(STAR) By Aurea Calica - From “Hello, Garci” to “Hello, Pappy.”

Three senators took interest in the brewing controversy over alleged game rigging on ABS-CBN’s popular noontime variety show “Wowowee.”

As the Senate prepares for its investigation into the “Hello, Garci” wiretap scandal, lawmakers led by Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas II took the initiative to dig deeper into last Monday’s incident that left millions of Filipino viewers shaking their heads.

Senators Lito Lapid and Ramon “Bong” Revilla also expressed their support for the filing of a resolution today seeking an investigation into the incident.

Millions of viewers saw game show host Willie Revillame fail to reveal the jackpot prize after a contestant decided to settle for P100,000.

Revillame earlier offered the amount in exchange for the P2 million that could possibly be won from the different choices offered.

The controversy began to spread when the segment was posted over the video sharing website YouTube.

Revillame was shown holding a cardboard with the number 2 after pulling out the “0” earlier shown to the contestant from the jackpot wheel.

Revillame quickly turned his back to the camera and just laughed when he could not show where the real winning choice was.

The contestant is supposed to win a P2-million jackpot prize if the number 2 is shown on the game wheel.

The incident triggered suspicions that the show was rigged and the management had no intention of giving out the cash prize.

A war of words later erupted between Revillame and comedian Joey de Leon, one of the hosts of Wowowee’s competing noontime show “Eat Bulaga” on GMA 7.

Revillame, fondly called “Pappy” by his co-hosts and contestants in the game show, slammed De Leon for accusing him of being a cheat.

During the airing of Eat Bulaga, De Leon replied by claiming he was not accusing Revillame or the program of cheating but merely reacting to what he saw over YouTube and circulating text messages.

De Leon went on to dare Revillame to “explain before you complain” about what happened in the “Wilyonaryo” game, pointing out the supposed jackpot turned out to be nonexistent.

De Leon even called on the Senate to investigate the incident and have “Pappy” instead of “Garci” face a congressional inquiry.

“Inuuna nyo yang ‘Hello, Garci.’ Bakit hindi nyo muna unahin itong ‘Hello, Pappy’,” De Leon said, taking a dig at Revillame’s nickname.

Revillame, who was just cleared of charges over the tragic Wowowee stampede in February 2006, took the opportunity to defend himself during yesterday’s episode of the noontime game show by claiming he has no obligation to explain anything before the Senate.

“Wala akong dapat i-explain kasi wala namang nagko-complain (There is nothing to explain because there is no complaint),” an emotional Revillame said.

For its part, ABS-CBN issued a statement clarifying the incident was a result of a “mechanical glitch.”

“The revelation of where the P2-million jackpot prize went happened after the contestant decided to get Willie’s offer. Since ‘Wilyonaryo’ is a new game, a mechanical glitch occurred in the reveal portion,” the statement said.

Roxas, chairman of the Senate committee on trade and commerce, said they would ask the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on how to resolve issues of game rigging.

He said the staff of Wowowee could be summoned to shed light on the issue.

“We shall file an appropriate resolution for a Senate inquiry with the end-goal of strengthening our consumer welfare code,” Roxas said.

Lapid and Revilla, for their part, said they would support the inquiry. Lapid chairs the Senate committee on games and amusement while Revilla heads the public information and mass media panel.

“If it will be referred to my committee, I will certainly act on it,” Revilla said.

Lapid and Revilla, however, assured the investigation will not supersede an independent probe of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board into the incident.

Roxas stressed the Senate inquiry into the allegations should be made for public interest under the public consumer act.

He said the DTI, where he was former secretary, would be asked to first investigate, being in charge of all game show contests.

“It’s the DTI that gives certification that raffle draws, contests and others are being done correctly and fairly,” he said.

“This will not be a fishing expedition because we will consult the DTI as to the evidence we might need in aid of legislation. What are the provisions in the Consumer Act? There are regulations, provisions in the Consumer Act that might have to be revised so the people will be assured that these games and contests are being done properly,” Roxas said.

Roxas said a public hearing could be scheduled soon to shed light on issues involving game shows.

“We also have to be wary of being dragged into the contest between the two stations. We will not have any knee jerk move, we will not act without thinking it through,” he said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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