Duterte accepts Wanda Teo’s ‘voluntary’ resignation; Romulo-Puyat named new Tourism chief

President Rodrigo Duterte has accepted the resignation of Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed Tuesday, May 8.

“Yes accepted,” Roque said in a text message, when asked if the president has accepted Teo’s resignation.

Teo was accused of conflict of interest after state auditors found that the Department of Tourism (DOT) approved placing advertisements with Bitag Media Unlimited Inc. (BMUI), which produces “Kilos Pronto,” a blocktimer show on state-run PTV-4 hosted by her brothers, Ben and Erwin Tulfo.

The Commission on Audit (COA) flagged the payment of P60.01 million to BMUI, which is owned by Ben Tulfo, for airing DOT’s commercial advertisements on “Kilos Pronto” despite the lack of a memorandum of agreement or contract.

Teo has come under fire following the COA report, but Roque said the Office of the Ombudsman is the only institution that can determine if the Tourism chief must be held criminally liable.

Amid the controversy, the Tulfos announced that they would return the P60-million to the government.

“It was more of delicadeza to protect the family name and to show that the Tulfos do not wish to benefit from any government funds,” Teo’s lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, said.

According to Roque, the plan to return the money was a “good gesture” but said “it will not completely exonerate what has been violated.”

Teo is the fifth official to leave the Duterte Cabinet, following the resignation of former Justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.

“We wish to clarify that there was no demand on the part of the president for Secretary Teo to resign, and that the decision to do so was purely out of her own volition,” Topacio said in a press briefing at the DOT office in Makati.

New tourism chief

Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat has been appointed by Duterte as the new head of DOT, replacing Teo.

This was confirmed on Tuesday, May 8, hours after Teo announced her resignation to Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go.

Puyat is the daughter of former Senator and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo. She is also 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.

She is an economist, who has worked in the government as early as 2005, when she was a consultant to the Presidential Management Staff under the Arroyo administration. 

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at [email protected].

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