THE brother of Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, Ben Tulfo, is returning the P60 million that his media company received from her department for ad placements in his show, her lawyer and spokesman Ferdinand Topacio said Monday.
In an interview with radio dzMM, Topacio also said that the Tourism secretary’s husband, Roberto Teo, will resign as board member of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority.
Topacio said that even though Bitag Media Unlimited Inc. has already spent the P60 million, Tulfo offered to return the money down “to the last centavo.”
The Commission on Audit last week questioned the Tourism Department’s placement of ads in the show “Kilos Pronto,” produced and hosted by Teo’s brothers, Ben and Erwin Tulfo, a block timer on government station PTV4.
CoA said the deal has no memorandum of agreement or any contract between PTV4 and the Tulfos’ BMUI to air the tourism commercials.
Still, the state-owned channel paid Bitag P22.09 million in May last year, P18.69 million in November and P18.96 million in December.
“Since there was no MOA wherein the terms and conditions of the agreement are supposed to be spelled out, there was also no basis for the computations on how the said three payments were arrived at,” CoA noted.
Topacio insisted that the deal was “above board and had a contract.”
He also said that Teo has recently denied any conflict of interest in the deal, saying transcation was between DoT and PTV-4, and not her brother’s media outfit.
“It was PTV-4’s own decision to place the ads in her brothers’ show due to its high ratings,” Topacio said.
Topacio also said Teo’s husband Roberto was appointed to Tieza by former President Benigno Aquino III, not President Rodrigo Duterte, and that he had submitted his resignation in June 2016, but this has not yet been acted upon.
Amid accusations of a conflict in interest, Mr. Teo said he would no longer attend board meetings, and has urged the President to accept his resignation, Topacio said.
In the Palace, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said it is up to President Duterte whether the Tourism secretary stays or goes, and said Tulfo’s offer to return the P60 million would not affect his decision.
Asked if Teo would face graft charges, Roque said he was uncertain about the legal ramifications, saying the law is inconsistent in alleged cases of nepotism.
“The issue right now is whether or not Teo will stay. And all this [the return of the P60 million] will have no impact on the decision of the President,” Roque said.
Roque said the Palace will look into the controversy but cannot predict what the Ombudsman will do.
Mr. Teo’s resignation for Tieza, an attached agency of the Department of Tourism, was as good as irrevocable, Roque added.
Senator Nancy Binay, meanwhile, has filed a resolution to investigate the P60-million advertising deal between PTV-4 and the Department of Tourism that benefited Teo’s brothers Ben and Erwin Tulfo.
“We welcome the gesture of good faith by Bitag to return the P60-million TV ad payment back to the government. Nonetheless, the DOT and PTV-4 need to clarify some issues with regard how commercials are placed, and the terms of reference covering such agreements,” Binay said.
Binay has filed a resolution to look into how the Tourism department spends its budget in advertising and marketing.
“Perhaps, we should determine how they rationalize the local advertising placements and if they are congruent with the strategic marketing and media plans of the department,” she said.
In its report posted online on April 27, the Commission on Audit detailed that the state-run television network made the following payments last year to Bitag Media Unlimited Inc.: P22,089,560 on May 11; P18.96 million on Nov. 8; and P18.96 million on Dec. 15.
“Perhaps the DoT can shed light on the advertising deal the Tourism department entered into with PTNI following CoA’s findings,” said Binay, who heads the Senate committee on tourism.
In a statement, the Akbayan party-list group said Teo announcing that BMUI will return the P60 million used for PTV ads was an admission of guilt.
“If she had an ounce of delicadeza, she would resign. Returning the money should not stop probes for accountability. It also doesn’t correct an illegal act,” said Akbayan.
“We are more convinced that the DOT is in the hands of an official who favors her family business over public service,” added the group.
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