Bong Go didn’t interfere in frigate project: DND sec

MANILA — Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go did not, in any way, interfere with the Philippine Navy’s (PN) PHP18-billion Frigate Acquisition Project (FAP), Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Wednesday.

“The President (Rodrigo Duterte) has already addressed the issue of the alleged “intervention” of SAP Bong Go and the SND (Secretary of National Defense) is confirming that no intervention or interference by Sec. Bong Go happened.,” Lorenzana said in a statement.

“The document that the 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. Bong Go. The document originated from Hanwha, one of the CMS proponents for the Frigate project,” he added.

The defense chief also noted that he forwarded the document to the flag officer in command (FOIC) for clarification, who in turn gave it to PN chief, Rear Admiral Robert Empedrad.

Empedrad was the chief of the Frigate Project Management Team at the time.

“Admiral Empedrad wrote a reply to the document stating the preferred CMS of the Phil Navy. There was no hint or guidance from the Palace or from Sec Bong Go to influence the conduct or direction of the project. There is a contract for the Frigate which was crafted mainly with the help of the Phil Navy, it will be implemented strictly as it is,” Lorenzana added.

Existing FAP contract

DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong, meanwhile, echoed Lorenzana’s remarks, noting that there was neither a hint nor guidance from the Palace or from 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,” Andolong said.

The FAP is one of the key pieces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program at it seeks to provide the country with the capability to deal with air, surface and sub-surface threats.

It will be armed with a variety of missiles and guns capable of defeating such threats.

As this developed, Andolong said there is no good reason to cancel the FAP despite suggestions coming from some members of Congress.

Earlier, Magdalo partylist Rep. Gary Alejano claimed that the FAP project is bombarded with anomalies and that its design was altered from the original.

This includes the alleged preference for the Hanwha CMS, the lawmaker said.

“There is a proper process prescribed in RA 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 added.

The DND spokesperson added that the anomalies claimed by Alejano are mere allegations and innuendos which hardly constitute grounds for termination of the project.

Unfairly dragged

Go, for his part, said his name was unfairly dragged in this issue.

“I am not privy to the frigate transaction of the DND.  I have never seen the controversial document (white paper) that is alleged to have come from me, much less, handed the same to SND Lorenzana.  In fact, I will resign if it can be proven that I intervened,” Go said in a statement.

“It should be emphasized that the Frigate project was already a done deal in 2016 during the time of former President (Benigno) Aquino,” he added.