Lorenzana, relieved Navy chief deny Bong Go interfered in frigate project
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and former Navy Chief Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado said Special Assistant to the President Sec. Bong Go never intervened in the Frigate Acquisition Project (FAP) for the Philippine Navy.
“The Secretary of National Defense is confirming that no intervention or interference by Sec. Bong Go happened,” Director Arsenio Andolong, Department of National Defense (DND) public affairs chief said in a statement Wednesday.
“There was neither hint nor guidance from the Palace or from Sec. Bong Go to influence the implementation of the project. There is a contract for the FAP which was crafted mainly by the Philippine Navy and it will be implemented strictly to the letter,” he added.
Andolong explained the “document that the Secretary of National Defense (SND) alluded to have been given to him by Sec. Bong Go was handed to him at the Palace, so he assumed that it came from Sec. Go, the Special Assistant to the President and Chief of the Presidential Management Staff (PMS).”
“It should be noted that the one of the tasks of the PMS includes the official routing and endorsement of documents to government agencies concerned, for appropriate action,” he said.
Andolong noted that the “subject document (was) originated from Hanwha, one of the proponents for the Combat Management System (CMS) who were post-qualified by the Philippine Navy for the Frigate Acquisition Project (FAP).”
“The SND forwarded it to then Flag-Officer- In-Command of the Philippine Navy for appropriate action, who, in turn, gave it to then Commodore Robert Empedrad, the chairperson of the Frigate Project Management Team at the time,” he said.
“Adm. Empedrad wrote a reply to the document stating the preferred CMS of the Philippine Navy, subject to the terms and conditions of the contract,” he added.
In a phone patch interview, Mercado insisted Go never interfered in the acquisition of frigates for the Philippine Navy when he was Flag Officer in Command (FOIC) of the Philippine Navy.
“When I was FOIC, he (Go) never once-- with so many times we were together in many foreign navy ships and there was never an instance-- that he even asked me about the frigate, never,” Mercado said.
“Sec. Bong Go never directly mentioned to me anything about the frigate or indirectly from another person, I never heard any other person mention the name of Sec. Bong Go in relation to the frigates,” he added.
Mercado is on floating status after he was relieved from his post on December 2017 because of issues related to the procurement of frigates for the Philippine Navy.
Following the relief of Mercado, Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano called for a congressional probe on acquisition of frigates and cancellation of the project.
However, the Department of National Defense pointed out the anomalies cited by Alejano are not legal grounds to terminate the Frigate Acquisition Project.
“There is a proper process prescribed in Republic Act No. 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act) concerning the termination of a procurement project and there are specific conditions that must be present in order to invoke it, none of which are existing at the moment in this project,” Andolong said in a separate statement.
“We must point out that the anomalies being cited by Magdalo Party list Representative Gary Alejano are mere allegations and innuendos which are not legal grounds for termination of the project,” he added. Robina Asido/DMS