'Huwag kang mangurakot': Duterte told incoming DOT chief

Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 09 2018 08:24 AM | Updated as of May 09 2018 09:22 AM

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MANILA - She is known as the daughter of former Senator and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, and an undersecretary of the agriculture department since the administration of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

So how did incoming Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat get the Department of Tourism portfolio? 

Romulo-Puyat said she thought President Duterte was joking when he offered her the position during yesterday's meeting in Malacañang. 

"Ayaw kung maniwala, binibiro mo ako kasi casual na casual niyang sinabi," she told ABS-CBN's "Umagang Kay Ganda." 

She added that officials were discussing the rice shortage in the National Food Authority when the President made the offer. 

The President also introduced her as "the new DOT secretary" to former senator Sergio Osmena III, who was in Malacañang at the time. 

Romulo-Puyat, who has yet to take her oath as the new DOT chief, said the President only asked one thing from her.

"Huwag ka lang mangurakot, sabi niya sa akin. Sabi ko, oo naman," she said.

Duterte, she said, was dismayed that he had to dismiss his appointees because of corruption allegations.

"Nalulungkot siya pag nalalaman niya...kasi marami na siyang natatanggal na kaibigan because of 'yung may korupsiyon," she said.

Romulo-Puyat is replacing former Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, who quit her post following a scandal over the P60-million placement of tourism ads on the television show of her brothers. 

A Commission on Audit report said the tourism department required the government-owned PTV-4 to place tourism ads on "Kilos Pronto", a TV show hosted by the tourism chief's brothers.

On Tuesday Duterte said he had to fire another government official for corruption but declined to name the official. 


Incoming Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat (2nd from left) with Department of Agriculture officials and President Rodrigo Duterte. Department of Agriculture handout/file photo

In the interview, Romulo-Puyat said she does not know if there was basis for the corruption allegations against Teo. 

"Hindi ko alam eh. Alam mo, I have not read it. I have not seen it. So I can't say kung may basehan," she said. 

She said she accepted the President's offer because it has always been her dream.

"I've been all over the country. Ang ganda-ganda talaga ng bansa natin. I've been working closely with the Department of Tourism. Kasama namin sila sa Madrid Fusion and farm tourism so hindi bago ang ginagawa nila sa amin," she said.

She vowed to uphold transparency in the tourism department by ensuring that all contracts will undergo proper bidding. 

Immediate family members will not be allowed to meddle in government contracts to avoid any potential conflict of interest, she said. "Hindi puwede. Hindi naman puwede 'yun," she said. 

She added that her own father, when he was in government, limited family visits to his office. 

"Ayaw niya yung may kamag-anak sa opisina kasi baka iba 'yung maisip," she said. 

"Ganun din sa opisina ko. Separate talaga ang personal, lalo na ang public office ay public trust at public money."

Despite the scandal, Romulo-Puyat said she is raring to get to work. 

"I'm just overwhelmed. Siyempre masaya ako sa binigay na suporta ni presidente. Hindi ko siya bibiguin. Twelve years na ako in the government, wala ka ni isang narinig."

Romulo-Puyat is a grandniece of Carlos P. Romulo, the first Asian president of the United Nations General Assembly and the great-granddaughter of Pio Valenzuela, the man whom Valenzuela City is named after, according to Asian Dragon magazine.

She is the sister-in-law of Shalani Soledad-Romulo, and widow of the late lawyer David Puyat. 

She has an undergraduate and master's degree in economics from the University of the Philippines.