"While it may be argued that Mr. Revillame [right] could have expressed his thoughts in a better way and that it would have been better to raise them privately, instead of the public manner in which he did, such was not disrespectful of the dead and does not constitute an offense under the KBP Broadcast Code of the Philippines," wrote ABS-CBN executive Cory Vidanes (left) in a letter sent to the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas.

Photo: Noel Orsal

ABS-CBN defended beleaguered Wowowee host Willie Revillame against growing public outrage caused by his outburst, seen and heard on national television last August 3, demanding the removal of the inset screen showing the funeral cortege of former President Corazon Aquino.



The live feed was shown in the middle of Wowowee's "Willie of Fortune" segment. Willie commented: "Hindi ho maganda sa atin. Nagsasalita, ipinapakita yung kabaong ni Tita Cory, hindi ba? Papano kami makapagsasaya, nahihirapan kami? I'm sorry ho, ha. Pero ako, totoo ako, e. 'Wag n'yo akong pagagalitan... Pagkatapos ng show, ipakita n'yo ang gusto n'yong palabas. Kasi itong Wowowee, gusto ko, hindi ba—at alam din ni Tita Cory 'yan dahil napasaya rin siya ng show na ito—na laging masaya dito, okey?"



Willie's remark instantly irked various organizations, which accused the controversial host of disrespecting the memory of the fallen democracy icon. The Alyansa ng Filipinong Mamamahayag (AFIMA) commented: "He may have the right to demand it, but he never waited until the next commercial break to quietly do it. He expressed his angst against Corazon Aquino funeral being shown side by side his Wowowee right before the dumbstruck millions of Filipino viewers around the globe." (Click here to read related story.)



The National Press Club (NPC) sided with the AFIMA in condemning Willie's action and recommended that the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) take the necessary action against Willie.



MTRCB chair Consoliza Laguardia said in an interview that Willie violated Sec. 3 of Presidential Decree 1986, saying, "Yung personal kong tingin, objectionable yung ginawa ni Willie kasi puwede niyang ginawa yun offcam. He violated the Broadcast Code of Ethics of KBP [Kapisanan ng Brodkaster ng Pilipinas] and then sa part ng MTRCB, Sec. 3 of PD 1986 yung being objectionable and contrary to good customs and tradition."

To add to Willie's woes, an online petition spearheaded by a certain Roel Saguisag was also launched which intends to remove Revillame from Wowowee. The online appeal dubbed "Petition to Oust Willie Revillame" has reportedly garnered thousands of respondents, making it the "second most active petition" on cyberspace.

On the other side, there were comments coming from sectors of the public that saw nothing untoward about Willie's actions. They were of the belief that, far from disrespecting the late President Cory Aquino, Willie was in fact right to question just how proper it was to have his entertainment game show running alongside the coverage of the funeral of a much-loved president. From their vantage point, Willie had simply wanted the station to decide whether it wanted his show or the funeral coverage to go up on the screen, but not both.

Johnny Manahan, Wowowee director, also gave an interview to PEP explaining the beginnings of the whole controversy. His explanation backed Willie's stand that the latter's actions were meant, in fact, to give the respect due the late president. (Click here to read related story.) It was simply unfortunate, Manahan conceded, that Willie decided to question the network's call on the air and not behind the scenes, leading to a widespread misreading of his intentions.

Working even more to Willie's favor, Kris Aquino, youngest child of Cory, took up the issue on SNN (Showbiz News Ngayon), where she backed the beleaguered host. Speaking on behalf of her family, Kris said that they were accepting the apology of Willie. (Click here to read related story.) 



Nevertheless, Chairman Laguardia filed a formal complaint with the KBP against Willie last August 10. That same day, the KBP transmitted the MTRCB complaint to ABS-CBN, which replied to the KBP letter last Friday, August 14.



PEP obtained a copy of the ABS-CBN letter, signed by Ms. Socorro "Cory" Vidanes, a top network executive, and addressed to Ms. Diana Gozum, chairperson of the KBP Standards Authority. The letter was sent to PEP by an entertainment industry insider.



Here is the letter in its entirety:


Dear Ms. Gozum:

We write in reply to your letter dated 10 August 2009, requesting ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation to comment on the complaint of Movie and Television Review & Classification Board (MTRCB) Chairperson Ma. Consoliza P. Laguardia dated 10 August 2009, and an undated statement of Jerry Yap, President of the Alyansa ng Filipino Mamamahayag (AFIMA).



The said complaint and statement both refer to the 03 August 2009 episode of the television program Wowowee, wherein the funeral cortege of the late President Corazon C. Aquino was exhibited as an inset in portions of the said program. The MTRCB letter alleges that Mr. Revillame "appeared to arrogantly demand the removal of the inset screen showing the funeral cortege." The Honorable MTRCB Chairperson then opined that the said act was "desecrating the dead" and, thus, "seems to be in violation of Article 20, Section 2, of the Broadcast Code of the Philippines." On the other hand, the AFIMA statement states that "[f]or him to demand the removal of the little window screen showing the funeral march of the woman who got ABS-CBN back from Marcos is a blasphemy of democracy, an act despicable x x x." It appears, therefore, that the complaint and statement are both based on the alleged disrespect by Mr. Revillame to the late former President Aquino.



It is ABS-CBN's position that there was no disrespect of the dead by Mr. Revillame. When the funeral cortege of former President Aquino was shown as an inset during Wowowee, Mr. Revillame expressed his opinion of the inappropriateness of the simultaneous exhibition of both the funeral cortege and Wowowee, and his preference that only one or the other be shown.



In expressing his opinion and preference, though, Mr. Revillame did not show disrespect for former President Aquino. In fact, the contrary is true. In making his statements, Mr. Revillame wanted to give due respect to former President Aquino and her funeral cortege.



Indeed, in Filipino culture, customs, and tradition, ceremonies involving the dead are solemn and sober. Thus, the laughter, jokes, and happiness usually seen in a program like Wowowee would appear to be inappropriate when viewed together with the funeral cortege. On the one hand, the Filipino people are mourning the death of a loved and respected former President, and on the other hand, Wowowee is trying to entertain its audience.



It appears, therefore, that Mr. Revillame's issue was with the inappropriateness of Wowowee and the funeral cortege being shown together, and not with the funeral cortege itself. While it may be argued that Mr. Revillame could have expressed his thoughts in a better way and that it would have been better to raise them privately, instead of the public manner in which he did, such was not disrespectful of the dead and does not constitute an offense under the KBP Broadcast Code of the Philippines.



We trust the foregoing comment satisfactorily establishes that there was no violation of the KBP Broadcast Code of the Philippines.



Very truly yours,

MA. SOCORRO V. VIDANES
Head, Channel 2