Fans of television host Willie Revillame gathered without observing physical distancing rules after seeing unverified Facebook posts that the comedian will give them money in celebration of his 60th birthday.
Local media reported that a horde of Filipinos trooped to Wil Tower along Eugenio Lopez Drive in Quezon City on Wednesday night, January 27 to wait for Revillame.
Some photos showed that fans brought tarpaulins with birthday greetings referring to Revillame as “Kuya Wil.”
ABS-CBN journalist Jervis Manahan reported that fans lined up in the area “after seeing unverified and apparently false Facebook posts promising money and other prizes for them.”
The fans reportedly stayed outside the studio and refused to leave until local authorities managed to disperse them at 1 a.m.
Disgruntled fans started to disperse because announcements were made that Willie Revillame will not be appearing tonight.
— Jervis Manahan (@JervisManahan) January 27, 2021
Revillame usually announces lofty giveaways on his flagship television program “Wowowin” during his birthday celebration, a tradition that fans anticipate for every year.
This time, however, the now 60-year-old personality did not make any announcement about such activity.
Photos of the queue showed that while most people were wearing face masks, they were not properly worn. Only a few people were seen wearing face shields.
The most noticeable was the lack of social distancing among the crowd.
Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte told CNN Philippines that she will coordinate with the staff of Revillame for contact tracing procedures.
Belmonte said that money was indeed given out that time and caused the gathering to swell up.
The social media post or account that spread these false information has not been identified yet.
A cursory check on keyword “Willie Revillame” on Facebook, however, will lead a user to a long list of the host’s fan pages, group, and false accounts where some of them have more than 50,000 followers.
When photos of the incident circulated, some Filipinos lamented how much damage or harm fake social media posts can do.
“Ganito yung mga madaling mauto ng mga propaganda Facebook pages,” one user said,
Others also highlighted a similar situation during previous campaign period when online disinformation proliferated.
“This is what this administration aim for: gullible and obedient voters they can play whenever they want. That’s why our public education stays mediocre—they hire SOME (reserved) through connections. Ayaw nila ng may kumokontra at may kritikal na nag-iisip kasi hindi nila mauuto,” a Twitter user wrote.
A few Filipinos were more hopeful, citing the importance of educating the public on disinformation and misinformation.
“Eto yung rason kung bakit kailangan nating patuloy na matuto at magturo,” another Twitter user said.
Some Facebook users, on the other hand, sympathized with Revillame’s fans, saying that poverty left them no choice but to wait for financial aid.
Others recalled the tragic PhilSports Arena Stampede or the Ultra Stampede in Pasig City in February 2006 where at least 73 people were killed and nearly 400 were injured.
More than 20,000 then fought for seats in what was to have been the first anniversary of the now-defunct popular show “Wowowee,” also hosted by Revillame on ABS-CBN, where huge cash prizes and other items were to be given away.
Similarly, the victims of the stampede came from the poorest parts of Metro Manila hoping for instant wealth.