Arroyo hits ‘Wowowee’ organizers, ABS-CBN miffed
Arroyo hits ‘Wowowee’ organizers, ABS-CBN miffed
Feb 14 2006, 08:08 PM
Joined: 28-October 02
Arroyo hits ‘Wowowee’ organizers; ABS-CBN miffed
First posted 01:54am (Mla time) Feb 15, 2006
By Christine O. Avendao, Leila Salaverria
Editor's Note: Published on page A1 of the Feb. 15, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquire
PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday took to task the “organization” behind the daily game show that triggered the Feb. 4 stampede, but did not name ABS-CBN.
Speaking for the first time about the stampede outside the PhilSports Arena (formerly ULTRA) in Pasig City, the President said the “tragedy” showed “the inadequacy and negligence of the organization that sponsored” the game show “Wowowee.”
“At nakakalungkot na sa halip na tukuyin ang kalinga sa mga biktima at akuin ang responsibilidad, iyong mga sponsor ng palabas ay hinahanap na pagbintangan iyong mga biktima dahil mahirap sila (And the sad thing is, instead of focusing on providing care for the victims and claiming responsibility, the show’s sponsors are trying to pin the blame on the victims because they are poor),” she said in an interview over dzRH radio.
In a statement issued later in the day, ABS-CBN said: “We are saddened that President Arroyo has prejudged the results of the government investigation into the ULTRA stampede.
“[ABS-CBN chair and CEO] Gabby Lopez has already claimed moral responsibility, and ABS-CBN moved immediately to address the needs of the victims and their families. We continue to do so, focusing now on medium- and long-term assistance.”
Ms Arroyo made the statement when asked to comment on the attempt of some sectors to put political color to the issue.
More than 70 were killed and hundreds more were injured when mostly unemployed people -- many of whom had queued for days -- scrambled to gain entry into the PhilSports Arena for the first anniversary show of “Wowowee.”
Critics of the administration immediately blamed the government for the tragedy, saying it had failed to alleviate the plight of the poor. They cited the estimated 30,000 who endured the long queue in the hope of winning cash and other prizes.
But Malacañang officials protested what they said were attempts to use the issue of poverty against the President.
Ms Arroyo told dzRH that the role of the government was to determine the circumstances behind the stampede and to bring justice to the victims and their families.
She said the investigation would be fair: “We should show that no one is above the law and that equal rights and equal justice will prevail over wealth or status.
“Whoever is found liable in the investigation should be held responsible.”
The Department of Justice is currently investigating the stampede.
The Senate committee on justice and human rights has called for comments “under oath” from persons involved.
Senator Joker Arroyo, acting chair of the committee, yesterday said letters had been sent out in preparation for an inquiry.
He said the hearings would start “as soon as we get answers that would be useful.”
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago had earlier called for an inquiry “in aid of legislation on the criminal and civil liabilities of ABS-CBN and its security officials for the quasi-offense of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide and multiple grave physical injuries.”
Santiago said an investigation was in order because the penal code had to be amended to raise the penalties for reckless imprudence and negligence, “particularly on the part of entertainment firms, including TV stations, that deliberately seek to attract big crowds of people beyond their capacity to manage, thus posing danger to life and limb among the masses.”
Ferdinand Lavin, National Capital Region executive officer of the National Bureau of Investigation, said the NBI was preparing to invite “Wowowee” host Willie Revillame to make a formal statement.
“It would only be fair to invite Revillame so he can give us his side,” Lavin told reporters.
He said it was possible that the NBI would also invite top ABS-CBN executives to give their own statements this week.
Lavin said the bureau was in the process of taking the statements of the heads of Pasig City government offices.
“Through [their] statements and documents ... we will determine whether they amply responded to ABS-CBN’s request for assistance during the event,” he said.
Lavin said the NBI had coordinated with the Office of Pasig Mayor Vicente Eusebio and taken the statements of sacked Pasig police chief Senior Superintendent Raul Medina; Richard Cua, chair of Barangay Oranbo, where PhilSports Arena is located, and Inspector Khadaffy Bitor, officer in charge of the city’s Traffic and Parking Management Division.
He said investigators were scheduled to meet with the chiefs of the Bureau of Fire Protection and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority units that responded to calls for assistance.
“So far, we have completed 60-70 percent of the investigation,” Lavin said.
He said the NBI had obtained complete documentation on the deaths of 70 people, the medical certificates of the injured, and sworn statements from 30 vital witnesses.
At the Bulong Pulungan forum, Tina Monzon-Palma, program director of ABS-CBN Foundation’s Bantay Bata, said the network would not stop the aid it had been giving the stampede victims even if they decide to go to court.
She said, however, that the network could not do anything should the victims refuse help.
“I doubt it. I don’t think [so]. All of these are most likely people who would file [a case], but we opted to assist them. But should they refuse [the aid], that’s a different story,” Palma said when asked if the network would cease helping the victims once a case had been filed.
The non-government anticrime group Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) had earlier offered to assist those who wished to file a class suit against the network.
Palma said that as of yesterday, nobody had approached ABS-CBN to seek a settlement in exchange for not filing a suit.
But she also said a class suit would help the victims: “It would be to the best interest of all of them. If they can hire individual lawyers, they will. But if they are not that well-off, they can go together to [VACC chair] Dante Jimenez and give all of their salaysay (statements) so we can deal with it.”
By ABS-CBN’s count, 71 people were killed and over 600 injured in the stampede.
71 Dreams Foundation
Fr. Carmelo Caluag, a member of the ABS-CBN board of directors, said at the same forum that the network had spent some P4 million in aid to the victims.
“It came out in the news. Their running tally is P4 million,” he said when asked how much the network had spent so far to help the victims.
Caluag reiterated that the network was planning to set up a foundation to provide long-term aid not just to the families of those who died in the stampede but also to other less fortunate people.
He said the project, called the 71 Dreams Foundation, would provide material aid to and continually support and monitor the beneficiaries.
The program will also provide livelihood and education support, Caluag said, adding:
“It’s not just a dole-out. It’s the classic distinction between giving them fish and teaching them to fish.”
Palma said ABS-CBN had been segregating its show audiences, with the elderly and children assigned a separate line. She said network executives were also studying new ways to distribute tickets to its shows.
Earlier, Interior Undersecretary Marius Corpus, head of the fact-finding body assigned to look into the stampede, said the people who had queued for the “Wowowee” anniversary show were “treated like animals.” With reports from Margaux C. Ortiz and Philip C. Tubeza
Feb 17 2006, 02:27 PM
Joined: 21-October 03
Although ABS-CBN had been responsible for the stampede the local police and the ULTRA management is also party liable for not controlling the crowd in their premises
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