Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Unwillingly, Willie Revillame

TV is a sacred tool. It is very powerful. It teaches and it educates. That's why to have shows like Willie Revillame's on it is really a disrespect of that sacredness. But we all know that when it comes to observance of respect, little can be expected of Willie Revillame.

We're no longer entertained, Willie.
Who is he? Willie Revillame: Host of the popular Wowowee which used to be in ABS-CBN, until Willie pissed his bosses and had to move to another station TV5 where he brought essentially the same show but brilliantly disguised as Willing Willie. We are not fooled, of course.

What is the issue? There have been too many issues (e.g. Ultra Stampede, disrespect of Cory's Burial, etc.) but the most recent one, and one that I think we should finally not let go over our heads, one that should finally get us all to take stand is this - a 6-year-old boy named Jan-Jan who was made to dance lewdly on national TV - this while the boy was crying. I am tempted to insert the clip of the episode, but I do not want to subject the boy to further humiliation.

It was easy to say that the boy could not have been unwilling to dance, or was not totally unhappy about it; after all, the boy seemed to be dancing gamely. But he was crying.
Was this a case of a boy being too young to fully express his disgust yet crying at the strange feeling that this was something he shouldn't be doing? 
He knew the dance, for sure, for he must have been asked to practice it many times with family and strangers; but this was national TV. That Willie would reward the act with P10,000 all the more serves to give the whole scene a bitter taste.
But distaste is relative: Willie surely didn't see anything wrong with it; the score of studio audience all seemed totally amused; TV5 management thought there was nothing to be upset about; the advertisers thought nothing of it too. It was all business as usual.
A clip of the episode got into Youtube, and therein began the howls of protests, the heated exchanges on Facebook, the frantic noise on Twitter. People recognized: This is absolutely wrong.

What has happened since?

The Department of Social Welface and Development (DSWD) has condemned the incident saying:
This incident is clearly a violation of Republic Act 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act and a blatant manifestation of child abuse.  The term “child abuse” includes the following acts: “psychological and physical abuse, neglect, cruelty, sexual abuse and emotional maltreatment,” and “any act by deeds or words which debases, degrades or demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of the child as a human being.”
It has also written a letter to TV5 Chairman Manny V. Pangilinan asking it to not allow its shows to feature any more children to "cash in on poverty" and to rebuke Willie Revillame for his "for his insensitive and deplorable actions."

In the same letter, DSWD Sec. Dinky Soliman said:
"There are limits to children appearing on television, and clearly, your 12 March 2011 episode did not respect the rights of the child and traumatized the six year-old boy. I also wish to raise my concern that the show tends to cash in on the plight of the poor. There are other ways of helping the poor without having to degrade their dignity and earn money out of it."
In a briefer issued by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), the board reported what TV5 had pledged to do with regard to the issue, a sort of self-regulation imposed by the network itself, to wit:
  • Imposed stricter guidelines on the appearance and performance of minors, particularly, children on all TV5 programs;
  • Required that all auditions of TV5 programs be supervised by representatives designated by the TV5 Ombudsman;
  • Appointed an internal Ombudsman to entertain complaints regarding offensive programs;
  • Imposed a moratorium on contests and game shows involving minors;
  • Created a Standards Advisory Board to be composed, among others, of a psychologist, a creative director, and a children’s communications expert;
  • Engaged the services of a team of psychologists to attend to Jan-Jan’s needs.
The Commission on Human Rights has condemned the incident and will be investigating "to identity the persons accountable for violating Section 10 of Republic Act No. 7610, or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act."

Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns and Gabriela National Alliance of Women have also voiced their outrage over the incident and has called for "'immediate sanctions' on controversial TV personality Willie Revillame for an episode of the TV5 game show, 'Willing Willie,' which he hosts." Anti-Child Abuse Advocates in the U.S. have also slammed the incident.

Some product advertisers have pulled out their ads from the show; starting with Jollibee's Mang Inasal and Del Monte Philippines. The Mang Inasal Fan Page on Facebook has since received a lot of goodwill on their wall due to the action they had taken as a company.

Pogi points: Thanks for leading the way.
Calls have been made for audiences to boycott the companies/products that continue to support the show. These companies are Belo Medical Group, Cebuana Lhuillier, Yakult, Unilever, Bench, Oishi, Camella–A Vista Land Company, CDO Karne Norte and more. A page on Facebook has been set up devoted to promoting the boycott of these companies; an online petition on the same is also going the rounds.

Much of the opinions and information on this issue has been captured via the protest Fan Page called Para kay Jan-jan (Shame on you, Willie Revillame) and many online petitions.

Monique Wilson bravely issues a statement, urging her colleagues in the showbiz industry to take a stand on the matter. Her statement entitled "A Call to my Fellow Artists in the Philippines"is a wake-up call to their industry's own passive complicity to the issue. Indeed, this is not just about a lone personality but a whole culture pervading in the industry.
Willie issues an insincere apology. Nobody is impressed. He evens threatens the sponsors who would dare pull out their ads, saying his supporters will also boycott their products should they pull out.
Opinion writers have said their piece, including Randy David who says in 'Willing Victims':
I believe that child abuse is pretty obvious in this case. The boy has been exploited by his parents and by “Willing Willie.” Parents do not own their children, and parental consent does not make what is patently wrong right. Jan-Jan’s parents claim that they did not force him to dance like that. But is a 6-year-old boy at liberty to choose? One of the declared policies of the State under our Constitution is to promote and protect the youth’s “physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual and social well-being.” If the State takes this mandate seriously, it will find itself protecting the youth against parents like Jan-Jan’s.
The Inquirer editorial on the subject dwells on the incident's impact on the industry:
It should prompt the entire TV industry to conduct a self-examination and see if all the people engaged in it, from the TV network owners to producers, directors, actors and hosts, are aware of and are conforming to the industry’s code of ethics and canons of taste.
My take on the matter is already in several Facebook threads, and it must already be resounding in having put this together. I hope finally, that this will mark the beginning of the end of shows like Willie Revillame's, making way for quality of TV shows that will honor the sacredness of TV as a powerful teaching tool, one that honors the dignity of every individual - rich or poor, child or adult. In the end, that is the only kind of real entertainment that is worth our peals of laughter.

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