By Mario Casayuran
Contrary to allegations that he has refused to act on a pending Senate resolution, Senator Richard Gordon said Tuesday the Senate Blue Ribbon committee that he chairs has already started the ball rolling on the conduct of an investigation into the Department of Tourism (DOT) P60-million advertising controversy.
Gordon said that as early as May 2018, his committee already sent a letter requesting for copies of documents related to Senate resolutions calling for an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the advertisement placements made by the DOT with television networks and media agencies.
The controversial P60-million DOT ad contract was signed by the DOT under the leadership of then Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo and PTV4, a state-owned TV station, that would air its programs through a production company, Bitag Media Unlimited Inc., owned by brother, Ben. Erwin Tulfo, another Teo brother, co-anchors the production company.
“Hindi kami basta nag-iimbestiga. Siyempre kinukuha namin ang facts of the case. We are already in the process of investigating. Upon my instructions to the director, we wrote a letter requesting for documents,” he said. (We just investigate at the drop of a hat. Of course, we had gotten the facts of the case.)
In a letter dated May 31, 2018, Gordon said his committee wrote Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat requesting for copies of all documents related to Senate Resolution Nos. 721, 726 and 740 which called for an inquiry into the said controversy.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, author of one of the Senate resolutions seeking a probe into the P60 -million DOT advertising contract, had accused Gordon of sitting on his resolution.
He recalled that his resolution was referred to the Senate tourism committee chaired by Sen. Nancy Binay but was grabbed by Gordon’s committee but has not conducted a hearing.
Aside from asking the Senate to investigate the controversial P60- million Wanda Teo- Ben Tulfo contract and other probable irregularities in the DOT, Trillanes also disclosed his plan to file plunder cases against the two Tulfo siblings before the Office of the Ombudsman.
“As instructed by the Chairman, may we request copies of all documents related to said proposed Senate Resolutions. Please submit said documents to the Blue Ribbon Committee Office… on or before Tuesday, June 5, 2018,” Blue Ribbon director general Rodolfo Noel Quimbo said in the letter the DOT secretary.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III had said the decision to investigate the advertisement contract is up to the Blue Ribbon committee chairman.
The Senate chief said Gordon would decide on whether hearings would be held in connection with the advertisement deal between the DOT, state-run PTV network, and Ben Tulfo’s Bitag Media Unlimited Inc.
The Commission on Audit (COA) earlier reported that PTV’s 2017 disbursement records for three checks issued to Bitag were anomalous, casting doubts on the legality and validity of the payments made by the DOT.