Ex-Navy chief clears Bong Go anew from Frigate project

MANILA -- Former Philippine Navy (PN) flag-officer-in-command, Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado, cleared Special Assistant to the President Christopher "Bong" Go anew saying the latter never paid any special attention or interest in the Navy's PHP18-billion Frigate Acquisition Project (FAP).

"Ilang beses kami na magkasama ni Secretary Bong Go, ilang beses kaming mag kausap ah. In fact, pag nag-escort ako kay President (Rodrigo Roa Duterte) aboard foreign navy ships gaya nung sa China, Pakistan, Japan, ni isang beses 'di kami nag-usap tungkol sa Navy frigate project," Mercado said in an interview with Radyo Pilipinas on Saturday.

Mercado issued this clarification in wake of reports alleging that Go made an effort to intervene in the project.

"Hindi niya ako tinanong, hindi niya nga kinukumusta yung nangyayari dun. Ganun ho din si President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, hindi niya tinatanong, yun communications ko tungkol sa frigate lahat papunta lang sa GHQ (General Headquarters) and DND (Department of National Defense) So basta on my side kung may magtatanong, wala ho kaming diskusyon ni Secretary Bong Go tungkol dun sa frigate," the former Navy chief added.

Also, the issues concerning the FAP were very technical and complex and it would have taken him nearly a day to explain it, should the official ask him about it, Mercado added.

He also pointed out that all his statements are factual and not aimed at defending or clearing Go and Duterte.

"Basta yung statement ko lang, Sir, eh factual and never na kinausap nila ako tungkol sa frigate. Basta on my side, sa tagal ko naging FOIC, sa tagal naming nagkikita never na tinanong ako or even na kinamusta kung ano ang nangyayari sa frigate, in fact on Navy Day last year dun namin ginanap sa Davao where I invited the President kasama si Secretary Bong Go sa Navy ship namin na bago, BRP Davao Del Sur. Doon din habang andun eh wala naman tinanong sila tungkol sa frigate or even the other Navy project. So as far as I am concerned, people will ask me, they never intervened as far as sa akin on any of the modernization project of the PN, di lang yung frigate, maski nga yung ibang project namin. Di sila nagtatanong," Mercado stressed.

Earlier, the DND cleared Go of any interference in the FAP following reports claiming that the latter intervened with the project.

"The President has already addressed the issue of the alleged 'intervention' of the SAP Christopher Bong Go in the PN Frigate Acquisition Project," DND Spokesperson Arsenio Andolong, quoting Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, in a statement.

"The Secretary of National Defense (Delfin Lorenzana) is confirming that no intervention or interference by Secretary Bong Go happened. The document that the SND alluded to have been given to him by Secretary Bong Go was handed to him at the Palace, so he assumed that it came from Secretary Go, the Special Assistant to the President and Chief of the Presidential Management Staff (PMS). It should be noted that one of the tasks of the PMS includes the official routing and endorsement of documents to government agencies concerned, for appropriate action," he added.

Andolong said the subject document originated from Hanwha, one of the proponents for the combat management system (CMS) who was post-qualified by the Philippine Navy for the FAP.

"The SND forwarded it to then Flag-Officer-In-Command of the Philippine Navy (then Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado) for appropriate action, who, in turn, gave it to then Commodore (now Rear Admiral) Robert Empedrad, the Chairperson of the Frigate Project Management Team at the time. Admiral 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.

The DND spokesperson said there was neither 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 pointed out.

Source: Philippine News Agency