DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 17 Feb) – Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo denied tagging along her makeup artist and utility personnel in domestic and international travels despite the warning issued by President Rodrigo R. Duterte against government officials going on excessive travels.
Teo made the clarification during a press conference at Marco Polo Hotel Davao Friday. She said Angelito Ucol was her executive assistant and went through a proper application process before he was hired by the agency, contrary to reports that he was her makeup artist.
“Other secretaries, they got their families, they got their sons, they got their daughters, I did not get any of my family, I get somebody who applied to me. He is not a makeup artist, he goes with me in one of the trips, he works in the office, he files, he types,” she said.
The secretary also denied having been to Japan, Russia, South Korea, UK, Dubai, Canada, Italy and the US as the tourism chief, along with other workers without the knowledge of Malacañang.
“I did not go to these places. I’ve have been to these places when I was still in the private sector. When I became secretary of tourism hindi po ako pumunta sa Dubai, hindi pa pumunta sa Sydney (I have not been to Duabi, I have not been to Sydney), and I went to Russia with the President,” she said.
She said she has become more selective of her travels after Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea issued on January 3 the guidelines on foreign trips for public officials.
She explained the President said in one of the cabinet meetings that secretaries are exempted from the guidelines to enable them to carry out their functions.
But undersecretaries and assistant secretaries are covered by such guidelines, she added.
“I don’t want to travel anymore because I have been to these places many, many times. Because it is in our mandate, I have to go out, I have to meet the tour operators, I have to meet with investors, I have to meet with people,” she said.
The secretary admitted sending rank and file workers on a travel aboard a vessel of Star Cruises when it gave the department 10 cabins for free during its maiden voyage last year.
But she said these workers have been working for the agency up to 30 years.
“I did not give it to my undersecretaries and assistant secretaries because they get to travel. Instead, I gave it to little people. Walang gastos ang gobyerno dun (the government did not spend), because it was for free,” she said.
In a press briefing in Malacañang on Thursday, presidential spokesperson Harry S. Roque said the guidelines on foreign trips apply to all government officials, including secretaries, but it depends on the need to go out of the country.
“Talagang trabaho niya na ibenta ang Pilipinas bilang isang travel destination (It’s her job to promote the Philippines as a destination),” he said.
He said government officials must also obey the travel guidelines set by Commission on Audit.
“At saka (and then) even under the guidelines set by the President, ang unang (the first) guideline is it must be related to your function. So maintindihan naman natin siguro kung bakit maraming biyahe abroad ang Secretary of Tourism (maybe we can understand why the Secretary of Tourism has many travels abroad) because she has to sell the Philippines as a destination,” he added. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)