Lorenzana explains Mercado’s dismissal to ex-Navy chiefs
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday said that he had met with former chiefs of the Philippine Navy who had expressed disappointment over how Vice Admiral Ronald Mercado was relieved from his post last December, triggered by a disagreement over the Navy’s P15.5-billion frigate project.
In an interview with reporters at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Lorenzana said he had requested the meeting with the former Navy Flag Officers in Command to explain “the root cause why Admiral Mercado was relieved.”
“They expressed their disappointment at the process. They said I violated the long-honored tradition of retiring, [which included a] parade and everything. I said it was because the situation was also so fluid we [could] no longer have a formal turnover. I explained to them why and they understood,” Lorenzana said.
How the “situation” became “fluid” was not clear, but the unceremonious firing of Mercado created a sense of restlessness in the military, especially the Navy.
Gen. Leonardo Guerrero, the Armed Forces chief of staff, informed Mercado of his relief through a text message on the night of Dec. 18. Hours before that, Mercado got wind of his relief and asked Guerrero about it. He was told it was not true.
On ‘floating status’
Lorenzana designated Rear Adm. Robert Empedrad, who was part of the frigate technical working group, as acting Navy chief.
Mercado is now on “floating status,” assigned in Guerrero’s office, Lorenzana said.
Hyundai steel cutting
Lorenzana expressed hope that the procurement of the steel for the Navy’s frigate, to be constructed by Hyundai Heavy Industries, would “happen soon” and that the steel cutting would take place by April.
The controversy in the Navy persisted as China again flexed its muscle in the South China Sea by reportedly deploying some 200 soldiers on Fiery Cross Reef.
Lorenzana said the government should “register our protest” through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
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