CBCP condemns Willing Willie controversy, calls Willie an “insensitive” tv host

The National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA), a social action arm of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), on Friday issued a statement expressing “disappointment” and “dismay” on the child abuse scene in the March 12 episode of TV5's 'Willing Willie'.

The statement, which was released to media Friday, read:
The National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA) of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) strongly shares in the disappointment and dismay of the community upon watching a young boy dance in a lewd manner in front of an insensitive television host and amidst the laughter of a jeering crowd at 'Willing Willie'’s television episode on March 12, 2011. The management and the host of the show brought shame not only to Jan-Jan and his parents but to media practitioners, in general.

NASSA commends and supports the calls for further investigation of the abovementioned television episode and for appropriate intervention and assistance extended to Jan-Jan and his family. Only by examining carefully the many elements that gave rise to the controversy can a clear-sighted assessment of critical issues be looked into and liable persons are meted out the appropriate penalty under our laws on human rights and child protection.

The Church’s social doctrine constantly points out the need to respect the dignity of children. 'In the family . . ., a special attention must be devoted to the children by developing a profound esteem for their personal dignity, and a great respect and generous concern for their rights' (John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, 26).

We urge all media networks, producers and management to uphold the human dignity at all times to avoid the betrayal of trust that was placed in their shoulders by the innocent young people and their parents. We need to remember that media’s ultimate commitment to corporate social responsibility is determined by the manner they promote the welfare not only of the people who are directly and indirectly involved in their television production but that of their viewers as well.

In the same way that freedoms in the media are respected so should media practitioners put utmost regard to the dignity and rights of the people whom they ultimately serve.

We ask media networks to adequately provide and duly enforce mechanisms that will ensure that children who participate in such contests are not exploited. We need to install monitoring system so as to ensure compliance to child protection policy that will best serve the interests and the welfare of children and that will pursue liabilities of those who dare transgress it.

We call on parents to remain steadfast in their commitment to securing a safe environment, building a loving home, providing the best possible care and protecting the rights of children. It is your noble task to not only provide for their temporal needs but also nourish their minds and souls. Educate the young with authentic moral values rooted in the dignity of the human person and grow in them pure hearts and minds inspired by the truth of our Catholic faith.

Children deserve to be loved and cherished and to grow up with a strong sense of their identity and worth. The Church, for her part, will continue to stay sincere to the Gospel teachings by supporting genuine pro-life programs and by making a stand against the sexualization of children in media and exploitation in other circumstances. As we carry out your vital responsibilities, be assured that the Church will remain close to you and offer you the support of our prayers.

For all of us television viewers, let this instance provide the impetus for honest self-examination of our present beliefs and values, most importantly by the adults among us in the society who serve as examples to children and mentors to young minds. May we not become just passive recipients of entertainment and information from media channels but also become critical to what is being offered to us by media. Also, may we all accompany media in its role in social transformation as we continuously work together in solidarity and mutual respect in confronting this particular issue as well as the broader issues associated with the abuse of minors towards the promotion of human dignity and justice for children in the light of the teachings of the Gospel.

We need constant prayer and perseverance that all of us may serve as catalyst in protecting the rights of the defenseless children and for the great affirmation of God’s presence in these socially confusing times. May the ideals of holiness, charity and transcendent wisdom born out of the Christian faith find expression in all our actions and words.
NASSA was created by the CBCP in 1966 as a response to the call of the Universal Church for renewal and social transformation. It is the social action arm of the CBCP, under the direction and supervision of the Episcopal Commission on Social Action-Justice and Peace (ECSA-JP).

NASSA’s official name is Caritas Filipinas Foundation Inc. (CBCP-CFFI), and it represents the Philippines in Caritas Internationalis – a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development and social service organizations present in 201 countries.