SC decides in finality on 'Pepsi 349' case
() - June 26, 2006 - 12:00am
It is already final. The 349 case is closed.

The Supreme Court has ruled that Pepsi-Cola could no longer be compelled to pay prizes to the thousands of people, who are holders of the controversial bottle caps with 349 markings and the lower courts nationwide are bound by this latest decision.

Some of the cases that were filed by the holders of the 349 Pepsi crowns are still pending before the regional trial courts here, but with the latest decision of the Supreme Court, the claimants may no longer get a favorable ruling of their cases.

The Court of Appeals earlier ordered the softdrink company to pay 349 crown holder Jaime Lacanilao of his prize, but the ruling of the appellate court was overturned by the High Tribunal when the Pepsi-Cola elevated the case to them.

In a 10-page decision penned by Justice Leonardo Quisumbing and was concurred with by1 the members of the SC's third division, it said Lacanilao is not a holder of the winning "349" Pepsi crown with the proper security code.

It was learned that it was already the fourth similar case that the High Tribunal decided against the claimants and Supreme Court spokesman Ismael Khan was also quoted as saying "this should be the defining decision. The lower courts are bound by this ruling."

In 1992, Pepsi-Cola Products Philippines launched a promotional activity dubbed as "Number Fever" and offered prizes up to P1 million for holders of bottle caps with the winning numbers.

When the "349" was announced on May 25, 1992, thousands of people claimed the prizes, but the company refused to pay all of them, saying the caps did not contain the proper security codes.

Pepsi officials claimed that a computer glitch picked the number by mistake, but those who got the bottle caps with the winning number combinations argued that it was not their mistake and the soft drinks company should be ordered to pay them.

But the SC ruled "the issues surrounding the 349 incident have been laid to rest and must no longer be disturbed in this decision."

Pepsi faced more than 1,000 criminal and civil suits, but most of these cases have been dismissed.

Pepsi lawyer Alexander Poblador said their company spent more than P200 million to pay close to 500,000 non-winning claimants as a goodwill gesture, but still suffered loses when the angry claimants burned 37 company trucks.

A Pepsi plant in Davao City was recently attacked by unidentified persons, who lobbed a grenade killing three persons and causing the suspension of the plant's operation for a while. - Rene U. Borromeo

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