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Manila tourism chief quits over $1m &#039;scam&#039;

MANILA: The head of the Department of Tourism (DoT) l resigned for her alleged involvement in the scandalous payment of more than $1 million in advertisements that the DoT had placed in a programme produced and hosted by her brothers in a government-run TV station, a Malacanang Palace official revealed on Tuesday.

Harry Roque, the presidential spokesman, said Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo quit amid the controversy arising from the payment of the $1 million to a public service programme run by her brothers Ben and Erwin Tulfo at the government radio and TV network PTV 4.

Roque disclosed that Teo submitted her resignation letter to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Monday morning hours before President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte was to preside over a regular Cabinet meeting at Malacanang Palace later that day.

The resignation came amid earlier media reports that Duterte had dismissed Teo who maintained her innocence over the alleged scam even after her brothers had offered to return the $1 million to the government.

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However, Roque pointed out that even with the offer to return the $1 million, Malacanang Palace would still continue to investigate the alleged scam to pinpoint responsibility and file the necessary charges against them.

Congressman Antonio Tinio of the militant party list ACT Teachers agreed with Roque as he stressed: “Returning the money is an admission of guilt. It will not erase the accountability of Secretary Teo for the improper transaction.”

The reports also said Duterte had told Teo to hand in her resignation as the tourism chief on Tuesday during a one-on-one talk they had at the Palace immediately after the Cabinet meeting.

Teo, who ran a travel agency in Duterte’s hometown of Davao City in Mindanao before the president appointed her as the DoT chief, was the latest government official to resign following Duterte’s warning that he would not hesitate to dismiss those involved in alleged corruption.

In a related development, Roque revealed that Duterte ordered the investigation of the head of the government-run Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), for her “costly” travels even when the agency suffered more than $160 million losses.