FORMER actor and Tourism Promotions Board chief operating officer Cesar Montano denied allegations of corruption against him and challenged his accusers to come out in the open and present evidence to back their claims.
In a statement, Montano shrugged off the allegations, saying that the complaints were fabricated to destroy the credibility of the TPB and President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.
“The allegations made against the Office of the COO, through a complaint filed anonymously, are baseless and untrue,” Montano said.
“No one knows who is behind this and the said ‘TPB employees’ who filed the complaint have neither come forward or presented any evidence to substantiate their claims.
A source within the TPB who asked for anonymity said that Montano has scheduled a meeting with the Management Committee and the employees who were affected by the March 6 reshuffle order. The meeting, however, did not materialize and instead, Montano had an interview with the media.
The source also claimed that Montano never gave the employees any explanation why he decided to reassign 11 employees, which include an officer in charge, some junior officers and some from the rank and file.
Montano said that the agency’s employees had filed the complaints to pre-empt him from divulging the anomalies within the TPB that allegedly took place before he assumed the position in December.
In a radio interview, Montano also maintained his innocence and admitted that he knew about the complaint but said the complaint was allegedly rushed after TPB employees learned that he would soon disclose about the alleged shady deals within the board.
“Without proof, anyone can easily fabricate stories with the sole purpose of destroying the credibility of the agency and this administration,” Montano said.
The TPB employees have yet to comment on Montano’s response to the allegations, but said that they will soon disclose pertinent public records and evidence aginst the former actor once the Presidential Action Center decide to conduct a probe.
Montano is being accused of spending millions of pesos on nonrelated tourism projects and of hiring 18 people, including a former stuntman, his gardener, friends and relatives, who draw salaries between P14,000 to P80,000.
In a seven-page complaint filed on March 1, 2017 before the Presidential Action Center, a copy of which was obtained by the Manila Standard, TBP employees enumerated about 30 complaints against Montano, which detailed his non work-related domestic and international travels, his hiring of consultants, friends and relatives for redundant jobs and alleged negligence.
The complaint also said that Montano had entered into an P11.2-million contract with Carat Philippines, an advertising company that organizes concerts and music festivals, where he usually performed as a guest singer together with his nieces.
“It can be observed that COO Montano always enters into a contract with Carat Philippines as TPB’s partner in holding concerts and events where COO Montano is one of the performers and not representing TPB as chief operating officer,” the complaint said.
He also allegedly entered into a contract worth P16 million for different concerts where he sang, and sponsorship of a love-team concert tour, even though the TPB marketing and communication department advised against it.
“TPB received quite a number of proposals for concerts and entertainment. These proposals are approved by him, without considering the recommendation of the proper department under its purview,” the employees said.
The last concert where Montano reportedly performed was held Feb. 25 at the Luneta, which cost the board P4 million. The employees also alleged that Montano sponsored concerts in the United States and the United Arab Emirates at a cost of P12 million.
“These concerts… might just bleed the coffers of the TPB dry,” the TPB employees said.
Montano also brought in a team and consultants whose functions are already being fulfilled by incumbent TBP employees, the complaint said.
He reportedly three co-terminus and confidential members of his team, namely Priza Cinco, a relative; Rommel Montano, his brother; and Peter Domingo, his housemate.
Also on the TPB payroll with corresponding monthly salaries are Virgilio Collao, stuntman and actor, P16,984; Ma. Dianara Corcino, P16,984; Clifferson Mendoza, nephew of Rommel Montano’s wife, P48,516.65; Augusto Morcoso, Montano’s gardener, P14,697.64; Robertito Nipis, stuntman and actor, P16,984; Gregorio Quinal, his personal assistant, P14,697.64; Marivic Vargas, personal assistant, P33,019.35; Maria Anne Aguila, still for processing; Princess Elefante, P16,984; Gestine Kylie Olarte, daughter of Cesar Montano’s best friend, P21,099.49; and Perfecto Realino, messenger and Montano’s childhood friend, P14,697.64.
The complaint also alleged that Montano also hired as consultants lawyers Marian Ivy Fajardo, Isidro Martin Reyes, and Ela Sangalang, with monthly salaries of P48,516.65 each, while a certain Bong Macasaet was paid P78,400 for a two-day marketing workshop.
