Embattled Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo has resigned as head of the Department of Tourism (DoT), but maintained there was “no wrongdoing” amid a controversy over a P60mn advertising deal granted by her department to a television programme hosted by her brothers.
Teo’s resignation, which was announced by her lawyer Ferdinand Topacio in a statement yesterday, came a day after she held a one-on-one talk with President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacanang.
In a statement, Topacio confirmed that Teo had tendered her resignation before the start of Monday’s Cabinet meeting in Malacanang.
“Her letter was personally handed by her to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea in the afternoon. Late in the evening, after the Cabinet meeting was when she saw the president to talk to him in private,” Topacio said. “Her decision to leave her position was made after a long and deliberate reflection and soul-searching with respect to the events that have transpired the past few weeks,” he added.
Contrary to initial reports, Topacio said the president did not demand Teo’s resignation, and that “the decision to do so was purely of her own volition.”
“Secretary Teo reiterates that she has done no wrongdoing, and that all the dealings of the DoT went through all legal processes, were above-board and done in good faith, and with total absence of malice,” Topacio said.
“Secretary Teo also says that she is honoured and privileged to have served as Secretary of Tourism under the Duterte administration, where she has done her level best to discharge her duty to promote tourism both domestically and internationally,” he added.
Topacio insisted there was nothing illegal with what Teo did, as DoT’s contract was with state-owned People’s Television (PTV) and it was the latter that decided to place the spots in Ben and Erwin Tulfo’s programme, “Kilos Pronto” under the Tulfos’ Bitag Media Unlimited Inc (BMUI).
“DoT is not under investigation by Commission on Audit (CoA),” according to Topacio.
In Malacanang, Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr confirmed to reporters that Teo had submitted her resignation letter to Medialdea prior to the Cabinet meeting on Monday.
“There was a resignation letter (of Teo) that was submitted to the OES (Office of the Executive Secretary) before the meeting with the president last night,” Roque said during a news conference.
In a separate text message, Roque confirmed that Duterte had accepted Teo’s resignation.
Teo has been accused of corruption over the advertising deal, which CoA red-flagged for lack of proper documents.
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, who oversees PTV, where Bitag Media is a blocktimer, refused to comment on the matter.
“I have no comment on Secretary Teo’s resignation. Let us allow the proper procedure to proceed, which is basically for PTV to comply with CoA’s requirements,” Andanar said in a text message.
Teo’s resignation came despite Bitag’s announcement of its intent to return the P60mn that the DoT had paid to it.
Roque, a lawyer, said the return of the payment, while a “good gesture,” was not enough to exonerate those involved in the transaction of charges.
“Well, the president is a lawyer and while the return of the P60mn is a good gesture, based on the law, it will not lead to exoneration if there are possible violations. But of course there is still an ongoing investigation,” he said.
Roque said any investigation into the matter would be conducted by the Office of the Ombudsman.
“We expect the speedy and transparent investigation of the Ombudsman,” the Palace official added.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales confirmed that an investigation of the ad contract had begun.
“Yes, yes, we’ve already done that,” she told reporters.
The group #TindigPilipinas welcomed Teo’s resignation but said charges should be filed against her.
“It is not enough that he (president) fires his cabinet member or any administration employee for the convenient reason of quelling public anger. Governance demands that cases be filed by the anti-corrupt commission that he formed against all the actors in this corrupt and nepotistic arrangement that was kept a secret, were it not for the brave souls of the Commission on Audit,” the group said.
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