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Letters show Bong Go role in Navy’s frigate purchase —Alejano

Magdalo party-list Representative Gary Alejano on Thursday insisted on the involvement of Special Assistant to the President Secretary Bong Go on the supposedly anomalous acquisition of two frigates for the Philippine Navy, citing documents that would link the latter to the project.

In a statement, Alejano said documents show a "glaring contradiction" to the denial of the Malacanang and Go on his involvement to the frigate acquisition project.

While Malacanang said the procurement of the frigates was a project of the previous administration, Alejano said the contract signing was made on October 24, 2016, when President Rodrigo Duterte was already President.

"The controversy already started before the signing of the contract and continued after the signing of the contract during the implementation phase," Alejano said.

"Thus, the anomalies happened when Duterte is already the president. Malacanang’s and Bong Go’s attempt to divert the issue to the previous administration and save face is futile," he added.

Documents likewise show that Go had a hand on the anomalous project, Alejano said.

Alejano said that on January 4, former Flag Officer in Command Vice Admiral Mercado wrote to Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana saying that the contract with Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) has "grossly disadvantageous" provisions to the Philippine Navy and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The provisions refer to the remarks at the bottom of the HHI's version of the Maker's list, giving HHI the right to choose manufacturers of the equipment of the frigate.

HHI has chosen Korean company Hanhwa's Naval Shield, but the Navy preferred Thales' Tacticos for the combat management system (CMS).

Mercado's letter, Alejano said, prompted Hanhwa to meet with Go.

"According to the information I received, a Korean Hanhwa official, accompanied by a Filipino national, visited Bong Go to lobby for their CMS to be chosen despite Navy’s different preference. The meeting possibly happened between January 5 and 11, 2017," Alejano said.

It was on January 12 that the document, containing the marginal note written by Lorenzana saying that it came from Go, was sent to Mercado, Alejano said. It was then given to Rear Admiral Robert Empedrad, then head of the Project Management Team (PMT).

Six days later, Go's office sent a letter—signed by Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao—to Empedrad asking him for a meeting to "specifically discuss" the CMS selection issue.

On January 20, the whole PMT reported to Malacanang, Alejano said, which they would not have done if they were not ordered to do so.

Assuming regularity, Go's request for a meeting is already questionable, Alejano said.

"What does Bong Go have to do with the CMS selection or anything related to the acquisition of the Navy frigates when the project is supposed to be only between the DND and AFP?" Alejano said.

"Bong Go would have directed the Hanwha official to address his concerns to DND, the procurement office for FAP. He would have even warned the Hanwha official for taking steps outside of the procurement process," he added.

Alejano added that in a letter dated January 23 addressed to Duterte with attention to Go, Empedrad also cited the letter from the Office of the Assistant to the President requesting the PMT to justify the chosen CMS.

The letters and documents, therefore, would all show the involvement and interference of Go in the project, specifically in the CMS selection, Alejano said.

"Again, if the white paper and the order to Empedrad for a meeting in Malacanang did not come from higher authorities, do you think Lorenzana and the Navy’s PMT would respond and take action to it?" Alejano asked.

"Ang mga sangkot sa anomalyang ito ay maaaring tumanggi pero hindi maikakaila na sa huli ay nanaig ang business interest laban sa national interest dahil sa mga pangyayaring ito," he added.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. has said that investigation conducted Malacanang showed that the allegations against Go were false.

Alejano, in a privilege speech on Monday, called for the cancellation of the frigate project, citing violations on the part of HHI.

But the DND shrugged off Alejano's call, saying that these are just "mere allegations and innuendos which are not legal grounds for termination of the project." —NB, GMA News