De Lima presses to hold resigned tourism officials accountable

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has pushed to hold former Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo and her other erring officials accountable for the anomalous projects and other forms of wasteful spending they have entered while in office’

De Lima filed Senate Resolution No. 740 urging the appropriate Senate committee to inquire into the alleged irregular transactions and wasteful spending of the Department of Tourism (DOT) under the term of its former secretary Teo.

“The accountability of former Secretary Teo, as well as her undersecretaries and assistant secretaries, for the apparent gross misuse of government funds must not be terminated by the simple fact of their resignation,” she said.

“Their immediate resignation from the service should be of no consequence to the filing of possible charges against them,” she added.

It may be recalled that Teo was forced to tender her resignation following a scandal involving the placement of P60-million worth of tourism ads in the television program produced and hosted by her brothers, Ben and Erwin Tulfo, on state-run media network.

Her successor, Tourism Secretary Bernardo Romulo-Puyat, later on discovered several other alleged irregular transactions and sponsorships for some fashion shows and events abroad hosted purportedly by Teo’s close friends.

Upon her assumption in office, Romulo-Puyat also discovered more anomalies in her department, including the “Buhay Carinderia” project under the Tourism Promotions Board, prompting its Chief Operating Officer Cesar Montano to step down last May 21.

“The recent discoveries made by the newly-appointed Tourism Secretary reveal a culture of extravagance and lack of accountability during the tenure of former Secretary Teo,” De Lima pointed out.

The former justice secretary noted that the Senate should look into the “department-wide” spending to ensure that government funds for tourism-related activities and events, including sponsorships, are properly and judiciously spent.

“It behooves the Senate to pursue the COA findings, as well as the findings of Sec. Romulo-Puyat, in order to shed light not just on the liability of the public officials who wasted away our people’s money on deals that are clearly disadvantageous to the government but also on remedial legislative measures that must be undertaken to prevent similar irregular and wasteful department-wide spending,” she said.

De Lima said she wants the Senate committee to look at possible conflict of interests in these tourism-related transactions that the government has entered into, especially the influence-peddling and rampant nepotism inside the bureaucracy.

“There also appears to be a need to strengthen government safeguards against conflicts of interest, to ensure the protection of the Filipino public against the personal and vested interests of unscrupulous persons,” she said.

The Senator from Bicol said she suspects that “the public officials and their relatives involved in these anomalies appear to have pursued irregular projects, as well as other forms of wasteful spending of public funds, seemingly without fear, and without suffering any meaningful consequences for their actions.”

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