Special Assistant to the President Secretary Christopher "Bong" Go expressed readiness on Wednesday to quit if it would be proven he meddled in the multi-billion frigate project of the Philippine Navy.
In a statement, Go said the controversial frigate project was approved during the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III.
"My name has been unfairly dragged in this issue. I am not privy to the frigate transaction of the DND (Department of National Defense). I have never seen the controversial document (white paper) that is alleged to have come from me, much less, handed the same to SND (Secretary of National Defense Delfin) Lorenzana," he said.
"In fact, I will resign if it can be proven that I intervened. It should be emphasized that the frigate project was already a done deal in 2016 during the time of former Pres. Aquino," Go added.
President Rodrigo Duterte, in an interview Tuesday night, defended Go, saying the latter would not intervene, as he is a "billionaire."
"Bong Go intervenes in the 15 billion --- Who gave you idea he can intervene? Where is his signature? Where is your statement? And where is your… even a point of reference?," he said.
"He seem to appear intervening because about money? The things that you are telling never happened," Duterte said.
Duterte added that when an office receives a communication, it is being passed to the agency concerned.
"If it’s justice department, it goes to the justice department. If the subject matter here is about transportation, it goes to (Transportation Secretary Arthur) Tugade," he said.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer earlier reported in a span of two weeks in January 2017, Malacanang, the DND, and the Navy discussed the issue hounding the combat management systems (CMS) of the Navy’s frigate program.
It said there was a letter to President Rodrigo Duterte from the Navy explaining why it preferred Tacticos CMS of Thales Nederlands, Inc. over Hanwha Thales (HTC) for the CMS of the frigates.
Lorenzana, putting a marginal note on the letter that it was given to him by Go, then asked former Navy flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado to go over it and prepare a report or rebuttal to be submitted to Duterte.
In a press briefing in La Union on Wednesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the final technical specifications for the procurement of the frigates was approved by then Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.
He said when Duterte assumed office, the only involvement of the Duterte administration was the "ministerial issuance of the notice of award."
"Note that under the government procurement law, a bid once it has been awarded is then given a Notice of Award and all that Secretary of National Defense Lorenzana did on August 18, 2016 was to issue the Notice of Award. What does this mean? Well of a contract has been given/awarded that means it is futile to intervene," he said. Celerina Monte/DMS