PALACE: OPPOSITION TWISTING STAMPEDE TRAGEDY TO THEIR OWN NEEDS

MANILA
, February 7, 2006, (STAR) Malacañang Tuesday slammed the recent attack by the opposition alleging that the recent stampede that killed 74 people at a sports stadium hosting a popular television show was the fault of the administration.

In response to the attacks, Press Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye said in a statement, "Our critics continue to twist the tragedy in Ultra to poison the minds of the people. Quite obviously, they are color blind to the silver lining in the horizon."

"The continuous strengthening of the peso will not happen by itself. It is fed by good economic fundamentals and confidence in the national leadership," Bunye said.

Some 30,000 people, mostly from urban poor communities and the majority of them women and the elderly, had queued to see a taping of the popular game show "Wowowee", hoping to win cash and prizes last Saturday.

The huge crowd had surged towards the main entrance of the Ultra sports stadium, destroying a metal gate and trampling one another. Some 400 people were injured in the melee.

Earlier, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. said the tragedy that marred the television show reflects the desperation of the great masses of Filipinos to reap instant fortune and escape from grinding poverty.

"The loss of 79 lives and the injuries sustained by scores of others clearly belie the administration’s claim that the economy is in good shape. People would not risk being crushed to death if times were good," he said.

Palace hands off in probe behind stadium stampede 02/07 12:32:37 PM

As the country awaits for the results of the investigation into the deadly weekend stampede that left 74 people dead, Malacañang said Tuesday that it would not take part of the prosecution of those liable for the the tragedy.

Press Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye said in a statement, "We leave to the proper authorities the prosecution of those who would be found liable for the Ultra stampede as well as the implementation of the corrective measures to prevent a repeat of this tragedy, based on the recommendations of the fact-finding board."

Some 30,000 people, mostly from urban poor communities and the majority of them women and the elderly, had queued to see a taping of the popular game show "Wowowee", hoping to win cash and prizes last Saturday.

The huge crowd had surged towards the main entrance of the Ultra sports stadium, destroying a metal gate and trampling one another. Some 400 people were injured in the melee.

President Gloria Arroyo had appointed a task force, called Task Force Ultra, to investigate the matter and come up with the results within 72-hours.

The top official of the Department of Justice, Secretary Raul Gonzales, had earlier hinted that executives of ABS-CBN, producers of the popular game show "Wowowee" as well as its host, Willie Revillame, face possible criminal liability for the weekend stampede.

TV fans 'treated like animals' before stampede: task force 02/07 1:02:12 PM

MANILA (AFP) - A task force investigating the deadly weekend stampede at a game show taping said Tuesday fans had been "treated like animals" by network executives, who could face criminal charges.

The crowd was "enticed and made to suffer all sorts of inconveniences and in that sense were exploited, manipulated and treated like animals," said Interior Undersecretary Marius Corpus, head of the task force.

Corpus said at least three executives at the country's biggest television network ABS-CBN could face charges in connection with Saturday's stampede at a stadium in the Manila suburb of Pasig, which left 74 people dead.

Some 30,000 people, mostly from urban poor communities and the majority of them women and the elderly, had queued to see a taping of the popular noontime game show "Wowowee", hoping to win cash and prizes.

The huge crowd had surged towards the main entrance of the sports stadium, destroying a metal gate and trampling one another. Some 400 people were injured in the melee.

"Offering a few tickets to so many people can be likened to throwing a small piece of meat to a pack of wolves and this triggered the stampede," he said.

Results of the probe ordered by President Gloria Arroyo would be given to the justice department, which would prepare any case brought against the ABS-CBN executives, Corpus said.

"The investigation does not stop here. There will be further investigations," Corpus said, stressing that executives and producers of the show clearly had not made any contingency plans for a potential disaster.

While there appeared to be "no willful intent" to harm or cause injury, ABS-CBN officials could be charged with "reckless imprudence and negligence" leading to homicide, Corpus said.

Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said in a statement that the government would leave "the prosecution of those who would be found liable" for the accident to the proper authorities.

He said "corrective measures" based on the findings of the panel should be made to prevent the repetition of such an accident in the future.

ABS-CBN executives were not immediately available for comment, but a spokeswoman said a statement would be issued later Tuesday.

Fans dreaming of winning the top prize of one million pesos (19,250 dollars), cars, tricycles and other prizes had lined up for days outside the stadium to get tickets for the taping of "Wowowee".

The crowd grew to about 30,000 as of late Friday and there were only three ambulance crews on standby. Before dawn Saturday, guards started distributing raffle stubs, causing a commotion in the crowd.

"The gate was closed after it had been opened momentarily which agitated the people even more, resulting in pushing and shoving each other which later toppled the metal barricade," Corpus said.

"This caused the stampede, resulting in injuries and deaths."

In the past, ABS-CBN organized two previous shows at which people were also hurt in similar stampedes, Corpus noted.

"It's apparent that lessons have not been learned," he said.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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