CHR to investigate 'Willing Willie' incident

Posted at 03/29/2011 5:59 PM | Updated as of 03/30/2011 7:45 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Tuesday said it will investigate an incident involving a 6-year-old-boy’s “macho-dancing routine” on television show “Willing Willie” aired on TV5 last March 12.

CHR chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales said the incident wherein 6-year-old Jan-Jan gyrated and impersonated the body movements of a macho dancer in exchange for P10,000 is a clear case of child abuse and exploitation.

“This is an exploitation of the child’s innocence and demeans his inherent dignity for entertainment's sake. The willingness of Jan-Jan’s parents to expose him, both in private and public, to a humiliating and degrading situation is child abuse," Rosales said.

The human rights chief said the investigation will aim 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.

The probe, she said, will recommend proper legal actions against persons accountable and recommend moves to prevent similar incidents from happening again.

Rosales called on the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and the Department of Justice “to undertake appropriate actions to address this incidence of child abuse and to provide the necessary relief to Jan-Jan.”

The Jan-Jan video first spread on YouTube and social networking sites over the weekend, prompting criticism online.

The MTRCB, meanwhile, said it already referred Jan-Jan’s case to its Hearing and Adjudication Committee “for appropriate disposition.”

Militant group Gabriela said the incident was “insensitive” and “tasteless.”

“It was even more callous of [Willie] Revillame to say that there are more important national issues that should be tackled instead of castigating his show over an episode. It was like saying that children’s rights have less importance than other issues,” it said.

“With unemployment at its highest in the country, queuing up for game shows has become an alternative source of income especially of urban-poor women and their families, even if it means being subjected to humiliating jokes and made to do even undignified acts.”

No child abuse, says parents

Amid the uproar, Jan-Jan’s parents debunked allegations that their child had been abused and exploited.

An emotional Dianna Estrada, mom of Jan-Jan, said on Revillame show it is painful for any parent to be accused of allowing their children to be exploited and become victims of child abuse.

She also made an appeal to stop such claims. “Sana po maintindihan ninyo ‘yong talent ng anak ko. Gusto niya sigurong mag-artista, ma-expose sa mga tao. Gusto niyang sumayaw at guminhawa ang buhay namin.”

Dianna also wondered why her son is being singled out, saying that children appearing in other youth programs were made to do worse.

“Huwag ninyo pong masamain ang ginawa ng anak ko, ‘yon lang po,” she said.

Jan-jan’s father, a salon owner, also made the same appeal as he reiterated that they never forced the boy to dance in such a manner on TV.

“Masasabi ko lang sa maninira... tigilan na nila... Kagustuhan ng anak ko ‘yon na maipakita ang kaniyang talent… Ang pagkaalam niya maganda ang ginagawa niya.”

He also pointed out that not all comments are negative, saying that many are praising his son. He noted that the 6-year-old child is becoming famous now and is even allowed to play in neighborhood Internet cafes for free.

“Gusto ng anak kong sumikat, gustong mag-artista kaya ‘yon ang ginawa niya para maiba siya at mapansin siya ng ibang tao. Sinuportahan ko lang naman ang anak ko,” he added.

He noted that he bought his son a bicycle and an MP3 player with the P10,000.

As for his tears, Jan-Jan said he was scared while dancing during the show. His parents said the boy was told that he should be serious while doing the dance routine.

It was learned that the boy was scared of former basketball player Bonel Balingit who was on the set when he danced.

Apology, defense

TV5 issued a qualified apology on Monday on behalf of the network and Revillame.

"Mr. Willie Revillame, the producers of 'Willing Willie' and TV5 sincerely and deeply apologize for the segment of the show featuring (the boy) which viewers may have found offensive or in bad taste," it said in a statement.

But it also insisted the boy had appeared voluntarily and with his parents' consent, while adding his tears were not genuine.

"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," the statement added.

Several YouTube users also came to Revillame's defense.

User reddecster said that while he is not a fan of Revillame, he still sees his effort to change and help people.

"Bigyan nyo naman ng pagkakataon si Wil. Hindi naman siya corrupt, killer, dictator at masamang tao," he said.

User joymarieladon also noted: "I'm not a fan of Willie. I can consider myself as one of his haters, but this episode does not offend anyone. It's just for fun! I don't find this offensive! People just overreact with this!" -With Agence France-Presse