PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday, January 16, dressed down online news site Rappler over its report accusing Special Assistant President Christopher “Bong” Go of intervening in the procurement of the Philippine Navy’s brand new P15-billion frigates.

Duterte rebuked Rappler reporter Pia Ranada during a chance interview on the sidelines of an event in Pasay City for the news firm’s report titled “Bong Go intervenes in P15.5-B project to acquire PH warships” and published Tuesday.

During the interview, the President presented a copy of Rappler’s article, which was written by its journalist, Carmela Fonbuena, with Ranada’s contribution.

According to the Rappler report, it obtained documents showing that in January 2017, Go endorsed to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana a supplier for the Combat Management System that will be installed in the warships.

Duterte defended Go, saying that his special aide has nothing to do with the controversial project.

He also told Ranada that her “inquisitive mind goes beyond its normal proportion.”

“Look at your daily dose of your medicine. ‘Bong Go intervenes in the 15 billion (worth of project)?’ Who gives you an idea he can intervene? Where is his signature? Where is his statement? And where is your even, a point of reference?” the President asked.

“I won’t brag but frankly, he (Go) is a billionaire. Go to Davao and ask who he is. This kind (of article), it seems to appear that he’s intervening because of what? Money? The things that you are telling here never happened,” he said.

Prior to Duterte’s remark, Go had denied his supposed intervention in the slection of the weapons system supplier.

Go, in a statement, stressed that he had “no information nor knowledge of the said transaction.”

“I have not intervened in the procurement of the DND (Department of National Defense) of its computer system for its ships. I have not participated, nor intervened, directly or indirectly, in the transactions of DND,” Duterte’s special assistant said.

Duterte hit Rappler’s report against Go, which he said was not the work of a “sensible person.”

The President also challenged Rappler to submit evidence that would prove Go’s interference, in exchange for his assistant’s resignation.

“Find a way to show the truth about our supposed intervention. And if you can find (evidence), I will ask Bong to resign tomorrow. Work on it tonight. Let me know tomorrow and I will fire him, and if he did intervene, even for one word,” he said.

“Look at your articles. Are you happy to do that against your fellow Filipinos daily just because you have the power of what? Press freedom? The issue here is not press freedom,” Duterte added.

The incident happened a day after the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) released its January 11 decision to revoke Rappler and its parent Rappler Holdings Corporation's certificate of incorporation, effectively ordered the news website's closure.

The SEC said Rappler violated the foreign equity restriction in mass media as mandated by the 1987 Constitution when Rappler Holdings issued in 2015 Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) to foreign company Omidyar Network Fund.

These PDRs contained a provision requiring Rappler to seek Omidyar's approval on any change in its corporate by-laws and articles of incorporation, which the SEC interpreted as Rappler having ceded some form of control to Omidyar in violation of the Constitution.

Duterte, who has been critical of Rappler and has publicly accused Rappler of being foreign-owned, has denied influencing the SEC decision. (SunStar Philippines)