By Camille A. Aguinaldo
Senator Richard J. Gordon on Tuesday, Aug. 14, said former Tourism Secretary Wanda T. Tulfo-Teo, her brother Ben T. Tulfo, and other PTV4 officials may face graft charges over the controversial advertising deal involving the Department of Tourism (DoT), PTV4, and the Tulfo-owned Bitag Media Unlimited, Inc.
“Graft. I don’t think it will be a case for plunder. First of all, they used the money for TV advertising, it wasn’t pocketed. And they made a business out of it, that’s the bad part. It seemed that aid was given to the business of the sibling,” he told reporters after the Senate hearing on the advertising deal.
The issue surfaced last April when a Commission on Audit (CoA) report flagged the payments made to Mr. Tulfo’s Bitag Media by PTV 4 for airing advertisements of the DoT. At the time, the DoT was headed by Ms. Teo, Mr. Tulfo’s sister.
According to PTV4 President and General Manager Dino Antonio C. Apolonio, about P75 million was paid to Bitag Media while the government stations earned P19.8 million from the DoT ads.
At the hearing, Ms. Teo maintained that the ad placements have gone through the proper channels and processes.
Ms. Teo further said she did not know that her brother was identified with the show Kilos Pronto, which aired the DoT advertisements in the government channel.
“They (PTV4) could’ve told me. If I knew it, I would not have signed the contract,” she said.
For his part, Mr. Tulfo said Bitag Media has delivered with its contract with PTV4 and has done nothing illegal with the advertising deal. He maintained there was no conflict of interest since Bitag Media’s contract was with PTV4, not DoT.
Mr. Gordon was not convinced that Ms. Teo or PTV4 officials were unaware on the possible conflict of interest that could have arisen from the advertising deal since the parties involved were clearly stated in the contracts.
“I don’t think they didn’t know it was Tulfo. They should’ve known. They should have blown the whistle, ‘boss, that’s conflict of interest, we may get implicated,’” he told reporters after the hearing.