MANILA, Philippines – She had no idea, her lawyer claims.
Department of Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, according to her lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, did not know her brothers Erwin and Ben Tulfo were the hosts of Kilos Pronto, the show where the DOT placed P60 million ($1.15 million) worth of advertisements, which the Comission on Audit (COA) eventually questioned.
“She really did not know it would come to this. She was not informed [of] the fact that Kilos Pronto is hosted by her brothers and produced by Ben Tulfo,” Topacio said in a press briefing on Tuesday, May 8, after Teo resigned.
Topacio added that Teo only knew “later on” that Kilos Pronto was produced by her brother’s media outfit. Ben Tulfo is the chief executive officer of PTV blocktimer Bitag Media Unlimited.
“She did not know. She was only informed later on. It is so simple, mahirap paniwalaan (it is hard to believe). Do you think if she knows she would have not vetoed it?” he asked the media.
The audit report says, however, that the contract signed by DOT “specifically required” PTV to air ads on Kilos Pronto. (FACT CHECK: Wanda Teo claims no hand in P60M ads, but DOT contract specified Bitag)
Kilos Pronto is a blocktimer on state-run PTV, which means it is an independent production company, which buys airtime to appear on the network.
Topacio said the contract on the ads were between DOT and PTV and not with Bitag, and that it was PTV that “initiated” on what show the ads would be placed.
“DOT had no contract with the block timer, with the Bitag Media Unlimited. It was between the DOT and PTNI (People’s Television Network Inc). There is no contract whatsoever between the blocktimer and the DOT,” he said.
“Ang PTV4 ang nag-initiate noong placement by a letter and sila ang nag-decide kung saan-saan ilalagay ang placement,” he added. (PTV4 initiated the placement through a letter and they decided where to put the placements.)
Teo’s spokesman said PTV only “considered” airing the DOT ads on Kilos Pronto because “it was one of their highest rating shows.”
Topacio downplayed the COA report, saying that there was no allegation by the state auditor that “something is illegal or improper” with the disbursement of funds to the production company of Teo’s brother.
“Ang sinasabi lang ng COA, ‘O, nag-disburse pala kayo ng ganitong amount. Amin na ang resibo para ma-liquidate ‘nyo.’ ‘Yun lang po ito. DOT has never been under investigation by COA. Never,” he said.
(COA is only saying that, “Oh, so you disbursed this amount. Give us the receipts so you can liquidate.” That’s all. DOT has never been under investigation by COA. Never.)
On Monday, May 7, the tourism chief submitted her resignation letter to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea prior to the Cabinet meeting.
Topacio said Teo “voluntarily resigned” out of delicadeza, and was not fired by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Topacio said on Monday the Tulfo brothers would return the P60 million to the government. On Tuesday, the spokesman said it was not an “admission of guilt,” as alleged by Akbayan spokesperson Gio Tingson, rather a “move that should be appreciated.” – Rappler.com