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Willie Revillame takes leave following striptease scandal

MANILA, April 9, 2011 (AFP) – A Philippine TV host who sparked outrage when a six-year-old boy simulated a striptease for cash on his show is taking a two-week break starting Saturday because of the furor.

Embattled presenter Willie Revillame said late Friday he would take leave from his top-rated variety show, “Willing Willie” following an advertising boycott and government investigations into the incident.

“I will take a leave… starting today. Tomorrow, we will just show taped (old) episodes. We will be gone for two weeks… but when we come back, there will be new hope,” he told his show’s audience.

Revillame, who has hit the headlines for the wrong reasons before, hosts one of several popular TV shows that offer guests a chance to win cash, cars and other big prizes for performing in front of a live audience.

The TV star came under fire after the boy simulated the striptease on the March 12 edition of the show, but he has denied wrongdoing and lashed out at his critics, hinting that he is the victim of a political witch-hunt.

Government agencies, Catholic church organizations and other celebrities assailed Revillame, saying he had forced the child to perform an embarrassing dance even when he was already in tears.

ABC-TV5, the station that airs the variety show, stood by its host, saying that Revillame had not humiliated or coerced the boy as his critics claim.

Revillame and ABC-TV5 said that the outrage was sparked by heavily-edited scenes of the dance that were posted online to show Revillame in a bad light.

They also said other TV shows on rival channels had aired similar dance sequences involving children without complaint.

Revillame has suggested he is being singled out because he campaigned for a rival candidate who lost the 2010 election to President Benigno Aquino.

In 2006, more than 70 people were killed in a stampede while lining up for Revillame’s previous television game show with another network.

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