MANILA — Former Department of Tourism (DOT) secretary, Wanda Tulfo-Teo, faced the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on Tuesday and asserted that there was “nothing illegal” in the PHP60 million paid by the agency to place advertisements in state-run PTV-4’s program, “Kilos Pronto”, which is hosted by her brother, Ben Tulfo.
“I can say that there is nothing illegal in the said contract. The transaction was between DOT and PTV-4. It is a government-to-government contract within the executive department and all payments were paid directly to PTV-4,” Teo said in her opening statement during the Senate Blue Ribbon panel hearing into the controversial ad placement deal.
Teo said all DOT programs and activities under her term were conducted and implemented “within the bounds of law” and stressed that the ad placement deal went through “proper channels.”
She said the proposal for the ad placement went through the Bids and Awards Committee and was eventually approved until a memorandum of agreement (MOA) was signed between the agency and PTV-4 on March 15, 2017.
Ben Tulfo vowed to “uphold the truth” by clearing his name and in proving that “suspicions” about his involvement in corruption were false. He also lamented how his brother, Erwin Tulfo, was dragged into the controversy.
Erwin admitted he was a “talent” of Bitag Media Unlimited, Inc., but did not participate in the decision-making process involving the ad placement deal.
Teo also claimed that she did not know that “Kilos Pronto” is a show hosted by her brothers and only knew that her brother, Ben Tulfo, owned the production company, Bitag.
“Di ko po alam na si Ben Tulfo ay Kilos Pronto (I didn’t know that Ben Tulfo hosts Kilos Pronto). All I know is Bitag,” Teo said, adding that she had no time to watch television.
She pointed out that the ad placements were done at PTV-4’s discretion since the show had high ratings.
“That contract was between PTV and DOT, beyond that ‘di ko alam kung saan ilalagay ng PTV ‘yung ads namin (I didn’t know where PTV would place the ads). Had I known it, I would not have signed the contract,” she added.
PTV-4 General Manager Dino Apolonio confirmed that it was the state-run television network that pitched the idea of placing the advertisements in the time slot of “Kilos Pronto”.
Senator Richard Gordon, Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairperson, said he found it “strange” that Teo did not know about her brother’s TV show.
Meanwhile, opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said he found Teo’s explanation “hard to believe.”
Asked by Senator Risa Hontiveros if she believed that her brothers should return the PHP60 million paid by the DOT, Teo said they should not return it.
It may be recalled that Teo’s former lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, said the Tulfos were supposed to return the money although it was not clear as to which agency.
Ben Tulfo, however, said returning the money was tantamount to admitting that he “did something illegal.”
“That would extinguish the legality of my contract with PTV-4. So now returning the money is tantamount to saying we did something illegal,” Tulfo said.
“Wala po sa isip ko ang pagsasauli dahil wala akong ginawang iligal (It did not cross my mind to return the money because I did not do anything illegal),” he added.
DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, meanwhile, vowed to fully cooperate in the investigations conducted by the Commission on Audit (COA) and the Office of the Ombudsman (COA).
“As current DOT Secretary, I have pledged, and will continue to pledge, my, as well as the whole DOT’s full cooperation with these constitutionally designated authorities, the Commission on Audit and Ombudsman,” Puyat said.
She said that if there was one good thing that came out of the controversial contracts and the DOT being under scrutiny, it was the need for certain reforms within the agency.
At present, she said, the DOT has rationalized guidelines on the grant of financial sponsorships to tourism-related events and on travel of DOT officials and employees.
The agency is also “more conscious” on DOT’s compliance with Republic Act No. 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.
Puyat said her agency also remains open to any suggestion for reforms that may be discussed during the hearing.
Earlier, the COA described the ad placement deal as a possible violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
COA said it was conflict of interest since the DOT, then led by Teo, paid PHP60 million for the ad placements in a show produced by her brothers.
Teo eventually tendered her resignation following the COA report. PNA-northboundasia.com