MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday said it is ready to investigate the controversial incident involving Willie Revillame's “Willing Willie” and a 6-year-old boy who danced like a stripper on the show last March 12.
DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima told reporters that the department is “just waiting for any appropriate complaint affidavit from any group or persons” before it can act on the matter.
The secretary declined to further comment on the issue to avoid any perception of pre-judgment if ever a case is filed at the DOJ.
But as a former chair of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and a human rights advocate, de Lima said the incident "definitely falls under the Child Protection Act."
Currently, the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) is investigating the incident.
During its Tuesday’s hearing, Revillame’s camp asked MTRCB chairwoman Grace Poe-Llamanzares to inhibit, citing her family ties with ABS-CBN.
Llamanzares, however, ignored the request.
Charges to be filed
CHR chairperson Etta Rosales and renowned child psychologist Honey Carandang said the incident violated Section 10 of Republic Act 7610, or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.
Rosales said they are already completing their report before they charged those who committed child abuse. CHR intends to file their complaint with the 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 MTRCB and Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) to ensure that these guidelines are incorporated in their individual policies.
Rosales added that the MTRCB and KBP should have a human rights-based approach in monitoring TV programs.
CHR will also have a nationwide campaign on children's rights to educate the public, especially 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.
When sought for comment, lawyer Jake Corporal, TV 5 legal counsel, called on the CHR 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,” Corporal said, adding:
"Any objective person should view this as something that is not objectionable, nothing lewd or obscene with the way the boy performed."
For Carandang, a renowned psychologist and author of numerous children's
books, she has written a complaint about the incident because of her personal advocacy on the protection of children.
She said the humiliation Jan-Jan suffered on national TV was enough evidence that there was child abuse and exploitation.
Giving Jan-Jan money made matters worse, she added.
She denied her position has anything to do with "any individual or channel."
According to reports, TV5 has allegedly said that Carandang is critical of “Willing Willie” because she is the mother of Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang, who used to be with ABS-CBN.
Carandang challenged the public to look at her long record as a child's advocate, her professionalism as well as her personal integrity.
Working Child's Permit
The Department of Labor (DOLE) is also stepping into the "Willing Willie" controversy.
Like the MTRCB and CHR, DOLE announced that it also looking into the incident as it may be a case of child labor.
DOLE said children below 15 years old may participate on television shows and in movies provided that they secure Working Child's Permit (WCP) first.
Before a WCP can be issued, the department said details like number of working hours and conditions should be clearly stipulated in the child’s contract since this should not interfere with his studies.
DOLE was not sure though about the nature of Jan-Jan's participation on the show.
Chan defends Willie
However, not all are against Revillame and his show.
In an interview during the launching of his latest album, "The Manhattan Connection: The Songs of Jose Mari Chan," singer Jose Mari Chan said he sees nothing wrong with the March 12 episode.
"You know Willie has been trying his very best and he's a friend of mine. And I’ve watched many of his shows. I didn't watch particularly the show with the macho dancer [incident]. I didn't watch that so I can't really judge him,” the singer said.
He added: "But you know I've seen many shows in other channels where they have many girls dancing there, I find nothing wrong with that. So, I cannot really make my judgment now. All I know is that Willlie is a good showman and he tries his best, he works very hard, and I think we need to have an open mind and look at the fact," Chan said.
When asked to react to Revillame’s threat to sue his goddaughter, Lea Salonga, and other singers who criticized the controversial TV host on Twitter, Chan replied: "This is not politics, the 3 of us are artists. So we will talk about our arts, about our music and we don't have to get involved in a political fight.” –Reports from Jing Castañeda, Ina Reformina, Mario Dumaual, Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News; and Reyma Buan-Deveza, abs-cbnNEWS.com