, this means that the government had hard evidence to back their claim that Joma had ‘personal links’ with terrorists. From that point on, there was no chance for Joma to ever be recognized as a political refugee in this country (the Netherlands).

“The Raad van State, however, decided not to return Joma to the Philippines, because of the possible danger to his life, recommending instead that he be transferred to a satisfactory ‘third country.’

“Joma subsequently attempted to get himself officially employed, so as to be able to have a continued legal stay in the Netherlands. In response to this, the Dutch government declared him ‘illegal’ in 1999. This effectively bars him from changing his stay permit to another category (e.g. student, employed, self-supporting businessman, religious preacher, etc.). He has been in legal limbo since.

“So it seems that the Dutch government has hard evidence proving that Joma has links with terrorist organizations. Note here that European countries do not usually stick the label of ‘terrorist’ to communist parties or national liberation movements. These are legal here. For Europeans, ‘terrorists’ are groups that bomb civilian targets, etc., in Europe itself, such as the Basque ETA, the Irish Republican Army in Ireland/UK, the Red Brigades in Italy, 17 November in Greece….

“Joma and his people here have been linking up with at least two of these: the IRA and the ETA, and I do not discount the possibility that they have linked with other such terrorist groups. The CPP/NDF has regular contacts with Libyan and Iraqi officials. While these are not top secret operations, the regular trips of Joma’s henchmen to these countries bring them in contact with terrorist groups who also relate with these countries.

“The Dutch government has been trying to get rid of Joma Sison since 1997. The US branding of the NPA and Joma as terrorist is quite convenient for the Dutch authorities, so they jumped on the opportunity to get rid of this thorn on their side.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 10, 2002)

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