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MTRCB replaces members of committee hearing Willing Willie case


THE Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) has replaced the members of the Hearing and Adjudication Committee after they voluntary inhibited in response to the accusation of lack of impartiality by lawyers of TV5 and Willie Revillame.

MTRCB Chairperson Mary Grace Poe Llamanzares said in a statement posted on the board’s website: “Even as I affirm the integrity of the Members of the Hearing and Adjudication Committee, I regretfully accept their voluntary inhibition in order to dispel any doubt as to their impartiality.  Effective immediately, a new Hearing and Adjudication Committee is hereby constituted to determine the guilt or innocence of the respondents in this ‘Willing Willie’ case.”

“The change in the composition of the Committee is to assure the public that the Board will only be guided by established facts and the law in the disposition of this case. This is also to avoid any attempt to further delay the expeditious resolution of the case.”

She did not release the names of the new members of the committee. There are 30 members of the MTRCB.

The revamp of the committee membership delayed the Board’s ruling on complaints against TV5’s variety show, Willing Willie, whose March 12 episode generated outrage and accusations of child abuse.

In that episode six-year-old Jan-Jan Suan, almost in tears, was shown doing a “macho dance” goaded by host Willie Revillame. The audience was shown enjoying the spectacle.

Eric Mallonga, one of the former committee members said, “We would have decided the case yesterday (April 7) based on the position and evidences presented. Unfortunately there was a motion to inhibit.”

The motion for inhibition was contained in the position paper presented by TV5’s lawyer, Zorayda Ruth Andam. It was also demanded by Revillame’s lawyer Leonard de Vera, who was allowed to speak despite his lack of legal personality in the hearing. Revillame’s production company, Wil Prod, is not registered with MTRCB, Mallonga said.

De Vera said  the wife of MTRCB Hearing and Adjudications Committee head Eugenio Villareal is an executive officer of ABS-CBN; Mallonga, heads “Bantay Bata,” a charity foundation of the network giant, ABS-CBN, while Leah Navarro made comments against the show in Twitter.

The hearing turned into a shouting match between De Vera and Villareal.”You’re trying to bamboozle us even if this is the only opportunity for Mr. Revillame to tell you what the point of law is and what the facts are,” De Vera said.

An MTRCB official, who asked not to be named said, “They (TV5 and Revillame) are bullying us.”

MTRCB chairperson Mary Grace Poe-Llamanzares with former Adjudications committee head Eugenio Villareal.

Llamanzares said De Vera’s accusations were baseless since all committee members have “connections” precisely because they are from the television and movie industry.

She added that the adjudication members have disclosed their affiliations prior to the hearing.

Villareal said it’s his wife, not him, who is directly affiliated with ABS-CBN. He also pointed out that he was assigned as permanent chairperson of the committee as early as February, before the complaint was filed.

“In my line of work, mas marami pa nga yata akong connections sa TV5 (I have more connections in TV5),” he said, adding that he’s even friends with TV5 Ombudsman Christine Ona.

As for Mallonga, Llamanzares said he was chosen as permanent chair of the Committee on Child Protection because the case involved child abuse.

“Bakit naman ako maglalagay ng electrician kung ang problema ay sa plumbing (Why would I hire an electrician if the problem involved plumbing)?” she said. Bantay Bata is a social welfare program for abused and at-risk children.

Mallonga, underscoring his impartiality, said he has been a member of the MTRCB for many years and  he was head of the Hearing and Adjudication committee who suspended  ABS-CBN’s Magandang Tanghali Bayan in 1999, then hosted by Revillame and two others, even if he was also legal counsel of Bantay Bata.

De Vera also accused Navarro, of having “pre-judgments” as shown in her tweets where she either re-tweeted or commented on tweets critical to Revillame.

But the MTRCB chair said Navarro tweeted about the issue prior to the start of the MTRCB hearing.

“Everybody had a comment. As Navarro said, we will be hard pressed to find somebody who has no personal opinion on the matter,” Llamanzares explained.

Llamanzares however also said members of the board must “cease to give (their) own statements once designated a role in the adjudication committee.”

De Vera also appealed to the committee to invite Revillame and his company, Wil Productions, to participate in the next hearings.  But the panel decided to invite Revillame only as a witness.

Villareal said the Board has “jurisdiction over programs, not personalities.” He explained that “The  case is against ABC TV5 because it is the applicant on the (television) permit to exhibit.”

De Vera angrily responded: “(Revillame) is not the party to this case but TV5 sanctions the client! … If you suspend TV5, you effectively suspend Willie Revillame, you effectively suspend all the people who are under his employ, you effectively suspend the enjoyment of millions and millions of Filipinos.”

In the MTRCB briefing posted on its website, TV5 was directed to “impose to impose punitive sanctions on the program and its hosts, which can range from a reprimand to a cancellation of the TV program itself, in the spirit of self-regulation.” –with reports from Ellen Tordesillas.

(The authors are journalism students of the University of the Philippines who are writing for VERA Files as part of the internship.)