DOJ conducts initial probe on raps vs Unilever execs, et al over Pasay concert deaths

MANILA — The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday started the preliminary investigation on the complaints for criminal negligence and violation of the Corporation Code against officials of Unilever Philippines and organizers of the Closeup Forever Summer concert in Pasay City last May 21 where five people died.

The respondents did not appear at Thursday’s hearing but were represented by their lawyers.

DOJ Associate Prosecution Attorney Anna Noreen Devanadera directed the respondents to submit their counter-affidavits during the next hearing of the case on March 17.

Devanadera also directed the National Bureau of Investigation to submit additional evidence by March 6.

The NBI filed charges of criminal negligence and violation of the Corporation Code before the DOJ against Rohit Jawa, Unilever Philippines Chairman and CEO and currently the Executive Vice President for Operations South East Asia, Jesus M. Canlapan, Unilever Philippines Manager for Workplace Services and Facility Security, Alberto Curnelius Trinidad, Unilever’s Marketing Director for Close-Up, Joy Dalanon-Ocampo, Country Manager for Safety, Health and Environment; Procurement manager Melissa Alcayaga; Close-Up Assistant Brand Manager Bea Lagdameo.

Also charged with the same offense are Michelle Suzanne Claire Quintana, Anna Kristina Doctolero, Baby Majalia Ahamadul, senior accounts manager of Activation Advertising Inc., Reginald Soriano, Eduardo Muego, John Paul Demontano, the owner and President of HypeHouse Production Corporation and Alexis Engelberto Aragon, owner of Delirium Manpower Services.

Lawyer Ariel Radovan, counsel of the families of victims Ariel Leal and Bianca Fontejon, said he is consulting with the lawyers of the other victims but he added there is a great chance they would file an amended complaint before the Department of Justice.

The other victims are Lance Garcia, Ken Migawa and Eric Anthony Miller.

“The NBI already submitted the formal report, the witnesses were summoned to swear on their respective affidavits but the complainants are thinking whether to amend the complaint to include other respondents. It is our position that other respondents must also be included in the charges. We are reviewing files and there is a probability that we are going to amend the files so that other corporate officials either from Unilever or Activation Group, should in our view be held accountable criminally,” Radovan told reporters in a chance interview prior to Thursday’s start of the preliminary investigation of the case at the DOJ.

“With due respect to the NBI, they were the ones who conducted the investigation and it is their prerogative but as private prosecutors, it is also our right and prerogative to include other personalities. We are not saying we are not satisfied with the NBI. The NBI have done their job but we, as private prosecutors, are concerned since we saw there are other corporate personalities who must be named as respondents in the case. I’m not saying the NBI has overlooked this but as private prosecutors to bolster our case, it is our right to amend the complaint,’ he added.

Radovan said though they respect the results of the investigation conducted by the NBI which led to the filing of charges against officials of Unilever and Activation, it is also within the right of their clients to include other respondents in the case.

He said they have until March 17 to decide whether or not to amend the complaint.

Earlier, the NBI said the Unilever executives and the organizers of the rave party also failed to consider several factors despite their assurance of a security master plan and ‘code red scenarios” adding that they failed to take into account the entry of illegal drugs in the concert venue and that only bomb sniffing dogs were deployed when they should also have positioned drug sniffing dogs in the area.

Likewise, the NBI said there was no coordination with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to ensure that no illegal drugs will be able to enter the venue.

No simulation exercise was also held with the police.

Based on the autopsy and toxicological examination conducted on the victims, authorities said they tested positive for a designer drug known as methylenedioxymethamphetamine or MDMA methylene homolog and methylenedixy cathinone.

“The proximate cause of the death …is attributable to the inexcusable lack of foresight in failing to perform an act anticipatory that illegal drugs is so prevalent in a rave party to the effect that given the highest educational and scholastic attainment, professional achievement and degree of occupation as well as their intelligence the event’s master security and safety plan is silent and muted about illegal drug aggravated by the fact that those called upon to enforce said plan like the 300 bouncers lack the skill, expertise and experience to discriminate against said permicious drugs,” the complaint said.

The NBI also noted that the number of bouncers was inadequate to secure the event with a crowd of 16,761.

The NBI also said the event organizers also failed to consider the deployment of drug sniffing dogs, the conduct of simulation exercise with the police.

A report from Pasay City police stated that four casualties — namely Bianca Fontejon, 18; American national Eric Anthony Miller, 33; Ariel Leal, 22; and Lance Garcia, 36, were found unconscious while the concert was ongoing at the SM Mall of Asia. All four were brought to a hospital but died shortly thereafter.

The fifth casualty, Ken Migawa, 18, who was also found unconscious, was later brought to a hospital in critical condition and passed away last May 22. The five fatalities were not acquainted with each other.