A popular Philippines TV game show was forced to apologise after featuring a boy of six being mocked by the audience as he tried to dance and sing.
The boy was in tears when he performed as 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 that host Willie Revillame and the audience showed no concern for him and that the programme broke the law on child abuse.
It was not clear if Revillame and channel TV5 will face charges. The government’s Commission on Human Rights and the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board said it will investigate.
TV5 apologised 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 got scared of a towering former basketball player who also was on the set.
The boy earned a prize of 10,000 pesos (€163) 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.
“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 traumatises the child,” Ms 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 upset people in the past with lewd jokes.
In 2006, a stampede in a queue 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.