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Palace backs Bong Go before Senate hearing on frigate deal.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Sunday stressed that a frigate deal that the Senate will hold a hearing on on Monday was concluded during the administration of Benigno Aquino III.

Roque said this in defense of Christopher "Bong" Go, special assistant to President Rodrigo Dutetre, whom he said had nothing to do with the contract.

Go is accused of meddling in the procurement of two frigates for the Philippine Navy. The contract was awarded to Hyundai Heavy Industries.

The procurement was initiated during the term of President Benigno Aquino III but the contracr was signed during the Duterte administration.

"SAP Bong Go has nothing to do with this because this contract was completed during the time of the past administration," Roque said in Filipino in an interview with dzMM.

"What President Duterte'a administration was just sign the notice of award," he said.

Roque said it was proper for the contract to be signed since no irregularities were found based on Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Act.

He added that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana consulted lawyers and did not see anything wrong with the deal before it was signed.

"[It was signed] because they found no reason not to and not because it was ordered," the presidential spokesman also said.

Although the contract deals with the purchase of frigates, the actual controversy is in the choice of combat management systems, which has been described as the brain of a ship as it integrates its weapons, sensors, communication and navigation systems.

News agencies reported that Go handed Lorenzana a white paper expressing preference for South Korean firm Hanwha Systems to provide the ships' CMS. This despite the Navy's reported preference for the system of Thales Tacticos of Netherlands.

Lorenzana then gave Vice Adm. Ronald Joseph Mercado, since replaced as Navy Flag Officer in Command, the paper with a note asking for a report or rebuttal to the document he thought was from Go.

Defense Secretary Lorenzana later said he assumed that the document came from Go, also the chief of the Presidential Management Staff, since it was given to him at Malacanang.

"It should be noted that the one of the tasks of the PMS includes the official routing and endorsement of documents to government agencies concerned, for appropriate action," the Defense department said.

Mercado has also said that Go had nothing to do with the deal. "He never intervened, much more talk to me, about these things. Not once, that I'm very, very sure," he said.

'No executive session'

Roque said Go is open to a public hearing on the matter and will not seek an executive session because he has nothing to hide. Matters discussed in executive session are confidential.

"Neither SAP Bong Go nor anyone from this administration participated in changing the project that was already waraded to a bidder during the past administration," he said.

He stressed that if there were irregularities in awarding the contract to Hyundai Heavy Industries, "that was awarded during the past administration."

Rep. Gary Alejano (Magdalo party-list) earlier questioned the frigate deal and alleged Go had information or knowledge in the Navy's purchase of combat management system for its ships.

Alejano said that Hyundai Heavy Industries offered the Navy the combat management systems of Naval Shield of Hanwha Thales of South Korea and the Thales Tacticos of Netherlands.

However, the military chose the latter because it had better and advanced system.

Both Go and Duterte denied these allegations. The president said Go is already a "yacht owner" and need not meddle in the frigate acquisition project.
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Publication:Philippines Star (Manila, Philippines)
Date:Feb 18, 2018
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