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DSWD calls for censure of Willie for boy 'macho dancer;' Willie says sorry

March 28, 2011 5:09pm
(Updated 7:15 p.m. 28 March) A six-year-old boy who was paid P10,000 to gyrate like a macho dancer in front of millions of TV viewers has sparked public outrage, compelling the Department of Social Welfare and Development to call for the censure of popular TV host Willie Revillame. Lawyers say his show could be liable for child abuse.

A viral video clip of the dance performed on Revillame's prime-time TV5 show Willing Willie last March 11 has been viewed nearly 300,000 times as of Monday afternoon and shared over 164,000 times on Facebook, generating thousands of angry reactions via social media and blogs. At around 7:10 p.m. on Monday, the terms "Willing Willie" were trending worldwide on Twitter.

Revillame and the producers of Willing Willie have since issued an official apology for the incident, expressing "profound regret for any insensitivity."

Goaded by Revillame, the little boy, named Jan-Jan, gyrated to a Dr. Dre song while the live studio audience howled with glee, even after tears started rolling down Jan-Jan’s cheeks. Revillame even called over the boy so he could repeat the dance next to him while the TV host mimicked the salacious movements. Afterwards, Revillame gave him P10,000.

An open letter to Jan-Jan posted on a blog by Cathy Guballa summed up more than a few online reactions:

Jan-Jan’s father speaks: ‘Maraming natuwa’
Most of the criticism about boy “macho dancer" Jan-Jan was aimed at TV host Willie Revillame, but a few angry reactions referred to the child’s parents who permitted him to be laughed at and humiliated on national TV.

GMA News Online tracked down Jan-Jan’s father, Jojo Estrada, a salon owner from Quezon City, who saw nothing wrong with the spectacle that earned his son a tidy P10,000, which was spent on a new Portable Sony PlayStation and bike.

On his son’s dance:

"Talent 'yun ng anak ko, simula nung 4 years old sinasayaw nila 'yun, kahit sa school pa. Ako'y tuwang-tuwa. Napaluha ako sa tuwa."

On why the kid was crying and not smiling:

"Hindi siya naka-smile kasi wala siyang ngipin. Kaya naman siya umiyak kasi natatakot siya kay Kapre Balingit!"

On the supposed ‘bastos’ nature of Jan-Jan’s gyrations:

"Sa akin hindi bastos. Basta sayaw 'yan. Hindi alam ng bata kung bastos. Hindi bastos 'yun sa magulang. Kaya gusto ko makaahon sa hirap. Maging artista di ba?"

On the public reaction:

"Maraming natutuwa. Ang daming nagpapapicture sa kanya, after makita siya sa Willing Willie. Ganun katindi! Pasalamat nga ako kay Willie."

On the P10,000 prize money:

"Tuwang-tuwa 'yung bata. Sabi niya, 'Gusto ko bumalik kay Willie.'"

"Wala akong narinig na hindi maganda. Kahit mga kamag-anak ko sa abroad. Tumawag sila sa akin. 'Jojo, napaiyak kami sa tuwa sa ganda ng ginawa ng anak mo.'"

— Pia Faustino, GMA News
“I feel very sad at what we have become as a people. That these adults would actually find it entertaining to see a young boy like you shamed that way. That these so-called adults did not see beyond the lewd gyrations to see the little boy with warm tears running down his face. It pains me that we have become so desensitized as a people, that we would allow a child to suffer that way."

“But for me, the biggest fault that evening falls on Willie Revillame’s shoulders," Guballa continued. “I have no explanation for what possessed him to egg on the crowd, to say those words to you, to liken you to a burlesque dancer."

‘Para sa kanyang pamilya’

As Jan-Jan cried, Willie taunted, "Umiiyak pa iyan! ...Ganyan ho talaga ang hirap ng buhay ng tao. Si Jan-Jan nagsasayaw bilang isang macho dancer, sa edad niyang iyan. Para sa kanyang pamilya."

After giving Jan-Jan the money, Willie added, "Parang iyong pelikulang 'Burlesque Queen'... kahit masama ang loob ginagawa pa rin para sa pamilya."

In response to Willie’s questions, the boy said that his father had taught him the dance. Jan-Jan was accompanied to the show by his "Tita Jocelyn."

A call for censure

Secretary Dinky Soliman of the Department of Social Welfare and Development vowed to take action, sending a letter to TV5 Chairman Manny Pangilinan asking for censure of Mr. Revillame and to stop having children on his show.

