CHR, expert say 'Janjan' a victim of child abuse

By Jing Castañeda, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 12 2011 07:19 PM | Updated as of Apr 13 2011 04:00 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Loretta Rosales and renowned child psychologist Dr. Honey  Carandang believe there was child abuse in last month's dancing incident involving 6-year-old boy "Janjan" in TV5's "Willing Willie" game show.

The two based their assessment on Republic Act 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act, particularly Section 10 on "Other Acts of Neglect, Abuse, Cruelty or Exploitation and Other Conditions Prejudicial to the Child's Development."

Rosales said they are already completing their report, which they will use to file charges against those who committed child abuse. 

The CHR intends to file its complaint with the Department of Justice (DOJ) by the first week of May. 

Rosales admitted that the guidelines on the protection of children's rights need to be revisited. 

Once reviewed and strengthened, the CHR, together with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), will call for a meeting among the different networks, as well as agencies like the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) and the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), to ensure that these guidelines are incorporated in the individual policies of these organizations. 

Rosales said regulating agencies like the MTRCB and KBP should have a human rights-based approach in monitoring TV programs.

The CHR will also have a nationwide campaign on children's rights to educate the public, specially the parents, not to treat children as mere commodities.

Rosales called on the networks and media in general to be more conscious of their responsibility to protect human rights, particularly given their unique and enormous power to influence society.

Carandang: Giving money made it worse

Carandang, renowned psychologist and author of numerous children's  books, clarified that she wrote to complain about the Janjan incident because of her personal advocacy on the protection of children.

She said the humiliation Janjan suffered on national TV was enough evidence that there was child abuse or exploitation. Giving Janjan money made matters worse, she said.

She denied her position had anything to do with "any individual or channel."

One such report said Dr. Carandang is critical of Willing-Willie because she is the mother of Presidential Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang, who used to be with Channel 2 and who is now with the Aquino government. 

Dr. Carandang challenged the public to look at her long record as a child's advocate, her professionalism and personal integrity.

DOLE to probe child labor

Meanwhile, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) also said it will look into the "Willing Willie" incident since it may also be a case of child labor.

Child labor is not allowed in the Philippines except for children below 15 years old who may participate in the TV industry provided they have a Working Child's Permit (WCP).

Before a WCP can be issued, details like number of working hours/conditions should be clearly stipulated in his contract since his work shouldn't interfere with his studies.

But during a forum on Tuesday, the DOLE said it wasn't sure on the nature of Janjan's participation in the TV show. The DOLE also it wasn't able to clearly explain its guidelines.

Janjan and his family didn't show up at their counseling yesterday with the DSWD and Dr. Carandang. 

Carandang lamented she would have wanted to talk to Janjan to find out how he felt during the "Willing Willie" incident.

The CHR will hold a similar forum after the Lenten holiday.

TV5, Willie: No chiild abuse

In response, TV5 counsel Jake Corporal said: "The Commission on Human Rights has to be very circumspect and careful. It is very easy, yet dangerous to conclude that there was abuse.  They have  to view the actual, true footage of the segment so that their judgment will not be swayed by what they hear from the public. 

"Any objective person should view this as something that is not objectionable, nothing lewd or obscene with the way the boy performed," Corporal said.

"Willing Willie" host Willie Revillame has also denied he committed child abuse. He told his viewers last Friday he is the only one helping Janjan and his family as he attacked his colleagues in the entertainment sector who have criticized the incident.

Revillame has gone on leave for 2 weeks, while his show has been temporarily replaced by TV5's news program.