Bong Go reiterates innocence in Navy frigate deal

SPECIAL Assistant to the President Christopher "Bong" Go reiterated his innocence Monday, February 19, as he faced the Senate committee investigating the controversial P15.7-billion frigate acquisition project of the Philippine Navy.

"Frankly speaking, it's very difficult to answer allegations that I am not privy to. I did not intervene in the acquisition of the two frigates by DND (Department of National Defense) nor (did I) interfere in the selection of its Combat Management System," Go told the Senate national defense and security panel.

"I am innocent and my name was just dragged into this issue to malign the President's administration," he added.

Go, closest aide of President Rodrigo Duterte, said he was a victim of "irresponsible reporting."

Controversy erupted after reports surfaced about a marginal note made by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Go's preference for South Korean Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) as supplier of the Combat Management Systems (CMS) for the Philippine Navy's two frigates.

Go branded the reports of Philippine Daily Inquirer and Rappler as "fake news."

He explained to the Senate panel that the note sent to Lorenzana was a "mere routinary endorsement, which is one of the thousands of complaints we endorsed."

"(The frigate deal) has become an issue when Rappler and Inquirer released a fake news when they said I intervened. All of these started because of irresponsible reporting," he said.

"We are being castigated for endorsing a complaint to the proper agency, a mere routinary endorsement which is one of the thousands of complaints we endorsed as part of (Duterte's) agenda to open the gates and ears of MalacaƱang to all complaints against public officials and against the bureaucracy," Go added.

The report against Go coincided with the ruling of South Korea's Supreme Court on December 22,2017 to impose a two-year ban on HHI's participation in state-led tenders because of bribery in 2013.

Go said the issue hurdled against him was simply meant to thwart the implementation of the frigate project.

"This controversy is seriously derailing the implementation of this security measure. Perhaps, this is really their intention -- to block the implemenration of this important security program and ensure that this adminsitration will fail," he said.

"This frigate project needs to be implemented now when this country is faced with grave security threats," he stressed.

Former Philippine Navy commander Vice Admiral Ronal Joseph Mercado, who was also present at the Senate hearing, insisted that Go did not meddle in the procurement of CMS for the two warships.

Mercado stressed that Go "never" communicated with him regarding the Philippine Navy's project.

"As regards the January 2017 letter that was given to me by Secretary Lorenzana, Secretary Bong Go never approached me to inquire about the frigate acquisition project neither did he make any form of communication to influence my decision making as the [former] end user and flag-officer-command of the Philippine Navy," Mercado said.

The Senate probe into the frigate project is still ongoing, as of Monday noon. (SunStar Philippines)
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