Duterte didn't fire Wanda Teo – Topacio

MANILA, Philippines – Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo voluntarily resigned from her post out of "delicadeza (sense of propriety)," her spokesman said on Tuesday, May 8.

Asked why Teo resigned, lawyer Ferdinand Topacio said in a news conference: "Well as the political opposition always says, delicadeza. She wants to show she has delicadeza."

Topacio refuted claims that President Rodrigo Duterte fired Teo or urged her to resign during their one-on-one meeting late Monday night, May 7, after the Cabinet meeting.  

"She called me right after the meeting and she told me about what transpired. There was no such demand for her to tender her resignation," Topacio said.

To prove this, the lawyer said the tourism chief submitted her letter of resignation to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Monday, but prior to her meeting with Duterte.

Asked whether the President tried to stop Teo from resigning, Topacio said, "The President trusted her to do what she thought was right."

The resignation comes after the Commission on Audit (COA) questioned the P60 million ($1.15 million) paid by the Department of Tourism (DOT) to state-run People's Television Network, Incorporated, for ad placements on the show of Teo's brothers, Ben and Erwin Tulfo.

On Monday, Topacio said the Tulfo brothers would return the P60 million to the government. Akbayan Spokesperson Gio Tingson said the plan to return the money is an admission of guilt.

On Tuesday, Topacio said the Tulfos decided to return the payment as "their family name is worth more than money."

The lawyer said Teo initially said she would not step down from her post as "she really did not know if would come to this," referring to public outrage over the controversy.

Topacio said Teo was not aware that Kilos Pronto, the show in question, is produced by her brothers. The government network that airs the show had earlier said that Kilos Pronto was chosen for the DOT ads because of its popularity and high ratings.

"She didn't know Kilos Pronto was produced by her brothers and hosted by her brothers," he said.

"You think if she knew she wouldn't veto it?" the lawyer added.

Topacio added that Teo stepped down from her post because she wanted to "spare" the President from the "hurt" that the issue had caused him.

"The enemies of the President are seizing upon this issue to do harm to the presidency and that is something that she could not accept," he said.

"She felt that as time went on and the issue did not die down, it's also hurting the President, and it might be a distraction to the many postiive changes the President wanted to effect in the government," Topacio added.

He said Teo submitted her resignation letter after "a long thought" process, her lawyer said.  – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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