Million-dollar TV ad deal with brothers costs tourism chief her job

Wanda Teo. Picture via Wikimedia Commons.

President has fired Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo after controversy over her department’s spending on advertising on TV shows produced by her brothers.

The president reportedly told Teo to hand in her resignation during a one-on-one talk alongside a meeting.

Teo attended the meeting after declaring she was not resigning from her post despite controversies dogging the Department of Tourism (DOT) under her leadership.

Earlier yesterday (Monday, May 7), she said she was not resigning after it was revealed that her department spent 60 million pesos on advertisements in a television show produced and hosted by her brothers, Ben and Erwin Tulfo, and broadcaster Alex Santos.

However, she did confirm that her husband, Roberto, would resign as director of the Tourism and Enterprise Zone Authority, which is under the DOT.

Teo’s spokesman, lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, said BITAG Media Unlimited, of which Ben Tulfo is chief executive officer and founder, is returning the 60 million pesos paid by DOT for its advertisements on BMUI’s Kilos Pronto show on the state-owned PTV-4.

“We are not under the illusion that returning the money will end the investigation or will result in the issue dying down, but we feel this is the right thing to do under the circumstances,” he added. 

The Malacañang has said that Bitag Media’s decision to return the 60 million pesos would not influence the president’s decision regarding the tourism secretary.

“The only issue here as far as the President is concerned is whether or not Teo is staying and all these will have no impact on the decision of the president. The president would make a decision, whatever decision he wants to make,” presidential spokesman Harry said yesterday.

Roque added that it would be up to the ombudsman to decide whether charges should be filed over the advertising.

The Senate is now set to conduct a probe into the advertising contract.

Senator Nancy Binay, chair of the Senate committee on tourism, had earlier pushed for a probe into the DOT’s spending on advertisements and other marketing initiatives.

Today, the president has named Bernadette Romulo Puyat as the new secretary of the Department of Tourism.

Puyat is currently an undersecretary for administration, agribusiness and marketing, and regional engagement at the Department of Agriculture.