By Camille A. Aguinaldo, Reporter
FORMER tourism secretary Wanda T. Tulfo-Teo and her brother Ben T. Tulfo, as well as a number of PTV4 officials may face graft charges in connection with a controversial advertising deal involving the Department of Tourism (DoT), PTV4, and the Tulfo-owned Bitag Media Unlimited, Inc.
Senator Richard J. Gordon told reporters after the inquiry on the advertising deal Tuesday led by the blue-ribbon committee which he heads: “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.”
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.
According to PTV4 President and General Manager Dino Antonio C. Apolonio, about P75 million was paid to Bitag Media while the government station earned P19.8 million from the DoT ads.
At the hearing, Ms. Teo maintained that the ad placements went through the proper channels and processes.
“With confidence, I can say that there is nothing illegal in the said contract. The transaction was between DoT and PTV4. It is a government-to-government contract within the executive department,” she said in her opening statement.
Ms. Teo said further she did not know that her brother was identified with the show, “Kilos Pronto,” which aired the DoT ads 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, however, pointed out that the signed contract mentioned there would be ad placement by the DoT.
“In the contract that you signed, you already know that PTNI (referring to PTV4) and DoT have a contract. And you know the Secretary of Tourism is your sister,” Mr. Gordon asked Mr. Tulfo.
“There was no connection with my sister. I did not knock in their doors or asked for a favor or asked for advertisements or commercial,” Mr. Tulfo said, adding that he was not “close” with his sister.
For their part, officials of PTV4 clarified that it was their decision to place the DoT ads and that they were not influenced into choosing to air the DoT advertisements in Mr. Tulfo’s show.
“No one suggested. We suggested to DoT the proposal,” Mr. Apolonio said.
Mr. Gordon was not convinced that Ms. Teo or PTV4 officials were unaware of the possible conflict of interest 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,’” the senator told reporters after the hearing.