[UPDATED] Tourism secretary resigns following PHP60 million ad deal controversy

Wanda Teo (left), Ben Tulfo (center), and Erwin Tulfo (right). (Photo from ABS-CBN News.)

(UPDATED), 1st UPDATE. Department of Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo has resigned from her post following reports that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had fired her yesterday.

In a statement earlier today, Teo’s lawyer Ferdinand Topacio confirmed her resignation.

However, he said that it was filed before yesterday’s cabinet meeting and that the president did not demand for her to quit.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque had said in a radio interview earlier today that Teo and Duterte had a long private meeting yesterday but did not confirm if the president asked the secretary to resign.

“I don’t have that kind of information because I can’t pry on the private conversation [Duterte and Teo] had,” Roque told radio station DZMM.

Teo is currently under public scrutiny for a controversial ad deal her department had with her brother’s production company.

Late last month, the Commission on Audit (COA) found that the DOT had placed PHP60 million (US$1.2 million) worth of ads on the PTV-4 show Kilos Pronto without a memorandum of agreement.

Kilos Pronto is produced by Teo’s brother Ben Tulfo, who also hosts the show with their other brother, Erwin Tulfo, both of whom are staunch Duterte supporters.

The Philippine Star reported earlier today that Duterte had fired Teo at the end of yesterday’s cabinet meeting, something Teo’s camp initially denied.

“I spoke with Secretary Wanda earlier at 5:30am and although she and the president did speak, the president did not demand her resignation,” Teo’s lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, told DZMM in Filipino this morning.

While Teo maintains that she did not influence the multi-million-peso ad deal, their family announced yesterday that they have decided to return the money to the government all the same.

“After a family council, they have decided to return the PHP60 million (US$1.2 million) that People’s Television Network Inc. paid Bitag Media Unlimited Inc. (Ben’s production company) for the ad placements for the DOT,” Topacio told reporters.

“They said they wanted to show their good faith and their good will and their intention to show that there were no shenanigans here.”

While the offer to return the millions was a move to satiate the public outcry, it seemed to only fan the flames for those who are calling for Teo’s resignation.

Yesterday, members of the democratic socialist party Akbayan stormed the DOT office pushing for Teo to resign.

“[R]eturning the money is an admission of guilt. It will not efface the accountability of Sec. Teo for the improper transaction. She should still resign,” Act Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio told ABS-CBN News.

“The best option still is for Secretary Teo to resign so she won’t force the hand of President Duterte to axe her,” Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin added.

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