Mon Tulfo on P60-M ad deal: ‘Ben to be blamed, not Wanda’

Aika Rey
Mon Tulfo on P60-M ad deal: ‘Ben to be blamed, not Wanda’
Mon Tulfo, the eldest among siblings, breaks his silence, saying, 'I am not trying to get Wanda off the hook in a case that might constitute plunder; as I said earlier, I want people to know the inside story'

The Tulfos had been known as a close-knit family – that is, until controversy broke that P60 million ($1.15 million) worth of advertisements were placed by the Department of Tourism (DOT), under now-resigned secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo, on the TV  show of their brothers Ben and Erwin, Kilos Pronto.

In his column in the Inquirer published on Thursday, May 10, columnist Ramon “Mon” Tulfo, the eldest of the Tulfo siblings, told Wanda and Ben “to set the record straight” despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s advice to the family “not to talk to the media anymore.”

I am not trying to get Wanda off the hook in a case that might constitute plunder; as I said earlier, I want people to know the inside story,” Mon wrote.

The Commission on Audit had previously questioned the P60 million paid by the DOT for ad placements on the show co-hosted by the Tulfo brothers on the government network PTV, citing lack of supporting documents.

Who’s to blame?

Teo’s lawyer Ferdinand Topacio claimed that the tourism chief “did not know” that her brothers host Kilos Pronto, and was informed “only later on” that Ben owns Bitag Media Unlimited, the show’s producer.

Mon said Wanda was at fault for “not getting intelligent people as her staff” who could have advised her against signing the deal.

“She was clueless that Ben would get the lion’s share, so to speak, of the P60-million advertising contract. She was only following President Digong’s injunction for all Cabinet members to support PTV-4 which is a government network,” he said.

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 earlier said the contract on the ads was between the DOT and PTV and not with Bitag, and that it was PTV that “initiated” what show the ads would be placed.

But Mon placed the blame on Ben, who, he said, is the “black sheep” of the family and was suffering from the “middle child syndrome.” Ben, the older brother said, should “have known better.”

“Ben, who suffers from the ‘middle child’ syndrome – he’s the fifth child after me, Wanda is the fourth – should have known better than to touch the multi-million peso advertising contract with PTV 4 since that would constitute conflict of interest on his sister’s part,” Mon said.

“But Ben insists on his innocence, claiming that the Department of Tourism – of which Wanda was the erstwhile head – didn’t sign the contract with his company, Bitag Multimedia Network,” he added.

Ben supposedly hurled expletives at Mon after the latter tried told him it was his fault, not Wanda’s.

“‘F**k you! Don’t treat me like a child,’ he told me,” Mon wrote.

Mon said Wanda “wants to save Ben,” which resulted in “eventually losing her job.” (READ: Tourism chief Wanda Teo resigns)

He also cleared Erwin from the controversy, saying the latter was just “Ben’s cohost” and not part of the latter’s company.

“I am supporting Wanda’s fight to clear her name, but not Ben’s,” Mon said.

‘Topacio all talk’

Mon did not spare Wanda’s lawyer, Topacio, from criticism. He said his sister committed “another booboo” in hiring Topacio.

“Wanda committed another booboo when she hired lawyer Ferdinand Topacio as her legal counsel. The guy is all talk. He doesn’t care about his client; he only cares about getting publicity from a controversy,” he said.

Mon said returning P60 million to the government, which was announced by Topacio, was not a family decision. The opposition said the plan to return the money was an admission of guilt.

“When Topacio said the Tulfo brothers, in a family meeting, had decided to return the P60 million, the guy was talking for himself. I was never consulted. Nor were Ben, Erwin, or Raffy,” he wrote.

Topacio hit back at Tulfo on Thursday, saying the eldest Tulfo is “ulyanin” (senile).

In a GMA News Online report, Topacio was quoted saying that Mon was his client back in 1999.

He must have forgotten, kasi ulyanin na nga (because he is senile), that sometime in the year 2000 or 1999, he was my client, together with Raffy Tulfo. So why would he hire me if I were all talk?” Topacio said.

Topacio also refuted Mon’s claims that the Tulfo family were not consulted about returning the P60 million to the government. He said he got the information from Teo herself in a phone call.

“As a lawyer, I am basically an agent of my client. I do what my client tells me to do…. We cannot be more popish than the Pope. Those were my instructions from my clients. He’s not my client so I don’t give a whip at what Mon Tulfo says,” Topacio said.

Mon hits Bobby

Mon said Wanda merely “overlooked” the fact that her husband Roberto is still part of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) board under the DOT as she was “too busy.”

“Otherwise, she could have told Bobby to resign his position since he had already been appointed to the Land Bank,” he said.

“Bobby should have taken the initiative to resign since his wife was too busy with myriad things to realize that she was, in effect, practicing nepotism in her own backyard,” Mon said.

Roberto Teo was appointed to the TIEZA board during the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III. Topacio claimed that Roberto tendered his resignation when Aquino stepped down in 2016, but was not acted upon resulting to him lingering in his post.

Was Wanda fired?

Mon also insinuated in his column that President Duterte “sacked Wanda.”

“President Digong should be commended for sacking Wanda. Loyalty to country and people should take precedence over loyalty to friends and family,” he said.

Topacio earlier denied that Duterte had a hand in Teo’s resignation, saying that the tourism chief “voluntarily resigned” out of delicadeza.

On Monday, May 7, the tourism chief submitted her resignation letter to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea prior to the Cabinet meeting.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed a long private conversation between Duterte and Teo after the Cabinet meeting on Monday.  Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.