Breaking his three-day silence, embattled "The Pop Stage" grand prize winner CJ Villavicencio released on Wednesday midnight a statement on allegations of copyright infringement and plagiarism. There’s no mention of him relinquishing the title and prize.
ABS-CBN News received a copy through Love de Ocampo of Viva Artists Agency.
Here’s Villavicencio’s official statement:
“Over the weekend, my life has changed in an instant. I did not expect my victory to trigger so much negative comments and hate online. I was hurt and it also aches my heart to unintentionally hurt some people as well, especially the production team of 'Ang Huling El Bimbo The Musical.'
“My final performance during the finals of 'The Pop Stage' is an Eraserheads medley and was meant to be a tribute to my favorite artists and musical while also incorporating my own story and experiences. It is a piece that reflects my relationship with my friends, my role as a student, and my passion for music. It was also dedicated to all the students who endlessly strive in life.
“There was no intention whatsoever on my part to plagiarize. I am sorry if I caused undue distress, seemed disrespectful or if I have hurt the theater community. Honestly, the things that I’ve read slightly affected my mental health. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank all of the people who messaged just to check up on me.
“Clearly, as an amateur and aspiring artist, I still have so many things to learn. I humbly ask for everyone’s understanding as I navigate this new world that I have recently entered. I am not a bad person. My intentions were far different from what people think.
“I am grateful for the support of my new management and the people behind 'The Pop Stage.' I am also deeply thankful to 'The Pop Stage' judges, Popeyes and my supporters for this life-changing opportunity. In this time of uncertainty, may we all have the heart to spread love among humanity.”
Villavicencio won the grand prize in “The Pop Stage,” an online talent show with a P1-million cash prize and a one-year contract with Viva Artists Agency. The announcement happened Sunday night, August 2.
But as early as July 29, or five days before the grand prize announcement, his winning entry composed of a medley of Eraserheads songs was reportedly found to have copied musical arrangements from selected scenes in “Ang Huling El Bimbo” (AHEB) the musical.
“AHEB’s” musical director-composer and one of its lead actors Myke Salomon expressed his disgust over the alleged copyright infringement over the weekend.
Though not naming anyone, Salomon specifically pointed out copying “musical treatment and concept”. He addressed members of the production team and the judges, saying in a tweet: “You are judging concept and originality. You tolerate ripping off.”
Hosted by Matteo Giudicelli, the three judges of “Pop Stage” were Jed Madela, Ritz Beltran of G Force and Lani Misalucha. Criteria for judging were 40 percent creativity/originality, 40 percent performance quality and 20 percent entertainment value.
A few hours after the grand prize announcement, in their respective Facebook accounts, theater actor-choreographer Stephen Vinas, who was also part of “AHEB”, and actor-musical arranger-choreographer Jef Flores dissected the alleged plagiarized portions in Villavicencio’s winning video entry.
Flores also uploaded his detailed probe on his You Tube account.
In the “Pare Ko” segment, Flores showed how in Villavicencio’s version, the beat from Michael Jackson’s “They Don’t Really Care About Us” was used to alter Salomon’s original arrangement.
Villavicencio credited Ken Umahon and Cedric Calingasan for music production and Rommel Quizon as choreographer. Flores pointed out in Villavicencio’s “Pare Ko” version, there were dance steps similar from “AHEB’s”, which was an ROTC scene conceptualized by director and co-choreographer Dexter Martinez Santos.
In his Facebook account, Santos wrote: “I am no saint or preacher but just a piece of advice; if you know deep inside your heart (or even just a mere instinct) that a performance may not be an original, not just an inspiration, not a new musical arrangement and will be used for commercial and advertising purposes. It won’t hurt to ask for permission. It won’t hurt to check if there are actual similarities in narrative, chord progression or choreography with existing performances. It won’t hurt to mention proper credits. This is not a matter of grandstanding or being possessive or selfish but a matter of respect.”
Ely Buendia, lead singer-composer of the Eraserheads, from whose songs “AHEB” wove its narrative, stood by the theater artists behind the musical and hoped the issue would be resolved.