DOT shake-up: New chief wants appointees to hand in courtesy resignations

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 15 2018 04:28 PM | Updated as of May 15 2018 07:23 PM

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - A shake-up in the Department of Tourism may come soon as Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat on Tuesday said she wants some tourism officials to hand in courtesy resignations to give her a free hand in choosing who she can work with as tourism chief.

"The President told me I have a freehand in choosing who I want to [appoint] as Usecs (undersecretaries) and Asecs (assistant secretaries)," Puyat said in an interview on ANC's Headstart.

"Maybe I don't need to ask, maybe they'll (tourism officials) do it in their own," Puyat said when asked if she will fire sitting officials to give way to her new appointees.

Puyat, who has been in government for 12 years before being appointed as Tourism Secretary earlier this month, said she has been handing in her courtesy resignation every time there was a change in administration.

She served at the Office of the President under the Arroyo presidency, and at the Department of Agriculture under the Aquino and Duterte administrations.

"Since the time of GMA, every time there is a new administration I submit a courtesy resignation. The secretary should trust the people around her," she said.

But a total overhaul in the DOT is unlikely as the Tourism chief said she is willing to work with current Tourism officials should they "share the same vision" for the promotion of Philippines as a prime tourist destination.

"I haven't met them yet but who knows, we might click, there might be a gem," she said.

Puyat said she also expects DOT officials to "know what they're talking about" and to "do everything above board."

"I'm very very strict. Everything is transparent, everything has to pass through the process. I'm very masungit. I need results," she said.

"When I ask you a question I expect that you know the answer, you know what you're talking about," she said.

KEEPING IT CLEAN

Puyat has taught macroeconomics and other finance-related subjects at the University of the Philippines for 14 years, but she credits her firm work ethic to her upbringing. She is the daughter of former senator and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo.

"My dad always says power is fleeting [so] you have to do everything the right way, no special treatment," Puyat said.

"When my dad was DFA secretary, I had to line up for my passport [for] 3 hours," she said.

Puyat said her family's strict work code is also a guarantee that she will not figure in a conflict of interest scandal similar to the DOT's P60 million advertising issue that led to the dismissal of her predecessor Wanda Teo as tourism chief.

Teo resigned as tourism secretary weeks after the Commission on Audit said P60 million in DOT advertising funds were given to a program produced and hosted by Teo's brothers.

"You can't work with family members. That's how we were brought up...and I'm sure my siblings will never ever put me in that situation," Puyat said.

"We were always told to keep it clean and focus on your work," she said.