Malacañang has directed the Department of Justice to take steps to recover the P60 million in ad placement fees paid to broadcaster Ben Tulfo’s Bitag Media by the Department of Tourism then headed by his sister Secretary Wanda Teo.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo told reporters on Tuesday that the DOJ “will have to do something about it” as Tulfo refused and continued to refuse to return the ad money involving a transaction flagged by the Commission on Audit.
“The Palace always wants that laws are not only enforced but are obeyed to its fullest extent. As we said there are no sacred cows in this government, friends or allies,” Panelo said.
But Panelo had no time line on when the money should be returned.
“[It] depends on the DOJ, because it’s their call, they will have to do something legally about it,” Panelo said.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, replying to questions, said he had not received a formal directive to this effect.
The controversy stemmed from a 2017 COA report, released in April 2018, which showed that state-run People’s Television Network paid P60.010 million to Bitag Media Unlimited Inc. for the airing of DoT advertisements on Tulfo’s program Kilos Pronto.
Another report from state auditors said that Teo might be held liable for graft due to alleged conflict of interest over the ad buy.
It was Teo’s lawyer Ferdinand Topacio who claimed that the Tulfo siblings would return the money. After his announcement, Teo quit as Tourism chief.
But Tulfo announced in July 2018 that they would not return the amount, saying the transaction was aboveboard and that they did not steal from government coffers.
On Monday, special envoy to China Ramon Tulfo accused his brother Ben and Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar of manipulating the deal.
There was no immediately available comment from Andanar.