Trillanes, Tulfos face off in Senate probe into P60-M DOT ad deal
MANILA, Philippines – Sparks flew between opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and the Tulfo siblings, as they faced off at the Senate investigation into the P60-million tourism advertisement deal with state-run PTV4 on Tuesday, August 14.
Trillanes began his turn to ask questions by reminding former tourism chief Wanda Teo and her brothers Ben and Erwin of the definition of “plunder” – which supposedly applies to their case.
Trillanes confronted Teo, who repeatedly claimed she did not know her brothers were the hosts of "Kilos Pronto," the show where the DOT placed P60 million ($1.15 million) worth of advertisements.
A Commission on Audit report found that the contract signed by DOT "specifically required" PTV to air ads on Kilos Pronto. (READ: FACT CHECK: Wanda Teo claims no hand in P60M ads, but DOT contract specified Bitag)
“'Yung assertion 'nyo kanina 'yung dinisburse for TV ads ay di mo alam na mapupunta sa kapatid mo. 'Yan assertion mo. Subukan 'nyo kung maghold sa korte 'yan (Your assertion, that you disbursed funds for the TV ads without knowing that the money would go to your bother. That's your assertion. See if that would hold in court),” Trillanes said.
When Teo said the case is already with the Ombudsman, Trillanes said, “Alam 'nyo po, sa buong Pilipinas nanunuod, hindi paniniwalaan na hindi mo alam na napunta (You know, the entire Philippines is watching, no one would believe that you didn't know where the [money] went to.)”
Teo said it was only Trillanes’ assertion but the senator said it was the same observation of the public.
“Kung ganyan kayo sa P120 million, how much more doon sa buong budget, discretionary funds ng DOT? It would give us a glimpse kung gaano kayo ka-reckless sa pagdisburse ng pondo ng gobyerno,” Trillanes said.
(If you handled P120 million that way, how much more the entire budget, discretionary funds of the DOT? It would give us a glimpse of how reckless you are in disbursing government funds.)
Teo, insisting on her innocence, said, "I am not reckless when it comes to disbursement of funds."
After grilling Teo, Trillanes then shifted his focus on Ben Tulfo and asked him how much money he received.
Ben said he did not know because he did not have the records with him in the hearing.
Trillanes accused him of evading the issue, in stark contrast to Ben's very outspoken and upfront broadcast persona.
“Panay iwas na. Sa radio program nila kay tatapang, ngayon nabibilaukan, hirap lumabas ng katotohanan (You're always dodging [the issue]. In their radio program, he's so fearless, but now you're buckling, having difficulty baring the truth),” the senator said.
Ben tried to cut Trillanes, saying, “I can look you straight in the eye –” but Trillanes continued and went on to say: “So swak na swak. Pasok na pasok. Bitag (Perfect fit. Snared)."
"Bitag" is the TV program Ben is best known for, which features entrapment operations targetting scammers.
While Trillanes was still speaking, Ben repeatedly tried to interrupt the senator, saying, “Mawalang galang na po (Excuse me)," but Trillanes pressed him, “You need to answer this."
Ben again tried to interject but Trillanes dismissed him.
The exchange was cut when Senate blue ribbon chair Richard Gordon told Ben that he should “let the senator finish his question.”
During the hearing, Erwin claimed he is not part of Bitag Media, the PTV blocktimer which runs the program Kilos Pronto. Ben, meanwhile, is the chief executive officer of Bitag.
Despite their earlier statement, the Tulfos have not yet returned the P60 million they received from the deal. – Rappler.com
Watch the hearing here:
LIVE: Senate hearing on Tulfo's P60-M earnings from DOT ad placements
Read other stories from the hearing: