Duterte names Bernadette Romulo Puyat as tourism chief

Paterno Esmaquel II
(3rd UPDATE) Incoming Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat is an undersecretary at the Department of Agriculture

NEW TOURISM CHIEF. President Rodrigo Duterte is seen with Senator Cynthia Villar, Agriculture Undersecretary Bernadette Puyat, and Agrilink/Foodlink/Aqualink 2017 Chairman Candelario Miculob in an event on October 5, 2017. Puyat is the new tourism secretary named by Duterte on May 8, 2018. Malacañang file photo

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – President Rodrigo Duterte named Bernadette Romulo Puyat as the new secretary of the Department of Tourism (DOT), replacing resigned tourism chief Wanda Teo.

Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go confirmed this on Tuesday evening, May 8, hours after Teo announced her resignation.

Puyat is an undersecretary for administration, agribusiness and marketing, and regional engagement at the Department of Agriculture.

Puyat is a daughter of former senator and former foreign secretary Alberto Romulo, said an article on the Philippine Star. She is an economist. 

She is a widow whose husband, Dave, died of a heart attack while playing football in 2010, according to her profile on Town and Country. They were reportedly married for 16 years, and she was widowed at 40.

Puyat worked in government as early as 2005, when she was a consultant to the Presidential Management Staff under the Arroyo administration, said a report on BusinessMirror. It was her superior at PMS, Arthur Yap, who asked her to join him at the DA, the same article said.

‘Ideal first lady’

Duterte had known Puyat even before he became President.

When Asian Dragon Magazine interviewed then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte for their July-August 2015 issue, the magazine asked the mayor about his “ideal first lady.”

Duterte said it’s Bernadette “Berna” Romulo Puyat.

“On the lighter side of Asian Dragon Magazine’s interview with Mayor Rody Duterte for our July-August cover story, we asked him, ‘Who is your ideal first lady?’ Without batting an eyelash, he answered with a chuckle, ‘Berna Romulo-Puyat,'” said an article on the magazine.

“Why her? He adds, ‘Because she is dignified,'” the Asian Dragon article said. 

Teo, whom Puyat is replacing, resigned after a potential conflict of interest issue involving a television show of her brothers, Ben and Erwin Tulfo. (READ: Duterte didn’t fire Wanda Teo – Topacio)

The Commission on Audit (COA) earlier questioned the P60 million ($1.15 million) paid by the DOT for ad placements on the TV show of the Tulfo brothers. (READ: Teo has ‘no idea’ her brothers Ben and Erwin Tulfo host ‘Kilos Pronto’)

Malacañang said any investigation into the matter is now with the Office of the Ombudsman.

“It has to be investigated by the Ombudsman for probable cause…. We expect the speedy and transparent investigation of the Ombudsman,” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque in a press briefing on Tuesday.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales told reporters on Tuesday that her office has launched a fact-finding investigation– Rappler.com

Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.