Tourism Promotions Board COO Cesar Montano may soon be facing corruption allegations and other complaints against him as the new DOT Secretary Bernadette-Romulo Puyat probes current officials.
Montano, who rose to fame as an actor, had been plagued by many complaints and issues since he was appointed in 2016.
The most recent controversy is his alleged “rushed” speech in a Philippine Tourism Presentation and Dinner Reception in New York on May 9 so he could watch Hamilton, a popular Broadway musical.
On Thursday, Puyat had reportedly discussed with Montano in private during which the actor denied ending the public speech in two minutes.
“I thought that was in good faith. Willing naman siya to cooperate,” the former Agriculture official said in a radio interview with dzBB,
Puyat is also investigating “Buhay Carinderia: Redefined” project due to Montano’s reported issuance of checks to the proponent and organizer worth P80 million.
Some people commented that this was worse than the P60-million advertisement deal involving former Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, that eventually led to her resignation.
Gusto ko yung attitude nyang bagong Secretary ng DOT. tama! Palayasin lahat ng nanahimik on Wanda's corruption allegations. Tsaka isa pa yang Cesar Montano na yan. Ano bang ginagawa nyan dyan
— dnmrk (@DenmarkSingson) May 15, 2018
After the discussion with Montano, Puyat decided to suspend the controversial project and leave it to the Commission on Audit for review.
The Buhay Carinderia Project’s controversies
Buhay Carinderia is a forum launched in 2010 to gather owners, suppliers, and other stakeholders of the traditional food stall.
On its Facebook page, the event of the Department of Tourism aimed for a more “redefined” approach this year to support President Rodrigo Duterte’s development plan called “Ambisyon 2040,” which is supervised by the National Economic and Development Authority.
It was also supposed to replace the annual Madrid Fusion Manila, the Asian version of the Spain-based culinary event, after Montano announced its cancellation last April.
The cost for its implementation became questionable after a report claimed that a financial sponsorship supposed to be paid in 2019 was apparently paid in full amounting to over P80 million between March 19 and April 17.
“Just for comparison, Madrid Fusion Manila has been successfully held for P43 million in government sponsorship. There were private sector sponsors too like SM and Ayala,” the report said.
On March 2017, TPB employees filed a complaint that lists 24 irregularities of Montano in a letter sent to the Presidential Action Center.
“It can be observed that during meetings with the TPB Management Committee and Board Meetings his level of retention and absorption is very low,” an excerpt of the letter read.
These supposed concerns include his incompetence as COO, unprofessional behavior, and nepotism.
In his defense, Montano said in an interview that these were baseless.
“Offshoot lang po ito na-dig natin or na-nadiscover kong anomalies and irregularities ng opisina,” he said.
According to reports, Duterte also expressed his trust in the actor amid these complaints.
Montano was a known supporter of the president having campaigned for Duterte’s presidency in 2016.
Questioning his appointment
Some questioned the validity of his appointment to head DOT’s marketing arm in the first place.
Under RA 9593, or the Tourism Act of 2009, the COO of the TPB is supposed to be elected by its board of directors “from a list of qualified applicants and appointed by the secretary.”
But Cesar Montano was appointed by Duterte as COO of TPB?! pic.twitter.com/2G26KKioGV
— Dan Santos (@DanSantos8) May 17, 2018
The Twitter user cited the legislation that created the TPB from the former Philippine Convention and Visitors Corporation.
The legislation also added other qualifications to lead the TPB, which include being “engaged in a managerial capacity for at least five years prior to his appointment.”