Lorenzana cites loss of trust, confidence in Mercado

MANILA -- Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana cited his loss of trust and confidence in the integrity and leadership of Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado as the reason for relieving him of his post as Philippine Navy flag-officer-in-command.

"As the Secretary of Defense, I have lost trust and confidence in his (Mercado's) integrity and leadership," Lorenzana said Wednesday.

This, he said, was brought about by Mercado's alleged fixation on one company to supply the combat management system (CMS) of the frigate project, a contract won by South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries.

The frigates, along with their weapons system and munitions, are covered by a contract worth PHP18 billion that was signed by Lorenzana in October 2016.

"I questioned his intention behind his fixation with one specific company for the combat management system of the frigate acquisition project. Yun kasing frigate natin is (The frigate project), the contract says that the CMS, ang mamimili ng (the one who will choose the) CMS that satisfy our specification is the builder, which is Hyundai. Ngayon si (Vice) Adm. Mercado wants to bring in another company, another system na hindi naman kasama sa kontrata (another system that is not stipulated in the contract)," the defense chief said.

Adding fuel to the controversy was Mercado's refusal to comply with more than two directives issued by Lorenzana regarding the CMS issue.

"I issued directives, two directives, more than two directives, which he disregarded and continued to insist on his (preferred) system. To me, that is tantamount to insubordination. His constant call, he goes around, forum shopping and he talks about rescinding the contract kung hindi matutuloy yung pinapasok nyang kumpanya (if the company he is vouching for is not chosen). Nag-ipon-ipon na yan (Everything accumulated). So I had to recommend his relief and it was approved by the President," Lorenzana added.

Initially, the defense chief said he was not keen on removing Mercado from the Navy but he was forced to do so as the team handling the frigate project expressed alarm over the possible delay that would be caused by the Navy officer's insistence on a particular company to supply the CMS.

"Delayed na tayo actually ng four months (We're already delayed by four months). In fact, they were the ones who really recommended to me na i-relieve si Adm. Mercado (that Mercado be relieved) but I said wag muna, pagusapan (not yet, let's talk first). But he continued to insist and continued to talk, putting, painting the DND in a bad light. Then I had to act," he said.

Source: Philippine News Agency