P1-consultant runs Tourism Promotions Board besides Cesar Montano

CHIEF OF STAFF? Tourism Promotions Board Chief Operating Office (COO) Cesar Montano and Ronnie Albao pose for a photo at the Senate.

Photo from Ronnie Albao's Twitter account

(UPDATED) Was Cesar Montano acting in "good faith" when he approved multi-million-peso deals at the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB)?

Informed sources told Rappler that all documents Montano signs need to pass through a certain "Ronnie Albao" before being approved by Montano himself. In effect, Albao functions as Montano's chief of staff. 

Cliff Mendoza used to be Montano's Chief of Staff, under job-order arrangements, but was later replaced by Montano's brother Rommel after the former was moved to another unit. Mendoza is the nephew of Rommel's wife.

Meanwhile, Rommel was brought in as a co-terminus employee when his brother Cesar was appointed TPB Chief Operating Officer.

Albao made his presence felt at the TPB office in Manila around March 2017 as a consultant, around the same time TPB employees filed a complaint against Montano for allegedly misusing the agency's funds.

Since then, Albao became Montano's most trusted man in the agency.

P1-consultant runs TPB

CONTRACT. This redacted document shows Ronnie Albao serves as a consultant at the Tourism Promotions Board receiving a salary of P1.

Under the contracts obtained by Rappler, Albao functions as a general support and technical services consultant. The current contract, which appears to be a renewal of his services, is valid from January 3, 2018 until December 31, 2018.

He is paid by the TPB only P1 for the duration of his contract, in exchange for services that require him to “devote his technical knowledge, training, and experience in performing tasks with trust and confidence.”

Insiders told Rappler they are confused by the "power" that Albao wields inside the agency, saying that he "practically runs the TPB." He would attend meetings on behalf of Montano, "approve" deals to be funded by the agency, and give orders to employees.

In several instances, Albao increased the value of sponsorship deals to be funded by the agency. For instance, insiders said that a certain deal was priced at P3 million, but Albao "crossed" the value and increased the sponsorship to P3.5 million. It was later signed and approved by Montano after seeing Albao's "signature of approval." 

Rappler was shown 3 documents first initialed by Albao – a memo, a travel order, and a project proposal – all subsequently signed by Montano.

CLEARED. Sources say Cesar Montano signs documents only if Ronnie Albao clears them with a prior signature (in blue) beside Montano's designation as Chief Operating Officer.

In some projects, Albao was the one who pegged the value to be sponsored by the TPB. Sources said that Albao is able to dictate how much funds are allocated for sponsorship deals – after he assigns a value, the unit that's supposed to vet the deal is no longer able to question it and becomes a mere rubber stamp.

These include deals under P5 million which skip Board approval and go straight to Montano's office for approval, informed sources told Rappler.

In a text message to Rappler, Albao on Monday, May 21, denied the claims. “[I]f am acting as the COS at the office of the COO, my answer is "NO,” he said.

They ask, why is this consultant so powerful? – 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.

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