PhilSports Stadium stampede
|Time||6:00 A.M. (PST)|
|Date||February 4, 2006|
|Location||PhilSports Arena, Pasig City, Metro Manila
|Type||Stampede, crushed to death|
The PhilSports Stadium Stampede (also referred to as the ULTRA stampede or simply Wowowee stampede) was a stampede that occurred at the PhilSports Stadium (also known as the ULTRA) in Pasig City, Metro Manila in the Philippines on February 4, 2006. It killed 73 people and injured about 400. About 30,000 people had been gathered outside the stadium waiting to participate in the first anniversary episode of the former television variety show Wowowee.
On February 4, 2006, about 30,000 people had gathered outside the PhilSports Stadium to participate in the first anniversary episode of the popular and now-defunct ABS-CBN early afternoon television game show, Wowowee. It was scheduled at 1 pm. The football stadium was supposed to be the viewing area of people who were not able to enter the basketball arena, where the program was to be staged. The size of the crowd was significantly larger than the usual 5,000 who attended previous recordings which were held at ABS-CBN studios.
It was the show's first anniversary event, and there were prizes awaiting to be offered including jeepneys (Philippine jitney bus), taxis and a top prize of one million pesos. According to a Philippine Daily Inquirer report, most of the victims were from the poorest parts of the Metropolitan Manila and nearby provinces, generally jobless and attracted by the show's promise of instant wealth.
At about 6 am, organizers of the show began handing out tickets to people in the crowd, many of whom had been camping outside the stadium for days to acquire them. Overhearing the news, people started trying to get ahead of the queue and became agitated. As people in front of the line are given entrance to the stadium, the crowds became more impatient and started pushing forward and shoving, prompting security guards to panic and shut the entrance gates. Witnesses and several survivors reported that the stampede began when the already impatient crowd continued pushing and shoving, causing one of the barriers near the gates, which are used to keep people in queue, collapsed. Coincidentally, the gates happened to be on a sloped driveway and when security guards tried to seal the gates further and calm the crowd, the crowd still continued to push and shove until the gates eventually gave way. After the gates gave way, people at the front collapsed from exhaustion while others behind them stumbled. The sloped driveway contributed to the worsening of the stampede.
The stampede killed 73 people and injured some 392 people. The majority of the victims were young and middle-aged women including elderly people. Senator and Philippine National Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon said that most of the injured were not in serious condition and many have been treated and released.
It was earlier thought that 88 people had died, but this was due to double counting by the rescue workers.
Rescue and assistance
The Philippine National Red Cross led by chairman Richard J. Gordon, ABS-CBN's affiliated NGOs, and the TV network itself led the efforts in recovering the dead bodies, providing medical care for the injured, and other related assistance. The victims were also fully assisted by government authorities. As a result of the tragedy, the network gave Wowowee temporary cancellation and indefinitely postponed the anniversary presentation. ABS-CBN's current chairman Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez III, who was also the company's Chief Executive Officer at the time of the incident, promised to provide aid and financial assistance to the victims and their families. The network also formed 71 Dreams Foundation to assist the relatives of the victims.
Investigation and aftermath
Task Force Ultra, an inter-agency investigating body consisting of the National Capital Region Police Office, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Justice, was created to investigate the cause of the stampede. According to its findings, Wowowee offered only very few tickets to a very large crowd, which had been waiting for days to gain entry to the stadium.
The Task Force said the stampede was triggered by an ABS-CBN staff member announcing to the crowd gathered at the gate that only the first 300 people in line beneath the covered walkway leading to the stadium would be chosen to participate in the Pera o Bayong portion of the show. This portion, which offered from ₱10,000 to ₱50,000 in prizes (US$193 to $969 at a rate of $1=₱51.70), "excited" the crowd and "incited the people who were outside the official queue to push their way into the already jampacked queue, hoping that they could squeeze in among the first 300." To control the deluge of people wanting to get in, the network's staff closed the gate, but the rush of people, coupled with the steep incline and uneven surface of the road caused those in front of the mob to stumble and fall, culminating in the stampede that caused the majority of the deaths and injuries.
Other reports stated that a false bomb threat shouted by a crowd member contributed to the chaos and worsened the stampede. The bomb threat account possibly came from one of the survivors but these reports were never given an explanation and never proved to be true. Police denied the reports as well.
The Task Force also reported an "obvious lack of coordination" between the organizers and relevant government agencies. It said that while ABS-CBN had sought the assistance of Pasig City’s mayor and police chief, "neither was invited to any of the organizers' production meetings."
The National Telecommunications Commission, a government agency that supervises all radio and television broadcasting stations and other telecommunications services, said ABS-CBN could lose its license to operate if it is proven that the network was "delinquent" in providing enough measures to protect those who went to the venue. The commission will compose an inquiry as to whether ABS-CBN violated a 1985 circular that requires TV networks "not to commit any act that would be detrimental to public health, public welfare or public safety."
On October 2006, relatives of the victims announced that a class suit will be filed against ABS-CBN and its chief executive officer (CEO) . “There is now probable cause (for the case),” said Dante Jimenez, the chairman of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC).
On January 29, 2008, the Supreme Court ruled with finality dismissing ABS-CBN's case of junking the investigation by the Department of Justice. Hence after 2 years of ABS-CBN's blocking of closure to the event, the DOJ can now indict all of those involved in the stampede except for Revillame.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who was sitting pope at the time, expressed sadness over the incident after the news hit Rome and other parts of the world. Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano said in a telegram to Pasig district Bishop Francisco San Diego that 'the Pope offers his prayers and condolences for all those affected by this terrible accident.'
On the first anniversary of the disaster, rather than celebrating the second anniversary of the show, Wowowee offered the last segment of the show to a candlelight vigil lent and moment of silence in the studio with Willie giving a short statement and the show ending with Yeng Constantino singing "Hawak Kamay."
Also on the first anniversary of the disaster, the hosts and producers including the director of Eat Bulaga!, Wowowee's rival variety show on GMA Network, offered a minute of silence and prayers for the victims of the stampede before they started the show. A contestant on the show's former segment, "On The Spot Jackpot", had a relative who died during the incident and shared his/her experiences about what happened before quoting that "life is more important than money". ABS-CBN later thanked their rival network for their prayers and sympathies.
- "Manila stadium stampede kills 78". BBC. 4 February 2006.
- "73 dead in stampede at Philippine game show". ABC News (Australia). 4 February 2006.
- "Game show stampede: 78 dreams crushed". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 5 February 2006.
- "Probers cite what triggered stampede". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 8 February 2006.
- "Gov't could cancel ABS-CBN license". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 8 February 2006.
- SC junks with finality ABS-CBN plea vs DoJ in Pasig stampede by Tetch Torres, Inquirer.net, 18:21:00 01/29/2008
- "Don’t drag GMA into deadly stampede, Palace tells critics". The Daily Tribune (Philippines). 6 February 2006.
- "TV rivalry, politics cast aside in wake of tragedy". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 5 February 2006.
- 'Wowowee' on 2007 Guinness World Records