SC resolves Pepsi ‘349’ case
- Jose Rodel Clapano () - August 25, 2005 - 12:00am
The Supreme Court dismissed yesterday the petition for damages by claimants holding the controversial "349" winning numbers in the Pepsi Cola Number Fever promo in 1992.

The nine-page ruling written by Associate Justice Leonardo Quisumbing affirms earlier decisions on the case by the Court of Appeals (CA) and the Makati City regional trial court (RTC).

The SC’s first division said the arguments raised by claimants Amelita de Mesa, Araceli Adato, Rodrigo Alvaran, Aida Castro, Baltazar Estrelles, Antonio Ferrer, Danilo Garcia, Julio Gonzales, Marrieta Jose, Pepita Juntado, Eduardo Lago, Nestor Roda, Jaime Sanchez and Juanita Sanchez against the respondents PepsiCo Inc., and its local subsidiary Pepsi Cola Products Phils., Inc. (PCPPI),

had already been tackled by the High Tribunal when it denied the claimants’ petition for damages.

The SC did not give credence to the 14 claimants’ allegations that the dismissal of their complaint before the Makati City RTC Branch 142 was premature.

The claimants said their motion to archive the case had been based on expectations of a final resolution of previous cases also involving the Pepsi "349" contest.

"The issue has been settled and this court’s final decision in the said cases must be respected. This court’s hands are now tied by the finality of the said judgments. We have no recourse but to deny the instant petition," the SC said.

The SC upheld the ruling of the Makati City court, saying the RTC is "a court of controlling jurisdiction."

Court records showed that the complaint of the first claimant, Gerson Mendoza, was handled by the Manila RTC Branch 16.

Mendoza’s complaint for damages against Pepsi Cola was dismissed by the RTC, prompting him to appeal the case before the CA, but this was also dismissed for lack of merit.

He also filed a petition for review before the SC seeking to reverse the CA and RTC’s ruling, but this was junked by the High Tribunal for failure to sufficiently show that the appellate court committed any reversible error.

The other group of claimants led by Romulo Rodrigo refiled their complaints for damages before the Manila regional trial court Branch 50.

The complaint of the Rodrigo group took the same legal route after the Manila RTC dismissed it on the same grounds.

But prior to the resolution of both the Mendoza and Rodrigo "349" cases, De Mesa and her group filed a motion for leave before the Makati RTC in December 2000 to archive their case until final resolution of the two adjunct cases, then pending at the CA.

Pepsi, for its part, filed a motion to dismiss the complaints with the lower court.

In dismissing the complaint of De Mesa, the court ruled that the legal principle requires courts to follow a rule already established in a final decision of the SC.

"That decision becomes a judicial precedent to be followed in subsequent cases by all courts in the land. The doctrine stare decisis is based on the principle that once a question of law has been examined and decided, it should be deemed settled and closed to further argument," the SC said.

De Mesa and her group are holders of soft drink bottle caps bearing the number "349," allegedly a winning combination in a contest sponsored by PCPPI and PepsiCo in 1992.

The PCPPI is a domestic corporation engaged in the production, bottling and distribution of carbonated drinks, while the PepsiCo is a foreign corporation licensed to do business in the Philippines and is the major stockholder of PCPPI.

D.G. Consultores, a Mexican consulting firm that handled similar promotions in other countries, was tasked to randomly pre-select the winning numbers and send to respondents a list of the 60 winning numbers with their corresponding security codes.

The process of selecting the winning numbers was implemented with the approval of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

During the initial promotion period, from Feb. 17 to May 8, 1992, respondents seeded 1,000 numbers, 60 of which were winning numbers, while 510 were non-winning numbers, and the remaining 430 were unused.

To ensure that the winning numbers would not be tampered with, the DTI required respondents to submit the list of winning numbers including their security codes, which were then deposited in a safety deposit box in a bank.

Owing to the campaign’s success, respondents extended the Number Fever promotion by five weeks, from May 10 to June 12, 1992.

Pepsi again tapped D.G. Consultores to predetermine the 25 additional winning numbers from the list of unused numbers.

On May 25, 1992, respondents announced "349" as the winning number for the May 26 draw.

Later that night, Quintin Gomez, Jr., then PCPPI’s marketing services manger, called DTI Director Madarang and informed her that due to some security code problems a mistake had been made in the announcement of number "349" as the winning number.

Numerous holders of the supposedly winning "349" bottle caps were not honored and paid by respondents, which led rejected holders to file separate complaints for specific damages.

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