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At Large
Still not free

By Rina Jimenez-David
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:57:00 03/28/2011

Filed Under: Ping Lacson, Dacer-Corbito murders, Television, Children, Crime, Entertainment (general)

?THE TRUTH has set you free,? declared a banner hung on the gates of the Senate building to welcome back Sen. Panfilo Lacson. Lacson has been ?missing in action? for more than a year ever since he decided to flee the country in the wake of rumors that he would be arrested on murder charges for the killing of PR operator Bubby Dacer and Dacer?s driver Emmanuel Corbito.

But in his homecoming press conference and subsequent interviews, Lacson has been decidedly elusive with the truth?or the full details of it. Asked repeatedly where he went and how he managed to evade Philippine authorities in his long mysterious journey, Lacson chose to remain evasive and elusive. True, an unnamed source told our reporter that the senator most probably hid out in Portugal which does not have an extradition agreement with the Philippines. But until Lacson comes out and tells the public himself, he will remain tainted by suspicion and doubt.

* * *

AS A senator, a lawmaker and public official, Lacson owes it to all who voted him into office to come clean about not just where he has been all this time, but also why he chose to elude the law in the first place.

From the interviews I caught, Lacson says he didn?t feel he was breaking the law because in the first place he was innocent of the charges being readied against him, but that he wasn?t confident of receiving justice at the hands of an administration hell-bent on putting him behind bars.

But if he believes that under the Aquino administration he will get a fair hearing, the senator should have nothing to fear today, and be as open as possible about his whereabouts and his travel itinerary.

The public should understand Lacson?s hesitance to implicate various friends and associates who assisted him while he was still a fugitive. But I think we should call him into account to disclose all that he knows about the killing of Dacer and Corbito, and his own role, however peripheral, in this assassination.

As one interviewer pointed out, two men are dead, two families orphaned of husbands, fathers, brothers. The root cause of Lacson?s long journey were the deaths of the PR man and the driver, and as an honored law enforcer and lawmaker, Lacson should be interested in getting to the root of the murders as much as re-gaining his reputation.

* * *

THERE?S a petition making the rounds of government agencies like the Commission on Human Rights, MTRCB, DSWD and even private groups like the KBP, associations of advertisers, and advertisers themselves prompted by, of all things, a portion of the TV show ?Willing Willie? last March 15.

The portion involves a child contestant, 6-year-old Jan-jan, interacting with host Willie Revillame, who is coaxing the child to perform before both the studio audience and TV viewers. (You can check out the video on YouTube.)

This is nothing unusual, since audience participation in exchange for cash rewards has long been a staple of local variety and game shows, although Revillame has brought audience participation to a whole new high?or is it low? But what the boy was expected to do was to dance like a ?macho dancer? or a male performer in a strip club, complete with sexually suggestive bumps and grinds. This would be a no-no for a general audience early evening show, but to be performed by a 6-year-old (albeit fully clothed) boy?

No wonder the boy was near tears most of the time, and as Revillame gleefully pointed out during Jan-jan?s dance routine, was shedding actual tears as he gyrated. Revillame even laughingly compared Jan-jan?s performance to that of the climactic scene of Vilma Santos (now governor of Batangas) in the film ?Burlesk Queen? where she dances a suggestive number that causes her to have a miscarriage while onstage.

Clearly, Revillame, who is reputed to be the highest-paid TV host in the land, was aware of the irony and drama behind the boy?s performance. But did that stop him from exploiting the boy?s misery, as well as his poverty? True, for a few minutes? humiliation, Jan-jan earned P10,000. Still, that does not excuse Revillame for making the boy perform those sexually suggestive moves not just once but again and again, and having a rollicking good time, along with his audience, including the boy?s aunt.

* * *

REVILLAME WAS kicked out of his old studio where he enjoyed a massively profitable reign as king of daytime variety because of a couple of faux pas that he committed out of hubris and poor taste. But he doesn?t seem to have learned anything with his transfer to Channel 5, with Jan-jan?s ordeal just the latest example.

I will confess that I am not a fan of Revillame, but watching a few of his ?Willing Willie? shows as well as those in his old TV home, has given me an idea of the general tenor and conduct of his hosting style. I got to watch Jan-jan?s portion on YouTube, my attention called to it by friends concerned about the boy?s plight, and the continuing exploitation of children being done by Revillame in the name of ?entertainment.?

A network executive once told me that Revillame enjoys remarkable ?charisma,? especially among lower-class older women. In fact, when the host calls on Jan-jan?s aunt to face the cameras, she makes a special request for a ?hug? from Revillame and for her pains she wins P3,000. Revillame clearly knows why people flock to his shows, but I wonder if he?s aware that without those bills he hands out, he would still enjoy the love of his fans.

What does his co-host and Valenzuela City councilor Shalani Soledad think of Revillame?s antics with Jan-jan? What does his new station plan to do about the protests? My bet is that as long as ?Willing Willie? rates, everybody will continue laughing and making fun of the likes of Jan-jan.



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