Willing Willie & Child Abuse

I was a kid in a time when the world realized how important it was to protect children. In 1990, the UN and its member states ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. That year was also the beginning of my being a child rights advocate. UNCRC is already 20 years old, I wish I could proudly say that I’d been a CRC advocate for the same number of years, but I could not. Sadly, when I left NGO work about 6 years ago, much of my advocacy stopped too. I don’t even remember the facts anymore.

Of course I hadn’t intended it to be that way. If anything, I thought that allowing myself the freedom to live a different life would afford me more free time and resources to be involved in other child-focused advocacies. I was wrong.

I’d like to think that I still carry it in me, that in some way I am still an advocate for children’s rights. The recent issue of Willing Willie and the accusations of Child Abuse thrown against them has reawakened that spirit.

The issue has gone the rounds of social media sites for over a week. I have reserved my comment though my blood boils every time I read or hear about it. For awhile, I resisted viewing the video of the 6-year-old – being contented with the description of how he was in tears as he danced for the crowd. I could already see him in my mind, and I could hear Willie’s voice prodding him on and adding more drama to what already was a very sad scene.

I refuse to post the Youtube video of the kid on my blog, I will not even tweet you a link to it.

Call me OA (over-acting), but I sincerely believe that leaving that video online for all to see is just the same as telling the boy to keep on dancing his sexy macho dance. It’s no different from what Willie, the production team, the network, and even the audience, did to the little boy. We take a stand against child pornography right? Saying that mere possession and viewing illicit content is a violation of the child’s rights. Well I say the same about the boy’s video.

But I did watch it. I saw the 1-minute video that was shared on Twitter. It was enough for me to form an opinion. I do not wish to see it again, and I do not think others need to watch it.

* The boy was crying as soon as he started dancing. Whether he was crying out of fear of Bonel Balingit (a towering giant who happened to be at the show that day), or out of humiliation for what he was being asked to do – he should not have been made to continue, much less repeat the dance. He could have cried out of stage fright and not because he was ashamed, nonetheless, he should have been asked to stop. Does he really have to dance? All he needs to do is answer a question correctly in order to win a prize. Yes, he might have joined up and said that his talent was dancing, but if he changed his mind and was suddenly all too shy to do it in front of millions of people – then he shouldn’t have had to continue.

* Last night, the boy and his family appeared on the show. I refused to tune in and watch. Whether the family intends to file a complaint against the show is irrelevant. Protecting the child’s rights is a State duty. Violation of children’s rights, Child abuse, is a crime. Just because the parents don’t know better doesn’t right a wrong.

* I do not understand WW’s and TV5’s apology.  Neither do I accept it. There was no admission of wrongdoing. In fact, they have been trying to salvage the host and the show’s reputation. The timing of the awarding for their 7 millionaires and its feature in Paparazzi last weekend is very suspicious. TV5, and all other networks, should come up with very clear guidelines on children and minors appearing in their shows – whether as actors or show contestants.

Maybe we’re barking at the wrong tree. Willie has done other things that were met with public outrage and he has gone away with it. He earns 80,000USD a day doing Willing Willie (source: Cristy Fermin, Paparazzi 3/27/11). No doubt he feels that he is untouchable. Writing to TV5’s president is probably not going to work either – after all, Willie is currently the most bankable star in their roster. Would they risk losing him the way ABSCBN did by attempting to discipline him? I don’t think so.

But the advertisers should be different. It is their money funding the show. They should demand more from its hosts and from the network.