MANILA, Philippines >> A popular Philippine television game show host and his network apologized Tuesday after an uproar over a segment showing a 6-year-old boy crying while gyrating and mimicking a striptease dancer.
The boy was a contestant on an episode of "Willing Willie," a variety and game show that features mostly poor Filipinos who earn cash prizes for singing, dancing, telling their stories or playing games.
Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman condemned "the emotional abuse and humiliation" suffered by the boy. She said in a statement Monday that host Willie Revillame and the audience showed no concern for him and that the March 12 program violated a law against child abuse.
It was not clear if Revillame and TV5 will face charges. The government’s Commission on Human Rights and the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board said they will investigate.
TV5 apologized Tuesday on behalf of Revillame and the station, saying there was no intention to humiliate the boy who was accompanied by his aunt and who approved his performance.
It said the boy appeared to be in tears not because he was forced to dance but because he was playing a role and got scared of a towering former basketball player who also was on the set.
The boy earned a prize of $230 for his dance.
Women’s group Gabriela said that the dance was punctuated by the live audience’s loud cheers and guffaws and was an atrocious act of child abuse.
Meanwhile on social networking site Facebook, critics who earlier launched an anti-Willie Revillame movement posted several calls for his removal from TV and a boycott of his show’s sponsors.
"Putting pressure on children to do acts such as mimicking adult sexy dances, in exchange for a certain amount of money, and at the expense of being laughed at and ridiculed by hundreds of people, clearly traumatizes the child," Soliman said in the statement.
"This is a clear form of child abuse and will not be tolerated by the Department of Social Welfare and Development," she said.
Revillame, the Philippines’ highest paid TV host, has ruffled feathers in the past for his often brash language and lewd jokes.
In 2006, a stampede in a waiting line at a Manila stadium where Revillame’s show was to be broadcast killed 74 people. Criminal charges of negligence against Revillame and executives at ABS-CBN TV station, where he worked at the time, were later dropped.
Last year, Revillame left ABS-CBN after he was suspended for threatening to resign on the air if the management did not fire another talent at the same station he was quarreling with.
In 2009, while the nation was mourning the death of former President Corazon Aquino, Revillame provoked angry comments from viewers and commentators by objecting to sharing on the TV screen live video of Aquino’s funeral procession with his show, which was ongoing.