"Persuading a little child to dance sexy adult dances in exchange for a measly sum, while he is being laughed at and ridiculed will definitely traumatize the child ... 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," said Soliman in her letter.

She requested Pangilinan to disallow young children from appearing on Willing Willie or similar shows and that Revillame be "rebuked for his insensitive and deplorable actions."

Soliman had acted on a letter sent by members of a Facebook page set up to protest the incident on Willing Willie entitled "Para kay Jan-Jan (Shame on you, Willie Revillame!)."

"The thing is, it seems there are more people who do not see anything wrong with this incident. That’s why I started this Facebook Page, to show to the world that there are more Filipinos who can differentiate the right from wrong, people who will stand up and speak up when they see an injustice," said Froilan Grate, who set up the Facebook page.

Grate sent an official letter of complaint to Manny Pangilinan of TV5, demanding that Revillame and the producers of Willing-Willie issue a public apology for the incident. The letter also urged a number of government agencies, including the Commission on Human Rights and Department of Social Welfare and Development, as well as the Philippine Association of National Advertisers, to investigate the incident.

"We condemn the blatant act of subjecting poor Filipinos -- especially minors, a group that history has shown to be one of the most vulnerable sectors of our society -- to humiliation in shows like these in exchange for some quick cash," said the letter, which was signed by more than 300 persons, including personalities John Silva, Armida and Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, Bibeth Orteza.

Willie apologizes

At around 6:55 p.m. the official news website of TV5, Interaksyon.com, posted an official apology for the Jan-Jan episode from Mr. Revillame and the producers of Willing Willie.

"Mr. Willie Revillame, the producers of 'Willing Willie' and TV5 sincerely and deeply apologize for the segment of the show featuring 6-year-old Jan-Jan Suan which viewers may have found offensive or in bad taste. We wish to stress that there was never any intention to humiliate or abuse Jan-Jan or any contestant on the show," said the statement.

The statement also emphasized that Jan-Jan's performance was "completely voluntary" and done "with the blessings of his parents." (See sidebar on father's statements)

Legal violations?

Lawyer Dennis Gorecho wrote on his blog that “legally, the show has to contend with Section 3 of R.A. 7610, or Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act, which defines ‘Child abuse’ as the maltreatment, whether habitual or not, of the child which includes any of the following:

(1) Psychological and physical abuse, neglect, cruelty, sexual abuse and emotional maltreatment;

(2) Any act by deeds or words which debases, degrades or demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of a child as a human being."

'Give Willie some credit'

The popular Revillame does have his defenders, who decried the supposed hypocrisy of his critics.

The blogger Pinoygossipboy said what Jan-Jan did to earn a small fortune was par for the show: “Who among these people who cried foul and indiscriminately adjudged Willie Revillame’s character, as if they were God during the fulfillment of the Book of Revelations, have regularly watched Willing Willie?

In a lengthy, emotional comment thread on Facebook, Iggy Agbayani was among the few who felt that the Jan-Jan spectacle was legitimate entertainment: "I watched the whole segment. It reminds me of the belief that art or comedy should dwell on the brink of our morals. If the boy was not crying the whole scene would have been boring. Giving Willie some credit for kissing the boy and holding back in two instances of the segment."

Office of the President backtracks

Even administrators of President Aquino's Facebook page couldn't seem to agree on a response to the incident. On Monday afternoon, an administrator (Adm-04) of the President's Facebook page posted this response to calls for the Palace to address the issue:

“The video sent with a link was reviewed and no conclusion of child abuse was noted. It does not need to be said that the Willie show is escapist but no law or ruling was violated, based on the clip that was sent. Remember, you are free not to watch the program. At least three people commented that the complaint was out of place. Child abuse is a legitimate issue and there are far better targets to tackle (like using children to beg for money or minors engaged in prostitution, etc.). Perhaps you can direct your anger at the bigger issue and not make a mountain out of a mole hill for Willie. Controversy, specially misplaced, may even improve his ratings."

The response was later deleted, and another administrator of the page (Adm-01) posted this retraction: “We're sorry about an earlier post regarding this issue. We are posting the letter of Sec. Dinky Soliman to clarify the stand of the government on the issue of Jan-Jan. We are closely monitoring your comments and will respond accordingly in the future. Thank you!"

A screengrab of President Aquino's Facebook page shows an administrator's response to calls for the Palace to respond to the Willie Willie controversy. The post was later deleted.


-with reports from Marnie Tonson, GMA News Online
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