Jose "Sway" Penala may be in violation of eligibility rules because of a recording contract

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated February 02, 2006 08:00 AM

American Idol may have hit another sour note, with the revelation that one of this season’s leading contenders may have violated the show’s rules.

Jose “Sway” Penala, 28, a South San Francisco native who even impressed the prickly Simon Cowell with his rendition of “Superstar,” apparently had a record deal with his group, 6th Day, at the time he auditioned as an amateur for the FOX talent search, reports.

If true, Penala might have broken an eligibility rule that prohibits existing recording or talent-management contracts. (In contrast, past agreements are permissible, as evidenced by fourth season winners Bo Bice and Carrie Underwood, who both had recorded CDs before their Idol adventure.)

FOX has not commented on the report.

According to a flattering profile that ran Wednesday in the Philippine News, Penala was born in Manila, emigrated to the U.S. in 1989 and started singing at age 7, his uncle, Jay Caedo, tells the paper.

Citing 6th Day, the article notes that Penala has already had a promising showbiz career so far, but with his exposure on Idol, “The world’s getting a dose of what we’ve all known for years,” says Patricio Ginelsa, who directed Penala in a 6th Day music video.

Ginsela added: “So begins our ‘Sway Watch.'”

Last week, 28-year-old Memphis twins Terrell and Derrell Brittenum, who made their big TV debuts on Jan. 17 when they auditioned for American Idol, were dropped from the show after reports surfaced that they were wanted on identity-theft charges.