Senate to probe warship deal, Bong Go to attend
SPECIAL Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go on Friday said he is ready to attend a Senate hearing to address allegations that he intervened in the Navy’s P15.7 billion frigate acquisition program.
“Yes, I will attend,” Go told Palace reporters Friday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque welcomed the Senate investigation, saying this was an opportunity for President Rodrigo Duterte’s trusted aide to clear his name.
The frigate acquisition project was started during the time of former President Benigno Aquino III and continued under the Duterte administration, which signed the notice of award to the winning bidder, South Korean firm Hyundai Heavy Industries, on Aug. 18, 2016.
Roque said the Senate probe would determine if the Aquino government committed any anomalies in the bidding.
The Senate committee on national defense and security and the congressional oversight committee on the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Act said they would investigate the allegations and get updates on the contract.
Roque said the Palace is confident that Go “can stand his ground that he did not intervene.”
Go, a top Duterte aide, denied interfering in the selection of the Navy’s weapons system supplier, and challenged reporters to find proof of his involvement, saying he would resign if the allegations are proven true.
Roque said it was the Aquino administration that undertook the bidding and chose the winning bidder.
“This administration only issued the notice of award, which was ministerial. That made it impossible for Go to intervene,” Roque said.
In a text message to reporters, Go said the accusations were false.
“I have nothing to hide,” he said in Filipino. “I’m not hiding anything and I don’t know anything about that issue.”
Duterte again slammed Rappler for carrying citing documents that supposedly showed Go intervened in the selection of the weapons system for the Navy’s ships, saying the online portal peddles fake news.
Rappler reported that Go gave Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana a white paper endorsing a South Korean company, Hanwha, to provide the combat management system (CMS) for the Navy’s new frigates.
The white paper supposedly criticized the Navy’s choice of CMS provider, Dutch firm Thales Tacticos. Lorenzana then reportedly gave the white paper to Navy chief Ronald Joseph Mercado with a marginal note saying the document came from Go, and that a report needed to be submitted to the President to address the concerns raised.
Rappler said a week after Go gave Lorenzana the white paper, his office sent a letter to the chairman of the technical working group on the frigate project, Commodore Robert Empedrad, asking him to go to the Palace on Jan. 20 to discuss the CMS selection.
Go said he did not know of such an invitation.
Empedrad submitted a report to the Palace on Jan. 23 vouching for the efficiency of the Dutch company.
Lorenzana later fired Mercado for insubordination, citing his “fixation with one specific company for the combat management system,” and replaced him with Empedrad.