Former actor and tourism board COO flagged for ‘excessive and extravagant’ overseas trips

Cesar Montano on the campaign trail for President Rodrigo Duterte. Photo via ABS-CBN.
Cesar Montano on the campaign trail for President Rodrigo Duterte. Photo via ABS-CBN.

The Commission on Audit (COA) is still after former Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) chief operating officer Cesar Montano, two months after his resignation from his post.

Yesterday, the COA questioned Montano for making “excessive and extravagant” trips 14 times in 2017. Rappler reported that the COA alleges that Montano spent a total of PHP2.276 million (more than USD$42,667) on these trips, which included the purchase of business class tickets for himself.

This goes against previous executive orders that mandate that government officials should fly only via economy unless they’ve secured an approval from the president to fly in more expensive classes.

Rappler also reported that the TPB also spent an additional PHP2.995 million (more than US$56,145) in travel expenses because the former actor brought along his secretary and executive assistant in 11 out of 14 trips.

COA also flagged Montano for approving PHP19.2 million worth of contracts and sponsorships, reported the Philippine Daily Inquirer. This includes the event “Fusion 2017: Forward, the Philippine Music Festival Year 3” which Montano ordered the TPB to sponsor without securing the approval of the agency’s board of directors.

The agency also flagged Montano for entering a negotiated contract with the losing bidder for the Intramuros Revival Project. The project required TPB to hire performers and Montano didn’t award the project to the winning bidder, according to the COA.

Montano also failed to explain why TPB refused to honor the results of the bidding.

Read: Tourism Promotions Board employees file complaint against Cesar Montano

The Inquirer also reported that the COA flagged the TPB for having spent as much as PHP7,000,000 (USD$131,235) in providing financial assistance to local government units, companies, and organizations whose projects were unrelated to tourism.

Said the COA: “We recommended that Management stop the granting of financial assistance and/or sponsorship to local government units and corporations whose projects or activities that are not related to the promotion of Philippine tourism/not within TPB’s mandate.”

Montano, who supported President Rodrigo Duterte during the latter’s 2016 campaign, resigned due to irregularities in the agency’s various projects, specifically Buhay Carinderia, a project which TPB agreed to sponsor without going through proper bidding procedures, reported CNN Philippines.

Duterte chose Montano to head the TPB. In 2017, amidst TPB employees’ complaints that Montano was entering into questionable contracts, Duterte defended him by saying: “File a case. But I trust the guy that’s why I appointed him.”

The former actor has always harbored political ambitions. He lost when he ran for the gubernatorial post in his hometown of Bohol in 2010. He also ran for senator in the 2007 national elections but lost.

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