By Genalyn Kabiling
Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo still enjoys the trust and confidence of President Duterte despite the controversy arising from recent foreign travels, Malacañang said Sunday.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque recognized that Teo’s trips abroad are part of her duty to attract tourists to the country.
“All Cabinet members enjoy the trust of the President,” Roque said in Filipino during a radio interview, when asked if the President still trusted the tourism secretary.
“Secretary Teo has already given an explanation, denying the allegations against her. And we believe that all these are documented anyway,” he added.
Roque noted that one of the requirements for official trips based on the President’s guidelines was the purpose of the trip must be within the mandate of the requesting official. “As secretary of the Department of Tourism, it is the job of Secretary Teo to sell the Philippines. Otherwise, she would be negligent of her duty,” he added.
Roque said Teo has clarified that she brought an executive assistant, not a make-up artist as mentioned in some news reports.
He noted that the Commission on Audit (COA) has certain rules on who could join official trips of the Cabinet officials. He said travel funds would not have been released if Teo’s executive assistant didn’t have the necessary appointment paper.
Reports said Teo visited several countries and brought along her make-up artist, some utility workers and clerks to some of the trips.
The tourism chief however explained that Angelito Ucol was her executive assistant, not a make-up artist as identified in a news report.
Teo also defended her decision to allow department utility workers to join a tourism cruise, saying it was for free. She said she gave the free cabin passes to the low-ranking personnel instead of officials since they have never traveled since they started to work at the Department of Tourism (DOT).