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Senators welcome Teo’s resignation

07:25 AM May 09, 2018

SIDESHOW Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo is swept off her feet by athletes competing in the World’s Strongest Man competition, which the Philippines hosted last week. —MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

Senators welcomed on Tuesday the resignation of Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo but urged the Duterte administration not to “recycle” and reappoint her to another government post, as it had done to several resigned or sacked officials.

Despite her resignation, Teo will still be investigated by the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the controversial deal between the Department of Tourism and state-owned People’s Television Network Inc. to air DOT’s advertisements on a program produced by one of her brothers.

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“We will do a fact-finding [investigation],” Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said on Tuesday.

The investigation would be motu proprio, or initiated by the Ombudsman on its own without the need to wait for a complaint to be filed.

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Sen. Bam Aquino told reporters that he hoped President Rodrigo Duterte would not reappoint government officials implicated in irregularities.

“Those who exited because of irregularity or poor performance should no longer be named to other positions,” Aquino said.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan expressed similar hopes and “that the necessary charges against all those involved be brought to bear.”

In April, the social media manager of Mr. Duterte’s presidential campaign, Jose Gabriel “Pompee” La Viña, was named tourism undersecretary after he was fired as commissioner at the Social Security System because of questionable actions.

In December 2017, former Bureau of Customs chief Nicanor Faeldon was named deputy administrator of the Office of Civil Defense after he was implicated in the smuggling of illegal drugs worth P6.4-billion into the Philippines.

P60-million ad deal

Teo’s camp announced her resignation on Tuesday after the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged a P60-million deal between the DOT and People’s Television for the placement of advertisements in a show produced by Teo’s brother Ben Tulfo under Bitag Media Unlimited Inc. (BMUI).

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The show, “Kilos Pronto,” was cohosted by Teo’s brother Erwin.

On Monday, BMUI offered to return the P60 million it received from the DOT.

Although Teo denied any conflict of interest and prior knowledge of the deal, opposition leaders called for her resignation, citing impropriety.

One-on-one meeting

Mr. Duterte accepted the resignation of Teo on Tuesday, a day after he met with her in Malacañang.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Teo had submitted her resignation letter to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea before she met the President after the Cabinet meeting on Monday night.

A Palace source said the President appointed Agriculture Undersecretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat on Tuesday as the new secretary of tourism.

Roque said the Palace was leaving it up to the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate to determine whether Teo had any criminal liability.

Medialdea’s office is also investigating the contracts entered into by People’s Television and the DOT.

The presidential spokesperson noted that the COA had not issued any notice of disallowance and had not demanded the return of the P60-million payment.

Asked whether Mr. Duterte mentioned anything about BMUI’s offer to return the ad money, he said: “Well, the President is a lawyer so the P60 million is a good gesture. But under the law, it will not completely exonerate (a person ) if a law has been violated.”

Sad, relief

“She was sad, but there was relief on her face,” Teo’s lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, described the secretary as she handed her resignation letter to Medialdea before the Cabinet meeting.

Topacio said “she’s not clinging to her post, and she doesn’t want to harm her family and the President.”

Until Monday night, Teo said she was not resigning as she still enjoyed the trust and confidence of Mr. Duterte, he said.

“After a long and deliberate reflection and soul-searching,” however, she decided to leave her post, he added.

Before taking over the DOT, Teo was one of the owners of Davao-based Mt. Apo Travel and Tours. Her husband, Roberto, is a former assistant city administrator of Davao City.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said he was not surprised by Teo’s decision.

One common mistake of public servants, Lacson said, is the inability to distinguish right from wrong.

“Worse, others do not know when to stop. That is why leadership is very important in situations that call for hard decision,” he said in a text message.

Senate probe

Sen. Nancy Binay, chair of the Senate tourism committee, thanked Teo for her service at the DOT. She had earlier indicated her intent to look into the DOT deal with People’s Television.

“It is unfortunate that her name was dragged into a controversy. I, however, commend her decision to resign and to spare the President undue pressure,” Binay said.

Her statement did not indicate whether her panel would still look into the controversial advertising deal.

Sen. Francis Escudero said he didn’t believe there was any need for the probe. —Reports from DJ Yap, Christine O. Avendaño, Dexter Cabalza and Vince F. Nonato

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TAGS: Bam Aquino, Ben Tulfo, Bitag Media Unlimited Inc., BMUI, DOT TV ad, Kilos Pronto, Office of the Ombudsman, PTNI, PTV, Wanda Tulfo Teo
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