President Rodrigo Duterte, together with presidential aide Christopher "Bong" Go, is being interviewed on the sidelines of the inauguration of the new Communications, Navigation, Surveillance / Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) Systems Development Project at the Philippine Air Traffic Management Center (PATMC) in Pasay City on January 16, 2018. Simeon Celi Jr./Presidential Photo, File

Alejano: Duterte should probe Bong Go over Navy frigate issue
Audrey Morallo (philstar.com) - January 18, 2018 - 9:59pm

MANILA, Philippines — Instead of "lawyering" for his aide, President Rodrigo Duterte should call for an investigation into allegations that special assistant to the president Christopher "Bong" Go dipped his hand into the multibillion peso frigate acquisition program of the Philippine Navy, according to Rep. Gary Alejano (Magdalo).

Duterte and Go's attempt to tag the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III in the controversy is a "futile" attempt to divert the issue and "save face," Alejano said.

"Instead of lawyering and immediately dismissing Sec. Bong Go's involvement, President Duterte could have called for an investigation on the matter especially given the controversies hounding the FAP (Frigate Acquisition Project)," Alejano said in a statement.

"This is not what is expected from an administration who boasts of caring for the Armed Forces," he added.

According to Alejano, Duterte and Go's denial was a "glaring contradiction" to what some documents stated.

The lawmaker said that the project was signed on Oct. 24, 2016, months after Duterte assumed office on June 30, 2016.

Alejano said that former Navy Flag Officer in Command Vice Admiral Ronald Mercado, who was later sacked, wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Jan. 4, 207 to raise red flags on the "grossly disadvantageous provisions" in the contract the Department of National Defense signed with Hyundai Heavy Industries, the South Korean firm which will deliver the Navy's two frigates.

Mercado said that the questioned provisions would give HHI the sole right to choose the maker of the systems on the ships. HHI chose South Korea's Hanwha Naval Shield's system despite the Navy's preference for Thales Tacticos of Netherlands.

This then prompted Hanwha to meet Go supposedly to lobby for its combat management system, a ship's brain which integrates its different systems.

The white paper from Hanwha, with a marginal note from Lorenzana that it came from Bong Go, was then forwarded to Mercado who gave it to Rear Admiral Robert Empedrad, the head of the Project Management Team.

Lorenzana later explained that he assumed that the document came from Go because it was handed to him in the Palace.

Then on Jan. 18, 2017, Go's office, through Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao, asked Empedrad for a meeting to "specifically discuss" the issue of the CMS selection, according to the lawmaker. The meeting happened on Jan. 20, 2017.

"What does Bong Go have to do with the CMS selection or anything related to the acquisition of the Navy frigates when the project was...between the DND and AFP?" Alejano asked, adding that Go should have referred the firm's concerns to the military.

Alejano concluded that the white paper from Lorenzana, the letter from Go's office asking Empedrad to report to the Palace, the PMT's appearance in the meeting and the letter of the PMT chief to the president with attention to the presidential aide and reference to his office's letter would show his "involvement and interference" in the selection of CMS.

BONG GO NAVY RODRIGO DUTERTE
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