By Czarina Nicole Ong
Even if the controversial payments of advertisements made by the Department of Tourism (DOT) were returned by Bitag Media Unlimited Inc. (BMUI), Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said the parties involved will not be let off the hook.
After news broke out that former DOT Secretary Wanda Teo made payments worth over P60 million to BMUI to air “commercial advertisements” during the telecast of its daily program, Kilos Pronto, Morales started motu proprio an investigation into the case.
The money has since then been returned to the government, but Morales said this will not change anything for Teo.
“Now there have been some instances that even if the subject has returned the amount subject of the notice of disallowance, it is not automatically considered as quashal of the offense committed. It will depend on the circumstances,” she said during an interview held at the Asian Institute of Management in Makati City yesterday afternoon.
Morales said this after she spoke during the “Investing in Integrity: Investment Protection Through Anti-Corruption Initiatives” event at AIM.
Morales added that the COA reports will definitely help them with their investigation, but “we are not bound by the COA reports,” she said. “They will certainly enlighten us in our investigation,” she continued.
The Commission on Audit (COA) earlier revealed that the payments made by the DOT to the media outlet were not valid and legal since these were “not supported with proper documents such as the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) and Certificate of Performance (COP).”
The COA also noted that the payments were “contrary to Section 4 of P.D. 1445 (State Audit Code) on the fundamental principles governing the financial transactions and operations of any government agency.”
For her part, Teo insisted there was no conflict of interest with the advertisements, since it was the network itself that chose to place the ads in the program where her brother, Ben, is the chief executive officer and founder.
Teo said the agreement made by the DOT is with PTNI, and she had no clue the network placed the ads in Bitag.