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Tulfo siblings, PTV execs cleared of P120 million graft

Elizabeth Marcelo - The Philippine Star
Tulfo siblings, PTV execs cleared of P120 million  graft
Former tourism secretary Wanda Tulfo Teo, Bitag Media CEO and founder Ben Tulfo and ‘Kilos Pronto’ host Erwin Tulfo face senators during a Blue Ribbon committee hearing on the P120-million Department of Tourism advertisement controversy in an Aug. 18, 2018 file photo.
Geremy Pintolo

MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Ombudsman has dismissed a graft charge filed by its Field Investigation Office (FIO) against former tourism secretary Wanda Tulfo Teo, her brother Ben Tulfo and officials of the People’s Television Network (PTV) in connection with a P120-million advertisement deal flagged by state auditors for “possible conflict of interest.”

In its 2017 report, the Commission on Audit said 75 percent or P89.9 million of the P120-million advertisement agreement between the Department of Tourism (DOT) and PTV was paid to “Kilos Pronto,” a crime and public service television program under Bitag Media Unlimited Inc. that was produced by Teo’s brothers.

The FIO, in its complaint filed in 2018, alleged that Teo, her brother, PTV general manager Dino Apolinario and three more conspired to favor Bitag Media.

Apart from Teo, her chief of staff Arlene Mancao, PTV airtime management group head Ramon del Rosario and Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) administrative officer Ma. Alma Francisco were also named as respondents by the FIO.

In a 21-page resolution, Rosano Oliva, Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer III, said the criminal complaint was dismissed for want of probable cause.

Oliva drafted the resolution on Sept. 30 and Ombudsman Samuel Martires approved it on Oct. 6. The FIO investigation was ordered by then ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

The ombudsman’s resolution stated that Teo was not privy to the March 2017 contract signed between PTV and Bitag Media and that “nowhere was it directly shown” that Teo was aware that Kilos Pronto was owned by her brother.

“The idea that DOT should partner with PTV vis-à-vis tourism advertisement came from PCOO,” particularly Del Rosario and Apolonio, the resolution read.

The “insinuation” that Teo had a hand in the contract between PTV and Bitag Media “is unfounded,” the resolution stated.

The ombudsman also noted that Bitag Media “complied with its contractual obligations, even exceeding the airtime as agreed upon. In short, the government got its monies’ worth. There is no undue injury to consider.”

Records show that in January 2017, the PCOO – through Secretary Martin Andanar – wrote to Teo expressing PTV’s intention to partner for DOT’s marketing of Philippine tourism.

On Feb. 6, 2017, Del Rosario wrote to Teo to offer PTV’s spot placements, according to Apolonio. The two men denied knowing that Teo and Tulfo were siblings and claimed they only found out when news of the controversy broke.

The FIO had alleged that the respondents “conspired to favor Bitag Media, owned by the sibling of Teo through the program ‘Kilos Pronto.’ Since DOT cannot directly enter into a contract with Bitag Media because of Teo’s relationship with Tulfo as her brother, they indirectly made it possible by entering into an agreement with PTV and named Kilos Pronto as the one to broadcast DOT’s TV commercials.”

Tulfo denied the accusation against him, arguing that the complaint is based on mere speculation.

He said neither he nor any Bitag Media representative talked to any DOT official since the firm only dealt with PTV.

FIO

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