President's office investigating officials involved in P60M DOT-PTV deal controversy

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Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo (L) and her brother Ben Tulfo

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 3) — The Office of the President is investigating all government officials linked to the controversial P60 million ad deal between the Department of Tourism (DOT) and state-run TV network PTV-4, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Thursday.

Asked if Communications Secretary Martin Andanar — who oversees PTV-4 — would be one of the high-ranking officials probed for the deal, Roque said the probe will cover all officials who may be linked to the deal.

"It would be an investigation that would cover everyone... It is being investigated by the Office of the President," Roque told in a media briefing.

He said President Rodrigo Duterte is aware of the controversy and has ordered the investigation.

Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo is in hot water after the Commission on Audit revealed her department has placed P60 million-worth of TV advertisements on the show of her brothers, Ben and Erwin Tulfo, on PTV-4.

Despite the controversies surrounding Tulfo-Teo and other executives involved, Roque said they are still trusted by Duterte.

"Every Cabinet member, until they're fired, enjoys the trust and confidence of the President... The President lets them go if it's proven they're involved in graft and corruption. That's the President's track record. " he said,

Roque clarified the investigation conducted by the Office of the President will be informal and administrative, which is why he urged the Office of the Ombudsman to look into the audit report.

"Ombudsman has to investigate and do its own case build up," he said.

Audit report

The Commission on Audit (COA) in its 2017 report said the multi-million transaction between the DOT and Bitag Media Unlimited Inc. (BMUI) — a media outfit headed by Ben Tulfo — lacked supporting documents.

COA said DOT paid P60.009 million in three tranches to BMUI to place commercials on "Kilos Pronto," the show on PTV-4 which features Ben and Erwin Tulfo and Alex Santos.

"Kilos Pronto" is a blocktimer, meaning it is paying PTV-4 to be able to air their show on the state-run TV network.

The auditing body raised DOT's dealings with Bitag Media were "not supported with proper documents," such as the Memorandum of Agreement, Certificate of Performance, duly-approved budget utilization request, and billing statement detailing the media company's deliverables.

Teo earlier denied there was a conflict of interest as her department had dealings with PTV-4, and not her brother's production house.

COA, however, said the Tourism Department knew of the ad's placement in "Kilos Pronto."

"The MOA (memorandum of agreement) on file was between PTNI (also known as PTV-4) and DOT, specifically requiring PTNI (People's Television Network Inc.) to air a 6-minute segment buy in PTVs Daily News-type magazine segment, Kilos Pronto, plus a 3-minute DOT spot within the program," the audit report read.

Opposition lawmakers and activist groups have called for Teo's resignation.