Friday, February 10, 2006


In trying to absolve, before the public, the Macapagal-Arroyo administration of responsibility for the Wowowee tragedy which killed at least 75 people – one of the deaths being a forced abortion – on Feb. 4, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita has shown nothing except the extent of his servility toward Malacañang.

Those were among the wisest of words. “Saying that this event is a mirror of poverty is carrying it too far,” he said. “There is a tragedy because of the program.”

Either the honorable executive secretary was taking us for a ride or he had yet to acquaint himself with the nature of the television program that marked its first anniversary by being at the heart of a national tragedy.

Yes, the stampede that marked Wowowee’s first anniversary is a national tragedy. More than being an issue of reckless imprudence on the part of the show’s organizers – which it definitely is – the Wowowee tragedy is an extremely depressing picture of what this country has come to.

An overwhelming majority of the more than 30,000 who had lined up in front of the PhilSports Arena (also known as the ULTRA) were from the margins of Philippine society, a “basket case of a society” in the words of poet and literary scholar Gelacio Guillermo. Those of us who regularly go to the vicinity of the ABS-CBN compound have noticed that those who line up for Wowowee in the hope of getting into its contests look alike: their attires speak of the daily ordeal of surviving with less than the barest necessities, the looks in their eyes speak of hopelessness.

They pushed and trod over each other in a rush to get inside the stadium because of rumors that the show was giving away raffle tickets to the first 300 people to enter. The prizes ranged from cash to taxicabs to a house and lot – giving a sense of “hope” that those with raffle tickets would have a chance to lift themselves and their loved ones out of the rut with one stroke of luck.

It was this desperate yearning for a sudden exit from penury, or even for a small amount of money to tide them over for a few weeks or months, that drove the people to push and tread over each other in a rush to get in.

Because of this desperation, at least 75 people are now dead. Most of the dead are women – the ones who daily confront the question of how to make do with a pittance – and most of the women who died were grandmothers. Only three of those who died were men.

The Macapagal-Arroyo government cannot wash its hands of responsibility in this tragedy.

Hunger and joblessness statistics have reached all-time highs under the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whose supposed mandate in the 2004 election is not even credible to say the least. The gap between the cost of living and the wages of an average workingman in this country ever widens as the government imposes additional tax burdens on the people who already have nothing to spare, supposedly to stave off a crisis they were not responsible for in the first place.

You have missed the point, Secretary Ermita. This is a national tragedy. It is not simply “because of the program” – unless you are talking about President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s program of governance.

Artists for the Removal of Gloria (ARREST Gloria)
Feb. 9, 2006

Southern Tagalog Exposure
KASIBULAN Women Visual Artists’ Collective
KUMASA (Kulturang Ugnayan ng Manggagawa at Uring Anakpawis sa Timog Katagalugan)
ARTIST, Inc. (Arts Research and Training Institute in Southern Tagalog)
Kilometer 64 Poetry Group
Tambisan sa Sining
APLAYA (Artistang Pangkultura ng Mamamalakaya sa Timog Katagalugan)
UPLB Umalohokan
Pokus Gitnang Luson

Paolo Martinez
Andrea Muñoz
Gian Paolo Mayuga
Jeffrey Ferrer
Onin Tagaro
Bobby Balingit
Winnie Balingit
Lourd de Veyra
Dong Abay
Ninj Abay
Con Cabrera
Roselle Pineda
Heidi Takama

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