MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) –The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has stepped into the controversy involving television show “Willing Willie” and a 6-year-old boy who was made to dance in a lewd manner in exchange for P10,000.
The DSWD said the incident that aired March 12 on TV5 is clear case of child abuse.
“The sequence shows the boy gyrating in a distasteful manner with the audience, including the host (Willie Revillame), manifesting no evidence of concern or alarm for the child,” the agency said in a press statement.
“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,” it said.
The DSWD said 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.”
“Putting pressure on children to do acts such as mimicking adult sexy dances, in exchange for a certain amount of money, and at the expense of being laughed at and ridiculed by hundreds of people, clearly traumatizes the child,” it added.
“This is a clear form of child abuse and will not be tolerated by the Department of Social Welfare and Development,” the statement said.
Revillame, the producers of his show and the management of TV5 immediately issued a public apology.
In an official statement, they “sincerely and deeply” apologized for the segment, “which viewers may have found offensive or in bad taste.” They stressed that it was “never their intention to humiliate or abuse Jan-Jan or any contestant on the show.”
They also pointed out that the child’s appearance on the show was completely voluntary and with the blessings of his parents.
“He appeared to be sad or even in tears, not because he was being forced to dance, but because he felt the dance was ‘serious’ and he was playing a role. He did not want to smile because of his missing upper front teeth and because of the presence on the set of former basketball player Bonel Balingit who Jan-jan thought was a scary ‘giant,’” the statement read.
According to them, Jan-Jan has performed in the past in school programs and mall contests.
“TV5 and Wil Productions express profound regret for any insensitivity on their part, and wish to thank all those who have expressed concern. We are always grateful to be reminded of our obligations to the viewing public. In turn, we hope to make clear that the objective of the show has always been to bring joy and hope to Filipinos, whether they are participating on the show or viewing at home,” the statement read.
Before the apology, the DSWD said it had gotten in touch with ABC Development Communication chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan and asked that children should not be allowed to appear in TV shows like Willing Willie “especially those capitalizing on poverty as a source of immediate entertainment.”
In its letter to Mr. Pangilinan, the DSWD also rebuked Revillame’s “insensitive actions and remarks.”
The government agency also revealed that it will look for the boy’s family, determine the incident’s effect on the child and determine if necessary counseling should be given to the child and his parents.
The incident has set social media networks like Facebook and Twitter on fire. Blog entries condemning the show and its host have also been published online.
Twitter users condemned the incident while a campaign was launched on Facebook to raise the issue to the authorities:
The Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), in a statement Monday, said it has referred the issue to its Hearing and Adjudication Committee.
MTRCB chairperson Mary Grace Poe Llamanzares said the board also received numerous complaints about the said “Willing Willie” episode wherein the boy was asked to gyrate like a macho dancer.
Llamanzares said it is the board’s duty “to enforce the Constitutional mandate that the state shall defend the rights of children from all forms of neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitation, and other conditions prejudicial to their development.”
The board further emphasizes that whenever children are featured in television programs, producers are mandated to observe legal standards stipulated in R.A. 7160 to avoid “psychological abuse xxx cruelty, sexual abuse and emotional maltreatment” and “any act by deeds and words which debases, degrades or demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of the child.” - with a report from Trina Lagura, abs-cbnNEWS.com