Friday, February 10, 2006

ABS-CBN Office For Stampede Victims

ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. on Friday said it will set up an office to help families of the 71 victims who died in last Saturday's stampede at the Philsports Arena (formerly ULTRA).

Fr. Carmelo Calauag, a member of ABS-CBN board of directors, said he will head the new office that will take charge of extending both financial and moral assistance including scholarships to the families of the victims
"We are making a database of all the families. Each family has different needs. Some families have small kids that need to go to school while others have older kids who have different needs," he told reporters.
He added: "We want to meet actual long term needs, not just the financial."

He said the proposal was approved by the ABS-CBN board of directors on Thursday.

Calauag said he volunteered to lead the office to ensure that the tragedy would not be forgotten like similar tragedies in the past.

He said a newspaper headline that read "74 dreams crushed" challenged him to do more for the victims. "That was an inspiration. We have to make sure that that does not happen. That the dreams are not crushed, that we can rally people around to help because it's only in times of crises that people's character is revealed," he said.

ABS-CBN chairman Eugenio Lopez earlier said took responsibility for the tragedy, which occurred during the first anniversary celebration of ABS-CBN's noontime show "Wowowee."

"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.

A government fact-finding committee earlier recommended criminal charges against four officials of ABS-CBN for failing to prepare adequate security for the show.

Charges of criminal negligence were recommended against Rene Luspo, ABS-CBN’s head of security; Marilou Almaden, Wowowee production manager; Rey Cayabyab, assistant location manager; and Mel Feliciano, associate producer.

The inquiry said ABS-CBN failed to secure the event for about 30,000 people who showed up -- far beyond the stadium’s capacity of about 19,000.

“Not having any contingency plans for the extra 10,000 people that the network expected to come borders on irresponsible and incompetent management of the situation at best to criminal negligence and endangerment leading to the loss of lives at worst,” the committee said.

It said, “Other ABS-CBN executives who may have been involved directly or indirectly with the preparation or planning” of the show could also be held liable. (ABS-CBN News)

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