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Lorenzana on PHL navy chief: ‘I lost trust and confidence in him’

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday said that Philippine Navy Flag Officer in Command Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado was relieved from his post for supposedly “jeopardizing” a frigate acquisition project worth P15.5 billion.

“I have lost trust and confidence in his integrity and leadership. I question his intention behind his fixation with one specific company for the combat management system of the frigate acquisition project,” Lorenzana said in a press briefing.

“Ngayon si Admiral Mercado want to bring in another company, another system na hindi naman kasama sa kontrata. So for quite some time nagbabalikan dito yung mga directive,” Lorenzana said.

Lorenzana accused Mercado of "insubordination," saying he had issued more than two directives which Mercado had “disregarded” and “continued to insist on his system.”

“So to me that is tantamount to insubordination. So his constant call...he was around forum shopping and he talks about rescinding the contract kung hindi matutuloy yung pinapasok niya kumpanya,” he added.

On Tuesday, Armed Forces Public Information Office chief Colonel Edgard Arevalo announced the relief of Mercado upon the orders of “higher authorities.”

Mercado has been replaced by Rear Admiral Roberto Empedrad, the Deputy chief of staff for Reserve and Retirees Affairs (J9), as the acting FOIC.

In October 2016, the Department of National Defense signed a P15.5-billion contract with Hyundai Heavy Industries for the construction and delivery of two frigates for the Philippine Navy.

The Defense chief said Mercado wanting another company to install the CMS would not be possible as the contract with HHI had supposedly stated that it had the right to choose the naval combat system.

“The combat management system is very important to the project but there is a specification there, they were in the contract, the donning, the technical working groups discussion, you cannot put a company there to put the CMS, ilagay mo lang yung capability na gusto mo,” Lorenzana said.

“Now Hyundai said that they can...according to specifications and we will find that out when they deliver that ‘pag nadeliver satin ‘yun at hindi niyo na nasunod yung specifics niyan we will not accept the product and it we have to reconnect to them so that they can, they will correct whatever is deficient,” he added.

HHI supposedly also did not want to get in the negotiations entered by Mercado as it was not stated in their contract and will cost them more money, Lorenzana said.

Defense acquisition team 

Lorenzana said the Defense Acquisition team had recommended the relief of Mercado as they were alarmed as the project has been delayed for four months.

“Actually I did not initially want to remove him but yung team, the team that is involved in the acquisition of the frigate eh naalarma na sila dahil nadedelay na yung project because of the insistence of Admiral Mercado on his system,” he said.

“Delayed na tayo actually ng four months eh. Palagi silang pumupunta sa akin and in fact they were the ones who really recommended to me na i-relieve si Admiral Mercado but I said ‘wag muna pag-usapan but if he continues to insist and continues to talk painting the Department in a bad light, then I had to act," he added.

He also denied that the relief order was “surreptitious,” saying that “it was just not open to the public.”

Asked on why Empedrad was chosen as the acting FOIC when there is a deputy, Lorenzana said: “Well I think he is one of the most qualified person to be the acting, acting lang naman ito and...the board of generals will still select, will submit I think three names to the President.” — MDM/RSJ, GMA News