Senators call for probe on P60-M tourism ad deal

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 9) — Senators called for an investigation on the P60-million tourism advertisement controversy hounding former Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo.

Senator Antonio "Sonny" Trillanes IV on Wednesday filed Senate Resolution 726, which urges the Senate Tourism Committee to look into the alleged anomalous placement, which paid for advertisements that ran on Kilos Pronto on the government network. The show is hosted by Teo's brothers, Ben and Erwin Tulfo.

"We must know the extent of corruption at the (Tourism Department) under her watch," Trillanes said in a statement on Tuesday. "Moreover, appropriate cases must be filed against her and those involved in the ad scam and other anomalies."

 

The resolution is the second one that called for the probe.

Senate Tourism Committee Chair Nancy Binay on Monday announced she filed a similar resolution that calls for an investigation on how the Tourism Department spends its advertising and marketing budget.

"Siguro kailangan natin alamin kung paano nila nira-rationalize ang [We need to know how they rationalize] local advertising placements and if they are congruent with the strategic marketing and media plans of the department," said Binay.

Senator Sonny Angara supports a probe, and suggested focusing on "systems and safeguards," leaving liability issues with the Ombudsman.

"It's still surprising as to how the husband and wife were able to occupy approximate positions," Angara told CNN Philippines' The Source. "Maybe we have to see what are the safeguards... so these types of arrangements are avoided in the future."

Angara was referring to Tulfo-Teo holding office while her husband, Roberto, sits in the board of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), which is under the supervision of the Tourism Department. Malacañang has said Teo has resigned from TIEZA.

Tulfo-Teo resigned on Tuesday amid the controversy, but her lawyer said it was done "out of delicadeza" for her family and the President.

Her lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, insisted the President did not fire her.

President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed Agriculture Undersecretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat as new Tourism Chief.

Tulfo-Teo is the fifth official to leave the Cabinet after the resignation of former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre. Others were Commission on Higher Education Chair Patricia Licuanan,  Information and Communications Technology chief Rodolfo Salalima, and former Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council Chairman, Vice President Leni Robredo.

Angara said Teo should not be appointed to another position.

"It leaves a bad taste in the mouth... The fact that a person was asked to resign, that means they failed the test," he said.

Former Customs Chief Nicanor Faeldon and Social Security System (SSS) Commissioner Pompee La Viña were also accused of corruption. However, both were re-appointed Office of Civil Defense deputy administrator and Tourism undersecretary, respectively.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Cecille Lardizabal, senior digital producer Lara Tan, and multi-platform writer Regine Cabato contributed to this report.