Official Supreme Court announcement: SC Clears Way for Prosecution of ABS-CBN Execs Over Ultra Stampede.

(document: http://www.supremecourt.gov.ph/publications/benchmark/2008/01/010805.php)

The Supreme Court has junked the petition of ABS-CBN, et al. regarding the Wowowee stampede incident, thus paving the way for the filing of a criminal charge of Reckless Imprudence resulting in Multiple Homicide and Multiple Physical Injuries against the same network’s executives.

The 22-page decision was handed down by the Court’s Second Division, which denied the petition filed by ABS-CBN, et al. seeking to overturn the Court of Appeals decision, which in turn dismissed the network’s prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order against the preliminary investigation being conducted by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The Court, through Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, upheld the general investigatory power of the DOJ and declared that the DOJ did not exercise such powers arbitrarily by issuing the assailed Department Orders (DOs). The first DO issued by the DOJ merely constituted an Evaluating Panel (Panel) that would determine the sufficiency of proceeding with a preliminary investigation. It was the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), a constituent unit of the DOJ, which actually conducted the criminal investigation. The second DO designated a panel of state prosecutors to conduct the preliminary investigation of the case.

The Court also found that petitioners’ allegations of bias and prejudgment to be mere speculations. It stated that “speed in the conduct of proceedings by a judicial or quasi-judicial officer cannot per se be instantly attributed to an injudicious performance of functions.” Absent any compelling evidence presented by the petitioners, a public officer is entitled the presumption of regularity, said the Court. As for statements made by DOJ Secretary Raul Gonzales and the President, the Court held that such statements merely indicate the “nature and magnitude” of the tragedy and warrants a natural inference of a connection between “the show’s preparations and the resultant deaths and injuries.” (GR No. 175057, Santos-Concio v. DOJ, January 29, 2008)

Related links: http://wowowee.blogspot.com