The consultants, the employees said, hardly showed up at the office.
Macasaet, who was hired as “a marketing guru,” had no expertise or background in tourism, the employees said.
The employees added that Macasaet did not even have any knowledge of the National Tourism Development Plan, which was presented to the Tourism Coordinating Council headed by Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo.
The employees said the hiring of relatives was a violation of the Civil Service Commission rules on nepotism.
The TPB boardroom and executive lounge have become an exclusive area for Montano’s staff to rest, the complaint also said.
The executive lounge, upon COO Montano’s request had a TV installed where his bodyguards and staff can sleep or lounge while watching TV,” the TPB employees said.
Without any approval by the board, his brother, Rommel, allegedly initiated a project called “SELPHILIPPINES,” which was initially offered free of charge. In the end, however, the TPB was being billed for millions of pesos.
Cinco, on the other hand, reportedly threatened an HR official when she was asked to submit documents required by the Civil Service Commission.
Cinco reportedly said, “Ano gusto mo, Duterte o COA? [What do you want, Duterte or the Commission on Audit]?”
The employees also accused Montano and his people of using public funds to finance their personal travel.
Montano with his staff reportedly went to Boracay Island without any itinerary with the agency picking up the tab.
“The DoT regional director commented that it seemed they were having a vacation,” the TBP employees said.
“For the month of January 2017, during COO’s and his staff’s domestic trips, his staff would naturally have travel orders, as he was the signatory. However, he himself would not have any travel orders,” they added.
Mendoza, Montano’s niece, also went on a personal trip to Boracay in January together with around 12 companions.
Montano together with Cinco, his brother Rommel and Mendoza also went to Hong Kong to attend the Chinese New Year Parade.
During the parade, Montano was reported to be under the influence of alcohol.
Cinco once also requested the DoT regional director for the Cordilleras to make arrangements for their stay in Baguio during the Panagbenga Festival and to reserve eight single rooms, but Montano and his staff did not show up, even though the rooms were already paid for.
The TPB employees also complained about Montano’s work ethics, saying he rarely reported to Teo for direction.
During meetings, his level of retention was very low, they said.
“He has difficulty understanding presentations, flow charts and figures. Instead, he wants visuals. He would leave the meetings even if [they are] not yet adjourned,” the TPB employees alleged.
Montano also shouts at his staff if he cannot immediately get what he wants, the complaint said.
“He always locks his door and would be heard playing his guitar during office hours,” they added.
Papers that need to be signed pile up on Montano’s desk, the employees said, and payment for several projects have been delayed.
“Documents are piled up in his room because he does not know what to do. Notably, most if not all Bids and Awards Committee Resolutions, Notice of Award and Notice to Proceed are still in his office awaiting his signature,” the group said.
“Even if management has guided him thoroughly on what to do during board meetings, it is unfortunate that he does not take these meetings seriously and would often request that a script be prepared for him,” the employees added.
Montano also requested to have his office at the Coconut Palace, even though he has an office at the Legaspi Towers.
“TPB is besieged with performers, actors and suppliers endorsed by his friends and relatives. The corporate look of the office has been tarnished,” the employees lamented.
The TPB hosted a familiarization tour for golfers coming from Taiwan. During the familiarization tour, Montano reportedly joined the Taiwanese golfers in Batangas and brought a woman with him.
“At one point, one of the Taiwanese golfers saw COO Montano caressing the woman’s thighs… COO Montano did not even bother to sit down with the guests during lunch,” the employees said.
During the Hanatour Golf Tournament with Korean guests, he was requested to do a speech before the guests but instead he sang.
Further, Montano allegedly did not submit a divestment report regarding his job as actor, director, and film producer. He also allegedly went to Boracay with his staff allegedly “without an itinerary” and travelled with them to other local places without travel orders.
Montano, however, that the accusations were politically-motivated and said that “It is our hope and prayer that politics do not keep us from doing our job in promoting a safer and drug-free Philippines to tourists,” Montano, who was appointed by Duterte in December, said.
He added that “despite setback and political backlash”, the TOB under his leadership will continue to serve his countrymen.
“If we cannot work together, it is the Filipino people that ultimately suffer,” Montano said.