Tulfos to return P60M from DOT ad deal to end controversy – Teo's lawyer

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

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 7) — The media outfit owned by the brother of Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo will return the P60 million paid to them by the Tourism Department.

The legal counsel of Secretary Tulfo-Teo, Ferdinand Topacio, on Monday said Bitag Media Unlimited Inc. — headed by Ben Tulfo — agreed to give back the advertising budget to end the controversy.

"Napagpasyahan na po ni Mr. Ben Tulfo na isauli na lang po ang salapi sa gobyerno. Para ipakita na in good faith ang mga Tulfo... Para matapos na ang usapan ay ibinabalik na po niya," Topacio told CNN Philippines.

[Translation: Mr. Ben Tulfo decided to return the money to the government to end the controversy.]

He said Ben Tulfo personally called to inform him.

Tourism Secretary Tulfo-Teo got caught in the controversy after the Commission on Audit (COA) revealed her department has placed P60 million-worth of TV advertisements on the show of her brothers, Ben and Erwin Tulfo, on PTV-4.

COA said the transaction lacked supporting documents. It 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 block timer, meaning it is paying PTV-4 to air their show on the state-run TV network.

On the other hand, activist group Akbayan said the move to return the money is an admission of guilt.

"Returning the money should not stop probes for accountability. It also does not correct an illegal act," it said in a statement.

Akbayan continues to call for the resignation of Secretary Teo.

Teo's husband has resigned from TIEZA – lawyer

Another controversy involving Teo is her husband's role as board member of Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), which is under the Tourism Department.

Topacio said Roberto Teo, who handles travel and tours enterprises under TIEZA, has resigned "a long time ago."

Roberto Teo was appointed by former President Benigno Aquino III as TIEZA board member in July 2013 and his term ended on June 30, 2014.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Teo did not vacate his post because he did not want to be accused of leaving his job without anyone to replace him. But he said Teo will stop attending TIEZA meetings.

"He has long tendered his resignation, pero wala pa daw kapalit kaya daw nandodoon pa siya. Kaya ngayon sinabi niya hindi na raw siya pupunta sa mga meetings. Natatakot lang daw siya na dahil wala pang kapalit, sasabihin bakit mo binakante," Roque said in a media briefing on Monday.