SC Dismisses ABS-CBN Plea Against ‘Wowowee’ Stampede Probe

By Maria Sunantha Quibilan/Asianjournal.com

THE Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed the petition filed by ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. that questioned the result of the investigation conducted by the Department of Justice into the tragic stampede at the ULTRA stadium (now Philsports Arena) two years ago.

In a 22-page decision, the high court, through Associate Justice Conchitina Carpio Morales, disagreed with the TV network’s allegation that the DoJ preliminary investigation was biased and unfounded. The ruling directed the DoJ prosecutors to continue with the proceedings to determine if there was probable cause to charge ABS-CBN executives of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide and multiple physical injuries.

On Feb. 4, 2006, seventy-one people were killed and hundreds more were injured as the crowd, estimated at 30,000 people, pushed and shoved outside the Pasig City stadium to get a hold of the tickets being given out to the first anniversary celebration of the popular noontime show, Wowowee. On that day, the show was planning to give away big prizes which included P1 million pesos, a house and lot and a car.

A resolution issued on Oct. 9, 2006 by the five-man investigatory panel headed by State Prosecutor Leo Dacera from the DoJ found probable cause that several ABS-CBN executives were to blame for the deadly stampede. The network officials questioned these findings, arguing that Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez had prejudged the case and that the proceedings were done with “indecent haste.”

These claims, however, were debunked by Tuesday’s ruling, a portion of which stated that the “petitioners’ [ABS-CBN officials] fears are speculatory.”

“As for petitioners’ claim of undue haste indicating bias, proof thereof is wanting. The pace of the proceedings is anything but a matter of acceleration. Neither is there proof showing that Gonzalez exerted undue pressure on his subordinates to tailor their decision with his public declarations and adhere to a pre-determined result,” the Supreme Court said.

The high court’s decision denies the plea of ABS-CBN, led by its executive vice president Charo Santos-Concio, for a temporary restraining order against the DoJ panel’s preliminary investigation.  This paves the way for the indictment of all those involved in the Wowowee stampede, except for host Willie Revillame, with criminal charges.

Meanwhile, ABS-CBN legal department head, Atty. Maxim Uy, said that the company will ask the court to reconsider its decision. They were given 15 days to file such motion.

In addition, ABS-CBN said in its website that it will continue to help, through its 71 Dreams Foundation, “the orphans of the stampede victims despite the decision that could lead to the filing of charges against the company.”

(www.asianjournal.com)

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