Blue Ribbon may step in on probe of Tulfo contract

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee may step in the controversy over the P60-million advertising placement of the Department of Tourism (DOT) in the government-run People's Television Network (PTV-4).

Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III gestures after elected as a newly Senate President at Senate Building in Pasay city, May 21,2018.(Czar Dancel) Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III

Sotto, on Monday, said the Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations, more known as the Blue Ribbon panel, could launch its hearings to look into the allegedly anomalous contract between the DOT and the PTV-4, especially that resolutions have already been referred to the committee.

"If there is a resolution, we leave it to the chairman of the Senate committee, on which committee it was referred to. It's in their hands. The ball is with them," Sotto told reporters in an interview.

The Senate chief said he will talk to Senator Richard Gordon, chair of the Blue Ribbon panel on what he plans to do about the resolution.

Last May, Senators Nancy Binay and Antonio Trillanes IV filed their respective measures calling for an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the controversial deal involving former Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo and her brothers, broadcasters Erwin and Ben Tulfo.

The Tulfos' Bitag Media Unlimited had received the P60 million after the DOT advertisements landed in the PTV-4 block-timer that it produces.

But Ben Tulfo, in his radio program and Facebook post last week, said they will not return the said amount to the government.

"I do not know the reason of Mr. Tulfo why he cannot return the money. The question to be asked is 'Why have they released it?' If they released it -- meaning, they were already paid -- then they indeed have nothing to return, but if not yet, then there must be other reasons. That is when the committee will step in," Sotto said.

Pending response from Gordon, Sotto, meanwhile, assured that the issue may also be taken up during the deliberations for 2019 budgets of the DOT and the PTV-4.

"I will talk to the chairman and find out what is brewing in the committee," Sotto said.

Earlier Monday, Trillanes urged the Gordon committee to act on his resolution and start the probe. He also announced that he will file plunder charges against Teo and the Tulfos.