MANILA, March 29, 2011 (AFP) – One of the Philippines’ most popular and controversial TV personalities has reluctantly apologized after making a six-year-old boy cry on his show by forcing him to simulate a striptease.
The government accused Willie Revillame and the TV5 network on which his show appears of child abuse over the incident, which also caused uproar on the Internet with one Facebook critic labeling him a “national jerk”.
“The sequence shows the boy gyrating in a distasteful manner,” Social Welfare Minister Corazon Soliman said in a statement on Monday.
“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.”
The incident occurred on the March 12 edition of the top-rating “Willing Willie” early evening program, in which contestants win cash, cars and other prizes if they perform various acts to the crowd’s amusement.
The boy, from a poor family, earned 10,000 pesos (230 dollars) for the effort.
“He’s obviously doing it with a heavy heart, but he has to do it for his family,” Revillame said during the dance, with the footage going viral on video sharing and social networking Internet sites.
One clip has drawn half a million hits on YouTube.
Revillame hit the headlines for the wrong reasons in 2006 after more than 70 people were killed in a stampede while lining up for his previous television game show with another network.
TV5 issued a qualified apology on Monday on behalf of the network and Revillame.
“Mr. Willie Revillame, the producers of ‘Willing Willie’ and TV5 sincerely and deeply apologize for the segment of the show featuring (the boy) which viewers may have found offensive or in bad taste,” it said in a statement.
But it also insisted the boy had appeared voluntarily and with his parents’ consent, while adding his tears were not genuine.
“He appeared to be sad or even in tears, not because he was being forced to dance, but because he felt the dance was ‘serious’ and he was playing a role.”