Charges set vs ABS-CBN execs, others over stampede

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Image by Flon Faurillo via Bulatlat
(via ABS) The justice department has recommended the filing of charges of reckless imprudence resulting to multiple homicide and injuries against television host Willie Revillame and 16 other people, including two top executives of ABS-CBN in relation to the ULTRA stampede last February.

In a 70-page decision, the Department of Justice said ABS-CBN cannot use “force majeure” as an excuse. The disaster, according to the decision,”could be foreseen by exercise of reasonable care and due reflection.” The network, it says “provided setting for stampede and created undue risk of harm to congested crowd.”

Aside from Revillame, the DOJ recommended the filing of charges against Charo Santos-Concio, Channel 2 managing director; Socorro Vidanes, head of production; Malou Almaden, production manager; Morley Stuart Nueva, executive producer; Harold Nueva, associate producer; Norbert Vidanes, show director; Ray Cayabyab, location manager; Owen Garcia, segment producer; Mel Feliciano, floor director; Francisco Rivera and Cipriano Luspo, network security chief.

The list also included engineer Jess Belardo of the Philsports building administration and Erlinda Reis, booking and events coordinator of the government-owned sports venue, as well as Rosenbar Viloria, Chito Payumo and Wilflon Unanad of Goldlink Security Agency .

A separate probe will be called to determine probable cause against Pasig City Mayor Vicente Eusebio, members of Pasig police and ULTRA security men.

Seventy-one people died in the stampede following a mad rush to get inside the Philsports Arena (formerly ULTRA) last February 4 when the noontime show “Wowowee” was scheduled to celebrate its first anniversary. Police estimated the crowd gathered outside the gates to have peaked at 50,000 strong.

The DOJ recommendation affirmed a statement by Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales last February 5, a day after the tragedy. He declined to pinpoint the extent of liability pending results of the investigation by a government inter-agency panel.

President Arroyo likewise blamed ABS-CBN for the disaster even before the investigating panel released its report.

In releasing to the media the result of its investigation, Interior Undersecretary Marius Corpus said: “The decision or act of offering so few tickets to so many people can be likened to throwing a small slice of meat to a hungry pack of wolves and this triggered the stampede.”

He apologized the following day, saying the statement was not part of the report.

Network chairman and chief executive Eugenio Lopez III immediately issued a statement after the tragedy assuming full responsibility.

“I want to say that I am responsible and I will hold myself accountable should our justice system so determine in the future. There will be no whitewash and we will continue to work with the government and all its agencies,” he said in a televised statement.

ABS-CBN created the “71 Dreams Foundation,” headed by Fr. Tito Caluag to take care of the long-term assistance needs of the families orphaned by the tragedy.

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