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MTRCB considers suspension of ‘Willing Willie’

Willie Revillame (Jerome Ascano, NPPA Images)Willie Revillame (Jerome Ascano, NPPA Images)(UPDATE) The Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) is expected to rule on Thursday, April 7, on the controversy over the March 12 episode of  TV5's early evening variety show "Willing Willie" where host Willie Revillame goaded a tearful six-year old boy, Jan-Jan Suan, into doing a sexually suggestive dance while the audience laughed at him.

But if for some reasons they would have to delay the ruling, MTRCB Chair Grace Poe-Llamanzares said, "There are talks of a preventive suspension. That's one option."

Another MTRCB official, who asked not to be named because he was not the authorized spokesperson, said, "There's no question about the suspension. What is being discussed is for how long."

The source said they are discussing a suspension that could range from a minimum of one week to a maximum of one month.

Llamanzares said some may question the need for a preventive suspension when TV5 has already introduced regulatory measures in the show.  But she said some members of the Board believe that TV5  has to be penalized for the March 12 episode which Social Services Secretary Dinky Soliman and Human Rights Commission Chair Loretta Rosales said was a violation of  the law against child abuse (Republic Act No. 7610).

The unnamed MTRCB official said, "The suspension would be a message that the Board won't tolerate shows that denigrate human dignity especially when it involves children."

"Willing Willie" is a co-production venture between host Revillame and TV5.

The MTRCB source noted that TV5's statement of apology referred to the March 12 show "which viewers may have found offensive or in bad taste."

"They (network officials), themselves, didn't find it offensive," he said.

MTRCB's Hearing and Adjudication Committee started the preliminary conference Monday. The process entailed getting the side of TV5, the statements from the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Commission on Human Rights, and inputs from psychologist Honey Carandang.

TV5's  Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Robert V. Barreiro reported to the Committee the regulatory measures the network has undertaken, including imposing stricter guidelines on the appearance and performance of minors, particularly, children on all TV5 programs; requiring that all auditions of TV5 programs be supervised by representatives designated by the TV5 Ombudsman; appointing an internal Ombudsman to entertain complaints regarding offensive programs; imposing a moratorium on contests and game shows involving minors; creating a Standards Advisory Board to be composed, among others, of a psychologist, a creative director, and a children's communications expert; and engaging the services of a team of psychologists to attend to Jan-Jan's needs.

In a statement to Yahoo! OMG! Philippines, TV5 said:

"We are taking positive action, not only to prevent the occurrence of any similar incident, but to uplift our standards especially with respect to children and minors.  With the steps we are taking, we hope to be the least frequent visitor to the MTRCB among the major networks."

There is an active campaign in Facebook to boycott advertisers of "Willing Willie." Jollibee's Mang Inasal has suspended its ad placement in the show.

Meanwhile, Llamzares previously told GMA News TV's "News To Go" that the Board was studying all its options with regard to the case.

"Kaya nga pinag-aaralan naming mabuti kasi ayaw naming abusuhin ang aming kapangyarihan...Merong fine, merong suspension ng show, merong suspension ng network kung saka-sakali. Ayaw nating humantong [sa ganito]. Alam nating maraming taong dumedepende sa trabaho nila dito sa ating industriya pero dapat naman nating itama kung saka-sakaling may nagkamali," Llamanzares noted.

Llamanzares also emphasized in the same interview the role of parents in upholding the rights of the child.

"Alam mo damang-dama ko rin ang nararamdaman ng mga magulang. Magulang din tayo. Ang mga magulang ko ay artista rin at nung sila'y nag-umpisang bata pa. Ang kanilang mga magulang ay binigyan sila ng suporta. Pero ang pinakamahalaga ay isipin natin ang kapakanan ng ating mga anak kasi kung hindi natin dedepensahan ang kanilang kapakanan, sino pang gagawa eh di yung estado na. Kaya kung ang mga magulang mismo ang umaabuso sa kanilang mga anak under the parents patriae, the state can step in to intervene and to actually defend and uphold the rights of the child," she said. With reports from Glenda Villena, Yahoo! OMG! Philippines

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)

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