Cesar Montano, DOT chief Romulo Puyat meet privately

PROMOTIONS CHIEF. Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) Chief Operating Officer Cesar Montano at the Philippine Move and Press Club 33rd Annual Star Awards. Photo from Cesar Montano-TPB page

PROMOTIONS CHIEF. Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) Chief Operating Officer Cesar Montano at the Philippine Move and Press Club 33rd Annual Star Awards.

Photo from Cesar Montano-TPB page

Was Cesar Montano scared of facing the media?

On Wednesday, May 16, Montano, the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) Chief Operating Officer, was supposed to meet newly-sworn Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat at the DOT office in Makati over corruption allegations against him.

Members of the media received an advisory that Montano would be at the DOT by 5 pm, with the TPB chief himself confirming to some reporters that he would be there to meet with the tourism secretary.

By 5:30 pm, several reporters were already waiting at the lobby of the tourism department – some waiting as early as 3 pm – but without any knowledge whatsoever if Montano had arrived at the venue.

Sensing some movement and tighter security presence in the area, reporters waited at the basement elevator to anticipate Montano's arrival at the DOT.

But it was Puyat who came out of the elevator.

Asked whether a meeting had already transpired between the two tourism officials, Puyat said she "was on her way."

"Magmi-meet pa lang kami ngayon. Promise! Dapat 5 pm, but I'm on my way pa lang. (We are about to meet now. I promise! It should be at 5 pm but I'm on my way now)," she told reporters.

Asked who initiated the change of venue, Puyat said she asked for it, so that the meeting would be "more private".

"It was me. I decided to move it to another venue, not him...And I have to make it clear ha, hindi ko pa siya hinuhusgahan. (I have not passed judgment on him yet.) I want to hear his side. I have to hear his side," she explained.

"Ako ang nag-move. Problem ko, ang daming last minute na gusto makipag-usap," she added. (I moved it. My problem is, there were a lot of people who wanted to talk to me at the last minute.)

Pressed whether Montano had tendered his resignation, Puyat said she was not aware of such reports.

Informed sources, however, told Rappler that the change in location of their meeting was prompted by the presence of the media waiting outside to get Montano's side of the story.

The meeting came after the new tourism secretary said she would ask Montano to explain corruption allegations. But Puyat said that she also "needs to meet with the TPB" as it is an "important agency".

Montano is at the center of a controversy involving an P80-million sponsorship deal for the food tourism project Buhay Carinderia...Redefined with Mary Lindbert International Incorporated.

The TPB issued checks amounting to P80 million, including value-added tax, in less than a month. The amount represents 90% of the total sponsorship deal, but with Mary Lindbert delivering only 15% of the total project outputs. (READ: 'Buhay Carinderia' gets P80M in a month under Cesar Montano)

Back in March 2017, TPB employees filed a complaint against Montano for allegedly "mismanaging" the board. They accused him of misusing funds and approving contracts for events where he himself performed. (READ: Cesar Montano says he's not affected by mismanagement issues in TPB)

Question is: when is Montano facing the media for the current controversy? – 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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