Ben Tulfo on P60-M ad deal: PTV still owes us money

MANILA, Philippines – Broadcaster Ben Tulfo on Tuesday, August 14, said that the Philippine government has yet to pay his production company Bitag Media in full for advertisements placed on their show Kilos Pronto.

After the Senate probe into the controversial P60-million tourism ad placements from the Department of Tourism (DOT), Tulfo told reporters that their contract with state-run People's Television Network Incorporated (PTV) is valid.

"May utang pa nga sila sa amin, dapat maningil pa kami. Up to now, ipinaglalaban ko na may utang pa rin sa amin ang PTV4 dahil may kontrata kami," Tulfo told reporters.

(They still owe us money, we should even charge them. Up to now, I'm fighting for the fact that PTV4 still has to pay us because we have a contract with them.)

 

Tulfo refused to answer how much the government owes Bitag Media, but the disbursement vouchers presented by the Senate blue ribbon committee showed that PTV had paid a total of P81 million to Bitag Media from May 2017 to March 2018.

According to the Commission on Audit (COA), the total amount to be paid to Bitag Media is at P89 million, which is roughly 75% of the P120-million ad deal between the DOT and the PTV. This leaves a balance of around P8 million.

But the last tranche of payment to Tulfo's company was no longer processed when the COA flagged the transaction in its 2017 audit report.

Tulfo said that they will not return the money they received, despite an earlier announcement by former tourism secretary Wanda Teo's camp that they would.

"They still owe us money. They (COA) issued a notice of disallowance but it wasn't addressed to us, it was for PTV4," Tulfo said.

Business decision: COA said that "there was a possible conflict of interest" because Kilos Pronto got more out of the P120 million than the PTV network.

During Tuesday's hearing, PTNI President Dino Apolonio said they only earned P20 million from the deal.

Tulfo said the contract between PTV and Bitag Media was purely a "business decision." He also reiterated that "there was no conflict of interest," as Bitag Media's contract is with PTV and not with the DOT.

But Senator Risa Hontiveros pointed out that Bitag Media earned more than government did, which was supposedly the reason why DOT wanted to deal with PTV.

"In this business decision, PTV4 earned less. How is this business decision ethical when the transaction involves 3 siblings?" Hontiveros said in a mix of English and Filipino.

After the hearing, Senate blue ribbon committee chairperson Richard Gordon said the conflict of interest in the deal is "very patent." He earlier questioned the motive behind placing tourism ads on an "exposé" type of show. – Rappler.com

Read other stories from the hearing:

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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