Senate to probe Department of Tourism scandals
Marvin Sy (The Philippine Star) - August 8, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate Blue Ribbon committee is set to conduct an inquiry into the various controversies hounding the Department of Tourism (DOT) next week, a lawmaker said yesterday.

Sen. Richard Gordon, who chairs the committee, said former tourism secretary Wanda Teo and her brothers Ben and Erwin Tulfo would be invited to the hearing on Aug. 14.

Also invited to the hearing were officials of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO).

The Commission on Audit (COA) flagged the P60-million advertisement placements made by the DOT to Bitag Media Unlimited Inc., a firm owned by Ben Tulfo.

A significant portion of the ads was placed in the program hosted by Erwin on state-run PTV-4.

As far as the advertisement placements of the DOT were concerned, Gordon said there was a clear conflict of interest on the part of Teo since she is related to the Tulfos.

Gordon said the committee would look into the matter of accountability on the part of the DOT and Teo in particular for providing funds to relatives.

On the part of the PCOO, Gordon said it should explain why it allowed the ads to go to that particular program of Tulfo. PTV-4 is under the direct supervision of the PCOO.

Gordon said the inquiry would also look into the various allegations made against former Tourism Promotions Board head Cesar Montano, including the P80-million financial sponsorship given by the TPB to the Buhay Carinderia food tourism project.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat ordered the suspension of the implementation of the Buhay Carinderia project as well as other projects of the TPB.

Puyat said she was not comfortable with the TPB decision to enter into the deal through sponsorship instead of public bidding as provided by law and asked the COA to look into this.

Gordon said the issue of the P2.5 million in goods taken by Teo from Duty Free Philippines, which was also flagged by the COA, would also be examined during the inquiry.

Sens. Nancy Binay, Antonio Trillanes IV and Leila de Lima each filed a resolution seeking an inquiry into the DOT under Teo.                          

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