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Monday, March 4, 2024

It’s a go: Duterte aide to face Senate inquiry

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SPECIAL Assistant to the President Christopher Go is not going to hide behind a closed-door executive session when he faces the Senate committee on national defense and security, which is investigating allegations of irregularity in the acquisition of frigates by the Navy, a Palace spokesman said Sunday.

While the panel was considering a closed-door session given the sensitive nature of the discussion, the Palace insisted on an open investigation, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

“The stand of Bong Go and the President is no, let’s make it open tomorrow because the President is not hiding anything and Bong Go is not hiding anything,” Roque said in Filipino, and referring to Go by his nickname in a radio interview.

Roque said Go would bring only the truth to the Senate hearing.

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“He will disclose everything. We will hide nothing. If there was incompetence, we are sure it was not the responsibility of this administration because it’s very clear from the timeline that the one that selected Hyundai was the Aquino administration,” he continued in Filipino.

READY TO TELL ALL.  President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Special Presidential Assistant Christopher ‘Bong” Go. Malacañang Photo

The P15.7 billion purchase of warships has been marred by controversy after Go was accused of intervening in the selection of the combat management system (CMS) for the two frigates.

But Navy flag-officer-in-command Rear Admiral Robert Empedrad welcomed the Senate investigation and expressed confidence that the truth will come out of it.

Empedrad said there was no anomaly in the FAP contract, which amounted to P16 billion including its weapon systems and munitions.

Empedrad also said Go did not intervene in the project.

“Tomorrow, the interview will be about that item. The way I see it is there is no anomaly and no problem,” Empedrad said in a mix of Filipino and English. “There was no intervention.”

Earlier, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV claimed that Go intervened in the project. 

Roque said that before Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana signed the notice of award to the winning bidder, he consulted all his lawyers and officers of the Philippine Navy.

The findings are that the contract conforms with the law and there being no obstacles, it had to be signed.

Roque said if part of the bidding document were changed, this would be a violation of bidding rules, which did not happen.

The frigate acquisition project was started during the time of former President Benigno Aquino III but the Duterte administration signed the notice of award to winning bidder, South Korean firm Hyundai Heavy Industries, in August 2016.

Go could not have intervened because it had already been awarded to Hyundai, Roque said.

Earlier, reports said Go gave Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana a white paper endorsing South Korean company Hanwha to provide the CM and criticizing the Navy’s choice of Thales Tacticos, a Dutch company.

Lorenzana then reportedly gave the paper to then Navy chief Ronald Joseph Mercado with a marginal note saying it came from Go and that a rebuttal must be submitted to the President addressing the concerns raised.

Empedrad submitted a report to Malacañang on Jan. 23, 2017 vouching for the efficiency of the Thales Tacticos CMS, but the debate delayed the frigate acquisition and the Palace later fired Mercado, who preferred the Dutch supplier.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said Go should not be so confident because a witness or a document might surface to tag him in the irregularities. 

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