Ben Tulfo: I will not return ₱60-M to gov't

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

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 29) — Broadcaster Ben Tulfo said tourism officials could wait all they wanted, but he would not be returning millions of pesos in funds to the government.

The Commission on Audit (COA) earlier said the Department of Tourism (DOT) under former Secretary Wanda Teo-Tulfo paid ₱60.009 million in three tranches to Bitag Media Unlimited Inc. (BMUI) to place commercials on Kilos Pronto, the show on PTV-4 which features Ben and Erwin Tulfo and Alex Santos.

In the caption of a video posted on June 25, Tulfo, the host of public service program Bitag, said, "Sa mga nagsasabing isauli ang pera at hinihintay daw ang 60-M, mamuti na mga mata niyo! Wala kaming isasauli! Sa mga nagsasabing ilegal at nangulimbat kami, e'di sampahan niyo kami ng kaso, tutal nandyan naman ang COA at Ombudsman!"

[Translation:To those who tell us to return the 60 million, let your eyes turn white! We will not return anything! To those who say we did anything illegal and we stole anything, then file a case against us, after all the COA and the Ombudsman are there!]

Teo-Tulfo and Ben Tulfo are siblings.

The auditing body raised DOT's dealings with BMUI 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.

Tulfo, meanwhile, claimed everything was done aboveboard, and the proof was in the volumes of videos produced by government TV station PTV-4 and were shown on Kilos Pronto.

"Linawin ho natin malinis ho ang konsensya namin, hindi ho kami nangunuglimbat. Hindi ho kami nagnanakaw sa gobyerno. Kung kami ay binayaran dahil may serbisyong dinulot, ang serbisyong dinulot kinakailangan bayaran. Legal ba? Oo. Yung sinasabing conflict of interest, diretso ka doon, yung sinasabing utol sa utol, wala hong ganyan sa amin dito," he said.

[Translation: Let's clarify, our conscience is clear. We didn't steal anything. We did not steal from the government. If we were paid because of service rendered, that service should be paid. Was it legal? Yes. The alleged conflict of interest, let's go to it directly, that sibling-to-sibling connection, there wasn't anything like that.]

"Patunayan niyo ang sinasabi niyong conflict of interest sa hukuman!" he dared critics.

[Translation: Prove your claim of conflict of interest in court!]

Tulfo also said the DOT still owed them money.

On May 7,  Ferdinand Topacio, the legal counsel of Teo-Tulfo, said the money would be returned to the Department of Tourism.

"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 said in May.

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

But days later, on May 10, Mon Tulfo wrote in his newspaper column that neither he nor his brothers – Ben, Erwin or Raffy – were consulted about the issue.

"When Topacio said the Tulfo brothers, in a family meeting, had decided to return the ₱60 million, the guy was talking for himself," Mon Tulfo said.

Teo-Tulfo denied there were any irregularities, however, the COA said she could be liable for corrupt practices.