MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo denied any conflict of interest in her department's P60-million contract with People's Television Network Incorporated (PTV), which placed advertisements in her brother Ben Tulfo's media outfit.
"Contract was between PTV-4 and Department of Tourism (DOT). It went through bidding and it was reviewed by our legal [team]. All cheques went to PTV-4. Walang tsekeng pumunta sa ibang production house (No cheques went to other production houses)," Teo said in a press conference in Makati City on Monday, April 30.
This was her response to a Commission on Audit (COA) report on PTV, questioning the P60 million worth of ad placements in Kilos Pronto, which is being aired on the state-run television network.
Ben Tulfo, brother of Teo, is the chief executive officer of PTV-4 blocktimer Bitag Media Unlimited Incorporated (BMUI), which runs Kilos Pronto. He co-hosts the show with brother Erwin Tulfo and Alex Santos.
"The contract is between PTV-4 and DOT because it is President [Rodrigo Duterte's] directive to support the government station," Teo said, adding that it was a "government-to-government contract."
The tourism chief said she only had knowledge of ads being placed in her brother's show after the contract was signed.
"After the signing of the contract, they told us [they will place ads on] Kilos Pronto because the show's ratings were high," Teo told reporters.
"I don't think it is incompetence on my part because I have lots of things to do as a secretary. This is not the only thing I need to focus on. There was also no conflict of interest because the deal was between DOT and PTV-4," she added.
Teo said similar ad placements were made by the DOT with other private television networks and media agencies, here and abroad, last year:
"Ad placement is a normal transaction between the DOT and a television network, although preferential treatment was accorded to PTV-4 in line with the President's directive for government agencies to support the government television network," Teo said.
La Viña no hand in COA report
The tourism chief also defended newly-appointed Tourism Undersecretary Jose Gabriel "Pompee" La Viña from allegations that he leaked the COA report, which flagged the ad placements.
"I don't believe that Undersecretary Pompee will do that. I am different from my brother," Teo replied when asked about a Facebook post of her brother Ben, alleging that an undersecretary who was previously with the Social Security System (SSS) leaked the audit report to media.
Ben Tulfo alleged in a Facebook post, which was later deleted on Monday afternoon, that the undersecretary wants to replace Teo.
La Viña said he has "no ambition" of becoming tourism secretary.
"That is not my ambition in life, to be the secretary of tourism.... How can I influence COA somehow and have the 'yellow' media release it? That is the least of my concern. I am here because the President put me here," he told reporters.