Has The Network War Claimed Its First Victims?
What should have been a celebration turned into a tragedy on Saturday morning at the Ultra Stadium in Pasig City, where the first anniversary of the popular noontime game show, Wowowee, had been scheduled to take place. An estimated crowd of 30,000 people became unruly when the gates of the stadium were opened and raffle tickets or stubs were being given away. Final death count is 74, with over 600 persons injured.
Early reports that day indicated a lack of preparedness on the part of the organizers. Emergency response was delayed. The first victims to be interviewed by reporters who were there complained that they were not receiving prompt medical attention. Among the first to come to the rescue were the Philippine National Red Cross and the Department of Health. Vice President Noli de Castro, representing the Government, found total mayhem when he arrived there and took it upon himself to restore some order until the commotion subsided.
Ill-prepared as they might have been, as many now believe, the ABS-CBN people acted swiftly when the news reached them. It asserts there had been 3 ambulances and medical teams on standby. The ABS-CBN Foundation took over the work of attending to the victims and initially rejected donations from outside sources. As the casualty numbers rose, the network’s bigwigs and celebrities made rounds visiting the various hospitals and Arlington Memorial, consoling the victims, apologizing, and vowing to help them. At about noon, host Willie Revillame appeared at the Ultra Stadium and tearfully announced to the crowd inside that the show was being indefinitely postponed to honor the dead and injured.
So now everyone has had their say on the topic. It is too easy to put the blame on others, as easy as it is to be negligent ourselves. Here is some of what I’ve heard and read people say:
“That’s what you call ‘instant karma’!” Only a week before this tragic event, ABS-CBN had been feasting on Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquio’s spectacular victory over Erik Morales of Mexico. Pacquio, virtually a “talent” of the network in the eyes of the public, had been constantly featured in its news and entertainment programs. A lot of folks got sick of this apparent exploitation and opportunism. Now the same people say ABS-CBN is getting its just deserts for its arrogance and selfishness.
“Kasalan ni GMA ‘yan!” The root of it all is poverty, they say. No one would stand in line for several days, with little food and water, and no toilet but the ground you are standing on, if they had a job. So it’s Gloria’s fault that the economy sucks and the masses are starving. Last Sunday, I predicted among friends and family that various anti-GMA groups would use this as an issue against the President. Sure enough, they took the streets blaming the Chief Executive for our miseries. I would not be surprised if they were able to link her to the execution of Dr. Jose Rizal as well.
“NO to donations!” I strongly agree with this. This is ABS-CBN’s responsibility. It would be unethical for it to solicit or accept donations from outside parties. And I don’t understand why the network’s charitable foundation is handling the expenses. The ABS-CBN Foundation is a charity, the funds of which have been received from outside donors. And those donations should be reserved for projects such as the Bantay Bata program. These funds must therefore NOT be spent on the victims of the Ultra tragedy. Rather, the executives of the Wowowee show and of the network itself, should take money out of their own pockets and use THAT. It’s too easy to say you will help the victims when the money you spend isn’t yours!
So Revillame absolutely has NO BUSINESS soliciting donations like he says he is doing. He told Sanchez and Failon on the radio this Monday that he has been asking people for money to be given to the victims. He encourages them to give the money to him, or put it in his name, and he would “directly” give it to the victims. Uh-huh. I don’t mean to sound mean, but for all his tears I still do not trust the man. I would caution all would-be donors to send their money or goods to the Foundation itself. Better yet, to the victims and their families themselves! I am not alone in this. I am told showbiz talk show host and commentator, Ogie Diaz, says the same thing.
“Malas ng ABS-CBN!” Is it karma or bad luck? It could not have come at a worst time for the network, which has been falling behind its rival, GMA 7, in the brutal ratings game for quite some time now. Wowowee was one of the few programs of Channel 2 that had good ratings. And it was the first-ever noontime show of that channel to be able to hold its own against the formidable Eat Bulaga of the rival station. Well, actually, there’s two of them--the other is Kris Aquino’s Game K N B?
“Mga pabaya!” Lack of coordination between the police and the ABS-CBN security. Lack of contingency plans and so on. Could it have been avoided? I believe that even if they had beefed up security in the area, and cooperated with the local police, there would still have been violence. How could you control such a crowd? A few thousand policemen could not hold its own against 30,000 desperate people fighting for the hope of a better life!
But the problem appears to be the fact the organizers let the crowds increase. Why didn’t they discourage people from coming when the crowds had begun to swell as early as Wednesday? Even Willie admitted seeing them during the week, and he didn’t do anything. Yet they knew the Ultra would not be able to accommodate all of them.
It appears that the crowds were assured that “no one would go home tearfully”; they would all receive prizes. This might have been a plan, or maybe just a last-minute remedy to appease them or make them stay. I believe the organizers meant to keep their word, if such an announcement had been made. They wanted to keep the crowd to show the world how popular the show was. But how should that have been done? Some say the tickets should have been distributed in advance. Others say they should have barred people from coming in when their numbers exceeded Ultra’s seating capacity. Oh, but anyone can predict a disaster after it happens….
“Blame it on greed and the network war.” Has the vicious network war claimed its first real casualties? It appears to many that, in the desire to outshine the competition, ABS-CBN and Wowowee went “over the top.” They made the scheduled anniversary super-extravagant so as to draw a great number of people to awe their rivals. They lured the public by promising lucrative prizes not to be found anywhere else, and this is the result.
My own opinion? In the end, it is all about money. Let’s not be hypocrites. I respect ABS-CBN big boss Eugenio Lopez III for humbly acknowledging responsibility and showing a real concern for the victims. But it’s pretentious of those people to say they just wanted to make others happy and serve them. Let’s face it, guys: ABS-CBN was after the ratings and the earnings. That’s what TV networks and TV shows do. It’s not about public service which, if anything, is only secondary. Sure, they wanted to help people, but they were hoping to earn big bucks and get top ratings by “helping” the masses and luring them with goodies. So both sides were after money.
But who can blame them, either those who give away such prizes or the people who stand in line hoping to win? We DO live in a poverty-stricken country. We are quick to condemn, but do we have any better ideas? If these shows won’t help the masses, then who will? What is the alternative?