Before I slept earlier, I reposted a video in my facebook account condemning the beleaguered TV host Willie Revillame of the show Willing Willie on TV5. The said video features a child contestant, six year old jan-jan who was made to dance ala macho dancer gyrating suggestively.
When I woke up, the news has gone viral, with the DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman writing a letter to the TV5 management to refrain from using children this way saying it was clearly a violation of the R.A 7610
I laud the feisty Secretary for acting swiftly on the issue. The MTRCB has also recommended that a panel study the said incident. Meanwhile, TV5 and Willie Revillame have issued apologies and even guested the kid on their latest show with the kids parents saying that they did not feel that the boy was traumatized or abused in any way.
I can not help but express my thoughts on the issue, being a trained Child Rights advocate and paralegal intern at that, trained and immersed on Developmental Legal Issues from the Alternative Law Groups and having completed internship programs from the Children's Legal Bureau.
Here is my piece on the issue:
First and foremost, I have long decried the blatant disregard for good manners and a lack of tact and tasteless tirades of Revillame on National TV. Again and again, he has presented himself as bastos, walang modo and continually put to shame the contestants, the audience and even his own staff in his shows, even before when he was still in ABS CBN. I have stopped watching these shows too.
Secondly, I have long found it abhorrent and loathsome how these shows portray children in very inappropriate roles or portrayals. I have long been indignant and have long held the opinion that making children cry on National TV, for the sake of ratings, getting sympathy for cash or for fame/notoriety is clearly violative of the rights of children to be duly protected and thus constitute a clear violation on the laws pertaining to these protection of the child. I remember an episode where Willie repeatedly asked a child to 'say something' to his father who, allegedly has abandoned them. The child repeatedly said that everything was okay and he had nothing else to say to the absent father, but Revillame kept goading and prodding, which resulted to a tearful message of the child to his absent parent. In my mind, the relieving or the opening of such sensitive issues for a child who has long been trying to forget and get on with life is clearly a form of emotional and psychological abuse at that. In fact, the ridicule he gives are well seen,poking fun at their appearances, and to highlight, sexualities. To subject a child to ridicule because of his apparent effeminacy is clearly a form of abuse and exploitation.
Thirdly, the statement of the parents that no such abuse or trauma was brought about by the incident should be taken with a grain of salt. After all, they were the ones who stand to be benefited with what Jan-jan earned in exchange of his public humiliation, and they too are the ones who will be portrayed evil if found to be amiss and remiss in their rearing and protection of his rights. But of course they will protect themselves and deny such allegations. They too, should be made respondents and party to the exploitation of this kid. Remember that on these issues, the paramount concern should be on 'what is for the best interest of the child,' not what these parents would stand to benefit or lose. Remember too, that matters of these nature are a 'social crime,' hence, people have the obligation to see fit that the rights of the child be protected and to stand up when they see it being violated. Let us also remember that, sad as it may seem, in many cases and even those decided by the courts, it has been proven that sometimes, the parents themselves may not be the most qualified people to protect these rights, and in fact, are the number one violators and exploiters of their very own children.
Fourthly, Willie says that there was no exploitation and they merely wanted to provide entertainment. Further, when he asked the child at a later part why he cried, the kid said that he was merely afraid of basketball star Bonel Balingit, whom Willie called in to stand beside the child. The very act of calling Bonel is already clear abuse. Surely, the intent of such an act is to intimidate the kid. Furthermore, when they saw the child crying, they should have stopped making him do what he was doing and asked the child why he was crying. The belated asking prompts one to think that the child might have been 'coached' already, and his hesitance to say the reason at first must be because he knows that if he, in any way, displease the host, he might not be able to 'win' something in the program. I also agree with Sec. Soliman in an interview aired on Radyo Singko that the mere 'repeated' performance of the child constitutes an abuse or exploitation. To ask the child to do the dance five or six times in the name of entertainment is just too much. He was even placed on an elevated floor that rose up while he was doing his tearful dance.
Finally, I also agree that with this issue, not only Willie or TV5 should be put spot on, but it would also be high time to examine other instances of children being abused on National TV. I agree that little female children should not be asked to dance and gyrate in a suggestive manner seemingly following more mature female sexy stars, or dressed in such manner as well. I agree that when children are being put on the set, the female dancers should also modify their dance steps to make them child-appropriate. In fact, even the courts are modified as per rules when placing a child under the witness stand so as not to create trauma to these poor children whose minds and psychological make-up are fragile and must be protected. I am one with the indignation and condemnation. Let us protect our children and let us not find amusement to the detriment and at the expense of our young ones. Let us be vigilant in protecting those who are not able to protect themselves from the harshness of the world. If we find humor and entertainment in these things, then maybe we should reexamine our entertainment values. Shame on us!
This issue is an indication that we do have a problem in our society. This is bigger than Revillame, or the dancing Jan-jan incident. Let us then take closer looks and be vigilant in reporting analogous cases and please, stop clapping or cheering on children being embarrassed and put in exploitative positions such as these. Let us be discerning and let us remember that these are real, living children, with rights to be protected, and not dolls or toys that exist to provide us with entertainment, pique our curiosities or afford us a laugh or two.