MALACAÑANG on Sunday maintained that President Rodrigo Duterte’s special assistant, Christopher “Bong” Go had no involvement in the approval of the P16-billion frigate contract between the Philippine Navy and South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque said it would have been impossible for Go to intervene in the approval of the contract because the deal was finalized when Benigno Aquino 3rd was the president.
The Senate committees on national defense and security are set to start their investigation of the anomalies surrounding the purchase of the warships.
In a radio interview, Roque said the Aquino administration should be held accountable for the Frigate Acquisition Project (FAP) because it was already a done deal when Duterte assumed office.
“It was the Aquino administration which chose Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) as supplier of the two frigates, including the supply of the boat, the navigation, the communications, and the combat management systems (CMS),” Roque pointed out.
“The President is not hiding anything; Bong Go is not hiding anything. It is clear that if ever there were anomalies on the awarding of the Hyundai, it was awarded by the bids and awards committee of the previous administration,” he said.
Roque explained that when the Philippine Navy held a bid for the acquisition of two warships, the CMS, the navigation and the integration systems were already included in the contract. These, he added, cannot be purchased on a piecemeal basis because the winning bidder has to provide all these systems.
“In the contract, all systems to be placed in the ships are already identified in the bid and that was the commitment of the supplier that these will be supplied after they won [the bid]. An intervention cannot be done because all the terms and conditions are already embedded in the bidding document and that cannot be altered,” the Palace official said.
Go to bring ‘nothing but the truth’
Roque said the Senate hearing will give Go the avenue to “bare everything” and “bring nothing but the truth.”
“What SAP Bong Go will bring tomorrow will only be the truth, he will bare everything. We are not hiding anything and if there are any holes on the contract, it is not the responsibility of the Duterte administration because the crucial issue here is the anomaly on the selection of Hyundai,” he said.
The Senate inquiry was initiated by opposition senators through Resolution 584.
According to the resolution, the probe will determine whether or not the acquisition promotes the goals of the modernization program and complies with pertinent laws.
Go and Roque will attend the hearing.
Go was accused of interfering in the military procurement contract after Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano bared three documents that hinted on Go’s involvement in the FAP.
Go had denied the allegations.
Unlimited destab plots
Duterte Youth chairman Ronald Cardema slammed the “unlimited destabilization plots” and mudslinging being done by the Liberal Party, saying that these are fake and being done by them to divert the attention from their shortcomings.
A group, however, said critics of the Duterte administration are using the frigate issue to deflect public attention on the failures of the previous administration, some of which are being investigated.
Ronald Cardema, chairman of Duterte Youth group, said the Liberal Party is using the issue to destabilize the government.
“Halata namang destabilisasyon ang ginagawa nila para lang mabaling sa pamahalaan ang atensyon at hindi sa mga nagawa nilang kawalanghiyaan nung sila pa ang namumuno (It is obvious that they are doing these destabilization measures so that the public will focus its attention on the present government, not on their mistakes when they were in power),” he said.
The group cited the Dengvaxia controversy where former President Benigno Aquino 3rd and former Health Secretary Janette Garin are being implicated. A massive dengue immunization program was implemented under Garin, using Dengvaxia, which was manufactured by pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur.
The government and some groups are investigating the deaths of several children who were inoculated with Dengvaxia.
Criminal charges have been filed against Aquino, Garin, and former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, in connection with the purchase of the vaccines.
Aquino and some former government officials are also being blamed for the P3.8 billion Metro Rail Transit deal. They were accused of misusing funds donated for victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda.
“Lahat ng mga isyung ito ay malaking kasiraan sa grupo ng LP sa pamumuno ni Aquino, kaya hindi nakakapagtaka na sukdulang gumawa ng isyu o alingasngas ang mga ‘dilawan’ para lang mapagtakpan ang kanilang kalokohan (All these issues are detrimental to the LP headed by Aquino, thus it is not surprising for the yellows to make some noise to cover their errors),” Cardema said.
He added that Duterte’s critics should realize that Go could not have meddled in the frigate deal because the contract was finalized under the Aquino administration.
Among those who are expected to appear in today’s hearing are Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Philippine Navy’s Flag Officer in Command (FOIC) Rear Admiral Robert Empedrad, and Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th said there was no problem in the contract signed with Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) in August 2016.
However, there was a provision in the contract that gives Hyundai the prerogative to choose the specific brand of components that will be used as long as these were compliant with the requirements of the Philippine Navy.
Trillanes said HHI only had two choices for the combat management system (CMS) that will be installed on the two frigates — the Tacticos CMS of Thales Nederlands and Hanwha-Thales.
The problem stated when the partnership of Hanwha and Thales was dissolved after the contract was signed in 2016.
Trillanes said because of the separation of Hanwha and Thales, the Navy wanted HHI to install the system of Tacticos Thales. However, Hyundai insisted on using the Hanwha system.
WITH JEFF ANTIPORDA