Ombudsman starts probe, asks COA for audit report on P60-million DOT-PTV-4 ad deal

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 08 2018 07:17 PM | Updated as of May 08 2018 08:38 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) - Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said Tuesday her office has requested from the Commission on Audit (COA) a copy of its report on the Department of Tourism's (DOT) controversial P60-million advertising payments to state-run PTV-4. 

The ad buy drew controversy as the fees went to Bitag Media Unlimited Inc (BMUI), a firm owned by Ben Tulfo, brother of just resigned Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo.

Before Teo resigned, COA released its audit report on government network PTV-4 involving the release of funds from the DOT to BMUI.

“We have written the COA chair (Michael Aguinaldo) requesting that we be furnished with its audit report,” Morales said in an integrity and justice forum in Quezon City.

Morales said a fact-finding investigation is already being done on Teo, who was scored for conflict of interest, despite her resignation from her post. 

She had said she was not aware of the deal. 

Morale said the investigation being done is motu proprio (on the initiative of her office), which means no party has formally requested the Ombudsman to conduct a probe.

“From there, we can move on and see if there is need to conclude the investigation for fact-finding and if there is necessity, then we will subject it for preliminary investigation,” Morales said. 

BMUI has said it would return the ad fees. Malacañang said this would not exonerate those involved from possible charges. 

AKBAYAN: PROSECUTE TEO

Party-list group Akbayan, meanwhile, said Teo should be prosecuted even after she quit her post "out of delicadeza" over the controversial deal.

"The resignation of DOT Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo is a victory of the people's fight against corruption, but this should not shield her from accountability," Akbayan said in a statement. 

"The simple firing or resignation of corrupt officials will not put a stop to corruption in the government if this is not followed by swift prosecution and conviction," the group added. 

Akbayan also challenged President Rodrigo Duterte to lodge cases against the Tulfo brothers over the ad transaction. BMUI owner Ben Tulfo co-hosts the show "Kilos Pronto" with his brother Erwin.

"If President Duterte is true to his anti-corruption rhetoric, we dare him to lead the charge in filing the appropriate cases against the Tulfos through the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission (PACC). Otherwise, this is merely an attempt to appease the public's outrage," it said.

"We must remind public officials that the government is no place for family businesses or personal interests. Kailangan managot din ang mga Tulfo brothers na sangkot sa scandal."

(The Tulfo brothers who are involved in the scandal should also be held accountable.) 

The group also urged PTV-4 to cancel the Tulfos' program. 

Taking questions at the forum meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra was asked about how due process was apparently not observed by the President in removing his appointees who have already lost his trust and confidence.

Guevarra, without mentioning any specifics, said the trust and confidence of the President on his appointees matter more than due process.

“Well and good if the person is given the opportunity to explain but that is not a requirement because what is involved here is trust and confidence of the President," Guevarra said at the forum.

Guevarra added that the President may even pursue criminal, civil or administrative cases against erring officials.

“The matter of removing presidential appointees does not mean that it stops there. The President has the prerogative of pursuing the matter further,” Guevarra said.

Guevarra was appointed to replace former justice chief Vitaliano Aguirre II, who resigned in April as he faced criticism over his agency's questionable resolutions.