THE P60 million paid to a media company by the Department of Tourism (DoT) for ad placements at government network PTV-4 will be returned, Malacañang said on Monday.
Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon Tulfo-Teo and her brothers, Bienvenido “Ben” T. Tulfo of media company Bitag Media and broadcaster Erwin T. Tulfo of PTV-4, have been under fire because of that deal.
“I’ve heard that… [they] will return the P60 million,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. said in his press briefing Monday.
Mr. Roque also disclosed that Ms. Tulfo’s husband, Roberto Teo, has resigned as board member of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA).
Mr. Teo was appointed by the previous Aquino administration but has “long resigned,” according to a report by PTV News. But in June last year, the report said, he was appointed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte to the LBP Leasing and Finance Corp., a subsidiary of Land Bank of the Philippines.
Asked if the Tulfo siblings can just return the money without being charged, Mr. Roque said: “Well, they could do whatever they want. For now, there are no cases filed against them. As to whether or not a charge will be forthcoming, I cannot also say what the Ombudsman will do. The information is very new. I’m not even aware if the President knows about it already.”
In his interview with DZMM on Monday morning, Ms. Teo’s lawyer Ferdinand S. Topacio said: “Bagama’t wala po sa kaniya (Ben Tulfo) yung P60 million at nagastos na po, gagawa po sila ng paraan at io-offer nila na ibalik na po up to the last centavo kung anuman po ang naibayad sa kanila.” (Although the P60 million is not with him and it has been spent already, they will find a way to offer to return the money.)
Mr. Topacio also said Mr. Teo is “urging” Mr. Duterte to accept his resignation.
Also on Monday, Senator Nancy S. Binay-Angeles filed Senate resolution No. 721 calling for an investigation on the controversial advertising deal.
“We welcome the gesture of good faith by Bitag to return the P60 million TV ad payment back to the government. Nonetheless, the DoT and PTV-4 need to clarify some issues with regard how commercials are placed, and the terms of reference covering such agreements,” she said in a statement Monday.
The senator chairs the Senate committee on tourism.
For his part, spokesperson Gio Tiongson of the Akbayan party-list group said in a statement: “Sec. Wanda Tulfo-Teo announcing that BITAG will return the P60M used for PTV ads is an admission of guilt. If she had an ounce of delicadeza, she would resign. Returning the money should not stop probes for accountability. It also doesn’t correct an illegal act.” — Arjay L. Balinbin and Camille A. Aguinaldo