Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Poverty not an excuse to humiliate Jan-Jan: columnist

MANILA, Philippines - On Sunday, mom and columnist Cathy Babao Guballa wrote a letter to Jan-Jan, the 6-year-old boy who was made to dance in a lewd manner in television show Willing Willie in exchange for P10,000.

Since then, the letter has been making the rounds on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and has been causing netizens to react strongly to the issue.

In the said letter, Guballa stressed that a child shouldn't go through humiliation for any reason, not even money woes.

"It's not all about the money, Jan-jan. The dignity of every child must be upheld. By allowing you to perform that way, they trampled on you and made you feel so small. I could see the fear and embarrassment in your eyes. It was undeniable. If there was only some way to rescue you from that moment, I'm sure every parent worth their salt would have done so," Guballa wrote.

"Poverty must never be an excuse to humiliate people. A child must be allowed to be a child. This terrible experience has probably left a mark on your soul and my prayer is that you will not be damaged by it forever. And this is why this insanity has to stop," she added.

Guballa, a columnist for The Philippine Daily Inquirer, said there are many people to blame for the humiliating experience that Jan-jan went through -- the child's guardians, the studio audience and host Willie Revillame.

She scored Revillame in particular for egging on the crowd and comparing Jan-jan to a "burlesque dancer."

"Willie had the power in that moment to stop, no, to prevent you from even performing your dance number. Had he done so, he may have even redeemed himself in a way. But what did he do? He gave you the money that you perhaps came for so that you could give it to your parents who for the life of me perhaps did not know any better than to send you there," Guballa wrote.

She continued, "Willie, a parent many times over, and a grandfather -- did not see the faces of his children or of his grandson when he was egging you on to dance a second or a third time? That he found enjoyment in watching you, and poking fun at you as you cried and looked so miserable was to my mind inexcusable. You are a child, and you are supposed to be loved and protected. Your right to protection is provided for under the law. I am so sorry that we failed to do this for you."

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has stepped into the controversy involving Willing Willie and Jan-jan, saying that the episode aired March 12 is a "clear case of child abuse."

DSWD has asked TV5 to not allow children to appear in shows like Willing Willie and other programs that "capitalize on poverty as a source of immediate entertainment."

The agency will also get in touch with Jan-jan's family, determine the incident's effect on the child and determine if necessary counseling should be given to the child and his parents.

Below is the full letter written by Guballa to Jan-jan.

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