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DOT: Foreign trips authorized, bonus for 'little people'.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) yesterday said the overseas trips of some of its employees were duly authorized.

Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo justified the travels of those she described as 'little people' in the department, stressing that no government money was spent when they were sent abroad.

She also clarified that she traveled with an 'executive assistant' who was not a makeup artist as The STAR reported. The DOT said the report was 'malicious.'

Teo said she accepted '10 cabins' from cruise line Star Cruises, the department's partner in a tourism campaign of the government.

The cabins were for free, Teo said, and she gave them to the employees who have served for the longest time in the agency.

Instead of giving them to her assistant secretaries and undersecretaries who have already traveled overseas, Teo said she gave them to 'little people' of the DOT who have worked longer but had no privilege or chance to travel abroad.

'I did not give it to undersecretaries and assistant secretaries since they have traveled abroad. Instead, I gave it to little people. There was no government money spent here since they were given for free. I gave it to them since they have been with the DOT, but they never have traveled,' Teo said.

'Don't you think they need to travel because they are part of the DOT? And that's what I did,' she added.

DOT spokesman Ricky Alegre also justified the trips of the employees.

He said the trips were in accordance with the policy to better understand and appreciate their roles in the country's tourism development and promotion.

'As for the other DOT employees dragged in the subject article, the secretary has taken up the cudgels for them, having signed their respective travel orders as official in nature. All trips are in accordance with this administration's policy to engage them to better understand and appreciate their respective roles and contributions in the development and promotion of our tourism industry,' Alegre said.

'Their participation, in their respective official capacities, in trade fairs, cruise tourism events, routine audits and yearly inventory missions were all within bounds and duly authorized,' he added.

Alegre did not elaborate, however, on the employees' roles in their respective trips abroad.

But as far as cruise ship trips of DOT's 'marginalized' employees are concerned, Alegre pointed out that 'no government funds were expended.'

He said the trips were financed from the partnership between the DOT and a cruise liner.

'The management capitalized on this project to allow marginalized DOT employees (who have been working at the department for years) to gain actual cruise experience. This rare exposure contributes to having a holistic view of the DOT's undertakings,' Alegre said.

The DOT partnered with Star Cruises when it launched its 'maiden flight,' according to Teo. The DOT invited media to witness the inaugural ceremony for the homeport deployment of Star Cruses' Superstar Virgo in Manila and Laoag held on March 19, 2017 at South Harbor.

Under the provisions of Republic Act No. 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, government officials and employees are prohibited from soliciting or accepting gifts, favors, loans or anything of monetary value in the course of their official duties.

When asked to comment on possible violation of RA 6713 on solicitation and acceptance of gifts, Alegre did not respond.

But Alegre denied reports that Teo was bringing her makeup artist and even a utility worker in her travels abroad.

Teo herself confirmed that she brings with her an executive assistant, which is legally allowed under the rules of the Commission on Audit, to travel abroad with her but not a makeup artist as earlier reported.

The little people

Documents obtained by The STAR revealed Teo traveled to Italy, London, Moscow, Japan, US and Canada, along with resident auditor and auditors and her supposed makeup artist and assistant 'to attend international travel fairs, conduct inventory of DOT foreign offices.'

In the documents, utility workers Allan Alcid of the office of the secretary, Lia Insigne of the general services department of the records section and clerk Butch Berrei of the Office of the Secretary, travel ed to Dubai.

Agustina Isip, the DOT's internal auditor, was also issued a travel order from Dubai to London, while Irene Hamias of the records section had a trip to Beijing, China and utility worker Tonton Tabanera of the financial management services flew to Taiwan.

Messenger Marcelino Medina of the general service department, cash department had also joined the DOT's trip to Japan; Claudette Maximo, cashier, to Venice, Italy; and supply officer Felix Maximo to Beijing, China.

The clerk of undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr., Exequiel Erfelo, joined the DOT's trip to Cambodia while Nanette Saludo, executive assistant of the office of the secretary, joined the trip to Japan and Jennifer Olba, officer-in-charge of the legal department, went on several trips abroad with composite teams.

Dex Gillesamia, internal auditor, went to Moscow/London in a composite team; Aida Soriano, chief accountant, joined Teo in Paris, London, Japan, US; Gary Politico of financial management visited Italy and New York while bookkeepers Cris Agustin and Anna Alfonso, both from budget division, went to Tokyo.

Bookkeepers Ana Malay and Lagrimas Campos went to Tokyo and London, respectively.

In the DOT's trip to Sydney 'for inventory of DOT office,' present were Teo's legal assistant Cheryl Regala; Vangie Evangelista, admin officer; Erwin Umandal, data controller; Mayen Padilla, admin officer and Allen Ual, utility of the general service department.

Manjune Garduque, division chief of the internal audit and president of the DOT Employees Association (DOTEA), was also present in the DOT's trip to the US and Sydney.

Pacifico Dolfo, driver of Assistant Secretary Arlene Mancao's office, and Michael Buenaventura; utility worker Lourdes Ocsan of the office of the secretary; clerk Nilo David of the accounting office and Ma. Cristina Isorena of the legislative liaison went on cruise ship tours.

Not a makeup artist

As far as Teo's trips are concerned, Alegre denied the report of The STAR, saying that Teo 'was not present in any of the international trips highlighted' in the article.

But DOT's official Facebook page Department of Tourism- Philippines confirmed that Teo attended the Philippine Tapestry Gala Night as part of the Mabuhay Philippines Festival in Toronto, Ontario in Canada in August 2017.

The DOT's Facebook page also confirmed Teo spearheaded the launching of the agency's 'Bring Home a Friend campaign' in South Korea in December last year.

Teo's trips to Canada and South Korea were among the destinations mentioned in the report of The STAR.

'It is important to note that these and the other achievements of the department have resulted in the growth and progress throughout the country in terms of a 10.96-percent increase in tourist arrivals, further enhancing the visitor gross receipts by 40.48 percent,' Alegre said.

Alegre said the news article published by The STAR 'is plagued with falsities and inaccuracies' and cried foul for labeling Angelito Ucol as Teo's makeup artist.

'Mr. Angelito Ucol, alluded to as a 'makeup artist,' is actually employed as Executive Assistant II at the Office of the Secretary. We find the label as belittling and also discriminatory as it runs afoul to the universal principle of dignified labor,' he said.
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Publication:Philippines Star (Manila, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Feb 17, 2018
Words:1402
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