Former Tourism secretary Wanda Teo on Tuesday told the Senate Blue Ribbon committee she believed the P60 million paid to her brother Ben Tulfo’s company for tourism ads—a conflict of interest that cost her her job—should not be returned.
“My first decision was that they cannot return the money,” she said in Filipino. “It’s difficult. Where’s the money? They had already done a lot.”
“It was done. The contract was finished and the money was spent. Where would they get the money to pay it back?” she said.
Teo also denied the testimony of People’s Television Network Inc. president Dino Antonio Apolonio that the proposal to put ads in the program Kilos Pronto produced and hosted by Tulfo and his brother Erwin, came from the Department of Tourism, at the time headed by Teo.
“They made the proposal,” said Teo, referring to PTVI, insisting that the name of the show was already in the proposal.
“I’m sorry but that’s not true. They were the one [PTV-4] which gave us the proposal,” she said.
She also said no one told her that Kilos Pronto was produced by her brother’s Bitag Media Unlimited Inc.
“I didn’t know that Ben [Tulfo] is with Kilos Pronto. All I know of is Ben is with Bitag,” Teo told Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Blue Ribbon committee.
“You didn’t know that Kilos Pronto is the program of your brother?” Gordon asked.
Teo said no, and said she had no time to watch TV.
Unconvinced, Gordon pointed out there were three documents signed by Teo that clearly showed the money would go to the show of Ben Tulfo.
Teo insisted that she did not know the show was her brother’s and would not have signed the papers had she known that.
She also said the contract was between PTV-4 and the Tourism department, and not Bitag. “I didn’t know where the ads would be placed,” she said.
Apolonio said when they got the contract, they did not see any conflict of interest with either the Tourism department or Kilos Pronto.
Asked why the Tourism Department did not put its ads with the big TV networks, Tourism Undersecretary Kat Castro said PTV-4 offered cheaper airtime.
Commission on Audit supervising auditor Norma Aquino, meanwhile, told the panel that there was a possible conflict of interest based on the memorandum of agreement between the Tourism department and PTV-4. She said over P89 million or 75 percent of the computed contract cost went to Bitag, while the remaining 25 percent was allocated to other news programs.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said this would be the basis of a plunder complaint he would file against Teo and the two Tulfo brothers.
“We don’t have the death penalty so you’re lucky,” Trillanes said, referring to the Tulfo siblings.
Trillanes also chided Teo for asserting that she did not know her brother Ben produced Kilos Pronto.
“Try that defense in court. Change your defense because the whole Philippines is watching you. They would not believe that you didn’t know the contract went to your brother,” he said.
Ben Tulfo earlier challenged Trillanes to call him corrupt to his face and insisted that he would not return the P60 million because it was covered by a valid contract with PTV-4.
Gordon admonished Tulfo not to address the senator during the hearing.
Erwin Tulfo said he is not part of Bitag Media Unlimited and is only a talent.
Gordon said graft charges could be filed against all three Tulfo siblings and PTV officials involved in the allegedly anomalous deal.
Also on Tuesday, Gordon said actor Cesar Montano would be summoned to answer questions about his suspended “Buhay Carinderia” food tourism project.
Montano last May resigned as chief of the Tourism Promotions Board after the P80-million food tourism project was suspended over allegations of graft.
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.