POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 7 April 2011, Thursday
The Price of Innocence
What price innocence? What price childhood?
Many of you have seen the infamous video by now: Jan-jan, a six-year-old boy dressed conservatively in a plaid shirt and pants gyrates lewdly and suggestively on national television while tears stream down his cheeks, as the show’s host eggs him on and the audience of adults cheers and screams for more.
Some of you were sickened and disgusted. Some said, “What’s the big deal? If not him, it would’ve been some other kid.” Others said, “But it was really funny!”
This is the state of Philippine society now – that a child can grind like a macho dancer on TV and the Internet for the world to see and get paid off with ten thousand pesos, and most Filipinos see nothing wrong but find it amusing.
“Nothing wrong” because the boy’s father has said that he is proud of his son’s performance and thanks the host, Willie Revillame, for having given Jan-jan a chance to show off the dance that he himself, the father, and the boy’s aunt, taught him.
“Nothing wrong” because Willie and Willie’s camp, including co-host Valenzuela councillor Shalani Soledad, have come out with no sincere apology but a long-winded defense and explanation, saying Jan-jan cried not because he felt humiliated but because he was afraid of a tall former pro basketball in the studio, why do you only see the bad, don’t you see the good that we are doing for the poor people of this country by giving them cash handouts after they humiliate themselves in public, blah blah.
“Nothing wrong” because only a few sponsors – Jollibee Group’s Mang Inasal and Del Monte Philippines – have expressed their disapproval by pulling out. CDO foods backpedalled. The rest are still in, putting ratings and money above decency. TV-5, the show’s network, still airs the show which they revived, having been killed in the first place by its previous network.
“Nothing wrong” because as of presstime, there has been no statement from the majority Roman Catholic Church, which is so fast to condemn the RH Bill, even calling for civil disobedience from its believers to suppress a measure that will help control the rampant population boom of this country and raise its standard of living, yet drags its collective feet on this blatant episode of sexualisation of children.
The Church condemns contraception, encouraging its believers to “go forth and multiply”. Yet where are they when children need to be fed, clothed, educated, kept safe from predators and molesters, when their parents cannot care for them properly because they have too many children, because they are poor and their church has forbidden them contraceptives?
To be fair, no other church group has come out with a statement. So let’s just ask instead – what now, organized religion? If it works, why is our society sexualizing and exploiting its children?
It’s good to see the government standing up for Jan-jan and other exploited children, but also because of public pressure. Perhaps the largest and most vocal group got its start as a Facebook group set up by Froilan Grate – “Para Kay Jan-Jan (Shame on You, Willie Revillame)!” As of presstime, the page has 10,490 “likes”.
Partly because of letters written by Grate and supporters of the cause, and columns and articles written by journalists, artists, and others, Department of Social Work and Development Dinky Soliman wrote a letter condemning the March 12 incident, saying it is “clearly a violation of Republic Act 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act and a blatant manifestation of child abuse.”
Sec. Soliman has also written TV-5 head Manny V. Pangilinan, asking him not to allow the show to “cash in on the plight of the poor.”
The Commission on Human Rights has said it will seek “to identity the persons accountable for violating Section 10 of RA 7610…”
Apart from government agencies, non-government organization Gabriela and others have also scored Revillame and those connected with the show for child abuse.
But it’s not just the children. It’s also Willie’s dancing women, his “Kembot Girls” of whom I’ve written about before as being in poor taste for a daytime variety show, sending messages to young girls that shaking your scantily-clad body on TV is okay, because with sex you will lift your family from poverty. I thought that was what education was for!
And we think nothing is wrong with this.
As I’ve said before, we are a nation for sale. Not so much our goods, as our people. It used to be, when you asked about a nation’s export products, you’d answer “Rice. Coffee. Iron.” or whatever natural resource or manufactured good.
Instead, our number one export is humans. Never mind the social cost of children growing up without their parents, believing that all is justified for the sake of money.
Even our kids are for sale. We are raising them to be fodder for pedophiles. “Come on down to the Philippines, it’s a perverts’ paradise! Here, see how well they bump and grind on mass media!”
Nothing wrong with that? Really?
But why did Jan-jan ‘s father train him to do this dance and get on Willie’s show? Because of poverty and corruption, the root causes of many social ills. This is the reason for our country’s diaspora, for our large OFW population – because our country does not have enough jobs for all the people that are being born on its soil. Because endemic corruption and the culture of impunity have eaten away at funds for social development and poverty alleviation to line the pockets of those in power at the expense of the rest of the country.
Many will say, “We have no choice kundi kapit sa patalim.”
Don’t we? But there are people who have not taken that route to earn an income. Instead, they got an education; they got jobs; they refused to be on the take.
Because for some people, it’s not just money. For some people, morality and decency and family are not just dictionary words but principles to live by and die for.
The price of innocence, of a pure and untainted childhood free from abuse? Our answer should be, “Priceless.” ***