MANILA - (UPDATED) After a "family council," the Tulfos have agreed to return the P60 million they had received from the Department of Tourism for ad placements, Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo's lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, said Monday.
The tourism chief's husband, Roberto Teo, will also resign as board member of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), added Topacio.
"After a family council, they have decided to return the P60 million na binayad ng People’s Television Network Inc. sa Bitag Media Unlimited Inc. for the Ad placements ng DOT," Topacio said.
Bitag Media produces the program "Kilos Pronto," hosted by Ben and Erwin Tulfo.
"Bagama't wala po sa kaniya (Erwin Tulfo) iyung P60 million at nagastos na po, gagawa po sila ng paraan at io-offer nila na ibalik na po up to the last centavo kung anuman po ang naibayad sa kanila," the lawyer added.
(Even though he no longer has the P60 million and it has been spent, they will look for a way and offer to return up to the last centavo whatever was paid to them.)
“Sabi nila they wanted to show their good faith and their good will and their intention to show na there were no shenanigans dito. Everything was above board. In fact even the [Commission on Audit] is not investigating the payment to Bitag. COA is merely asking for supporting documents," Topacio said.
The Commission on Audit flagged the payment, saying there was no memorandum of agreement or contract between state-run PTV-4 and Bitag Media to air tourism commercials on their show "Kilos Pronto."
Teo had denied any conflict of interest in the deal, saying the transaction was between DOT and PTV-4, not her brother's media outfit.
It was PTV-4's own decision to place the ads in her brothers' show due to its high ratings, she said.
The Tulfo brothers also maintained that the ad deal was "above board and had a contract," said Topacio.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to decide on the Tulfos' offer to return the P60 million payment to their show.
"Kung ang tatangunin po ay kung ano'ng desisyon ni Presidente sa isyung ito wala pa po dahil itong offer na ibalik ang P60 million is a breaking development. Siguro ang Presidente nalaman ito sa balita lamang," he said.
He said no charges have been filed against any official regarding the deal between DOT and PTV-4.
"Wala naman pong sinasabing nakaw. May mga nagsasabing nepotism. May nagsasabing violation of anti-graft. Pero mixed signals pa tayo diyan dahil may naging desisyon ang Korte Suprema," Roque said.
TEO HUSBAND WANTS OUT
Topacio also clarified that Roberto Teo was appointed to Tieza by former President Benigno Aquino III, not President Duterte.
Mr. Teo, he said, tendered his resignation when Aquino stepped down in June 2016, but it has not been acted upon.
"He felt compelled to attend iyung mga board meeting kasi wala pa nga pong kapalit kasi magiging dereliction of duty naman," Topacio explained.
"Ngayon po, hindi na po siya a-attend ng board meeting. He's urging the President to please accept his resignation," he added.
(He felt compelled to attend board meetings because he has no replacement yet, doing otherwise may have been dereliction of duty. He will no longer attend board meetings. He's urging the President to please accept his resignation.)
TIEZA serves as the infrastructure arm of the Department of Tourism. Its official website shows Mr. Teo heads the agency's audit committee as well as 5 other TIEZA committees.
Asked if the tourism chief herself will resign, Topacio said Teo "wants to investigate" where the ad deal went wrong first.
With a report from Zen Hernandez, ABS-CBN News