MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed a long private conversation between President Rodrigo Duterte and Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, but had no information whether the Chief Executive has fired the tourism chief.
In an interview with state-run Radyo Pilipinas on Tuesday, May 8, Roque said Duterte and Teo had a private exchange after a Cabinet meeting Monday, May 7.
"Kahapon po, matapos ang Cabinet meeting, ang makukumpirma ko lang ay nagkaroon ng one-on-one meeting itong si Presidente at si Secretary Teo. At nakita naman po ng lahat iyong one-on-one meeting na iyan kasi doon din po iyan sa Aguinaldo State Dining Room ‘no. At mukhang seryosong-seryoso naman po ang Presidente at si Secretary Wanda Teo sa pagpupulong na iyan," he said.
(I can confirm that the President and Secretary Teo had a one-on-one meeting yesterday, after the Cabinet meeting. Everyone saw that there was a one-on-one meeting because it was also held inside the Aguinaldo State Dining Room. And the President and Secretary Wanda Teo appeared to be very serious during the meeting.)
The Cabinet meeting was also held in the Aguinaldo State Dining Room. Based on what Roque said during the radio interview, the private meeting between the President and Teo began even before all Cabinet officials would vacate the room.
Roque said he did not know if Duterte indeed fired Teo, as reported by the Philippine Star on Tuesday in an article titled, "Duterte fires Wanda Teo."
"The President reportedly told Teo to hand in her resignation as tourism chief during a one-on-one talk with her," the Philippine Star reported.
Asked to confirm this, Roque said, "I have no information on that so I cannot confirm nor deny it."
The Palace spokesman said the President was still meeting with Teo when he left Malacañang, but on his way home, the President instructed him to return to the Palace. Roque said, however, that he received another call from the Presidential Management Staff, saying that the President decided to go home already.
In an interview on GMA7, Roque said he would meet with President Tuesday afternoon.
Teo's lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio denied that Duterte asked Teo to resign, according to ABS-CBN News.
This comes after the Commission on Audit (COA) questioned the P60 million ($1.15 million) paid by the Department of Tourism (DOT) for ad placements on the show of Teo's brothers, Ben and Erwin Tulfo.
Malacañang had said it was investigating this potential conflict interest issue.
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at email@example.com.