Pompee La Viña tapped to 'get more tourism investments'
MANILA, Philippines – Jose Gabriel "Pompee" La Viña has a fresh start at the Department of Tourism (DOT) as an undersecretary. But it was not what he initially asked for.
"I [had] actually asked for something else – a quiet [post], far away from the media," said La Viña, who took his oath on Monday, April 30, which was presided by Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo in Makati City.
President Rodrigo Duterte appointed La Viña to the DOT on April 24, two months after he was sacked from his post at the Social Security System (SSS) for alleged "abuse" of public funds.
La Viña previously served as Duterte's social media director during the 2016 campaign period. (READ: From SSS to Tourism: Who is Pompee La Viña?)
The newly-appointed tourism undersecretary said it was Duterte who asked him to help Teo oversee the country's "regions and the Chinese market."
Regions and China
"The President said: 'Go there and help Secretary Wanda,'" La Viña said in a press briefing on Monday.
The former SSS official said he will help Teo entice the Chinese to invest more in the Philippines, especially outside Metro Manila.
"Basically, she (Teo) said she needed help in getting more investments. That is basically what we agreed on – a small enough space to get my feet wet and yet have some real numbers," La Viña added.
Without elaborating, La Viña said his ultimate goal as DOT undersecretary is to "wipe out poverty" in the next 4 to 6 years through tourism.
"So that is my main objective here, kung ano magagawa natin para matulungan natin 'yung mga kababayan nating mahirap through tourism (what we can do to help our poor countrymen through tourism)," he said.
'No ambition' of replacing Teo
"It is a low-lying fruit. That is what is driving me here, not what some journalist said," La Viña added, pertaining to a Facebook post by broadcaster Ben Tulfo on Sunday evening, April 29, which has since been deleted.
Tulfo, brother of Teo, claimed that a former SSS official was the one who leaked the Commission on Audit (COA) report questioning a P60-million advertising deal between the DOT and People's Television Network Incorporated (PTV).
Although Tulfo did not name the official, his clues – an "ally" of Duterte and "expert in social media” – were pointing to La Viña. (READ: Wanda Teo claims no hand in DOT's P60-million deal with PTV)
Teo defended La Viña on Monday, saying, "I don't believe that Undersecretary Pompee will do that. I am different from my brother."
La Viña has denied the allegations. He also said, based on a private conversation with Teo, that the tourism chief has suspicions on who leaked the data.
"It is not me. I'm probably one of the most unpopular people in the 'yellow' media. How can I influence COA somehow and have the 'yellow' media release it? That is the least of my concern," La Viña said.
"I am here because the President put me here. I serve at the full pleasure of the President – his trust and confidence in me. That is all that matters. Nobody else's opinion matters to me." (READ: Duterte to gov't employees: One whiff of corruption, you're out) – Rappler.com