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Genie in the Palace: Duterte grants Berna Romulo Puyat’s dream of becoming Tourism Secretary


President Rodrigo Duterte did not just fill a vacant Cabinet post when he decided to appoint Agriculture Undersecretary Bernadette “Berna” Romulo Puyat as Tourism Secretary, he also made her dream come true.

In an exclusive interview with Politiko Tuesday (May 8) shortly after her appointment was reported by the media, Puyat detailed how she ended up getting the post vacated a day earlier by resigned Secretary Wanda Teo.

Puyat said she went to Malacañang past 5 p.m. to attend a meeting of the National Food Authority (NFA) Council. She was accompanied by former senator Sergio Osmeña III, a friend of Duterte who wanted to meet him for old time’s sake.

Inside the Palace, Puyat said Duterte pulled her aside and mentioned the new vacancy in the Cabinet.

“Now you know that the post for DOT (Department of Tourism) Secretary is open. I will make you my new DOT Secretary,” she quoted Duterte as saying.

Before Puyat could respond, the President brought up something she never thought he would remember: their conversation sometime in 2014.

“‘Di ba I asked you before what your dream job was? Is it to become Agriculture Secretary? You said no because you wanted DOT,” Duterte told Puyat.

After their talk ended, the President introduced Puyat to Osmeña as the new Tourism Secretary.

Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go, who was in the room with Duterte and Osmeña, saw the whole encounter and told the media about it.

Duterte has been proud of his friendship with Puyat, whom he had called his “best friend” a week ago. He also said she was smart, having graduated from the University of the Philippines as magna cum laude.

Teo resigned over the controversy surrounding the DOT’s P60-million payment to a media company owned by her brother, Ben Tulfo, for the airing of tourism-related ads.


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