No Palace rescue for Teo

254

Let the chips fall where they may.

This was Malacañang’s message to the Commission on Audit (CoA) and the Office of the Ombudsman in acting on the financial affairs of the Department of Tourism (DoT) while the agency was still under the helm of former Sec. Wanda Teo.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque yesterday told reporters that the Palace expects the CoA to take appropriate steps on the numerous findings, red flagged by Malacañang, on possible misappropriations of hundreds of millions of pesos during a news briefing.

Roque said CoA, as a constitutional office, will furnish the Ombudsman a copy of its findings.

“The Ombudsman takes a while, but eventually it will file. We are confident that the Ombudsman will eventually perform and discharge its constitutional duty and charge those who are responsible, if there’s sufficient evidence,” Roque said.

When asked by reporters if President Rodrigo Duterte wants the Tulfo siblings to return at least P60 million paid by the DoT for ad placements in Ben Tulfo’s Bitag Media Unlimited Inc. (BMUI), Roque hedged a categorical answer.

Instead, the Palace official tossed the issue to the Tulfo siblings, reminding them of their promise to return at least P60 million paid to BMUI as they publicly announced after the controversy broke out sometime last April.

“Well, they said that they will reimburse the money,” Roque said. “They said it and we expect them to comply.”

Reports said the advertorial contract could amount to as much as P120 million. CoA’s annual audit report also noted a questionable P605.2 million cash advances to 12 foreign Philippine Tourism Offices and P6.7 million transactions charged to the Duty Free Philippines Corp. for alleged purchase of luxury shoes and bags, cosmetics, beddings, appliances, grocery items, consultancy fee and shipping cost by Teo.

The CoA found this as a “possible conflict of interest” and she may be liable for graft and corruption.

The Tourism department received the CoA report on June 29, according to a document posted on the state auditors’ website.

In the state auditor’s report on the DoT, it noted that the agency was non-compliant with its MoA when it failed to submit documents such as accomplishment reports and proof of broadcast to support the P45-million payment to PTV, adding that payments should only be made to the state-run network after submission of supporting documents.