Roque on frigate deal: Probe Aquino men
The investigation of the Navy’s P16-billion frigate acquisition project should now focus on the officials of the previous administration who had approved the contract with South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said on Saturday.
Roque made the statement after Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano continued to press Congress to look into the project because HHI had been banned from participating in state-led bids in South Korea due to alleged corruption.
“Because of what Congressman Alejano is saying, maybe it is time to investigate Congressman Alejano’s allies to know what they did with regard to this frigate deal,” Roque said in a press briefing in Ilocos Norte.
He said the bidding for the warships was conducted and completed during the term of former President Benigno Aquino III.
“I will repeat, it was a done deal when the [Duterte] government entered the picture,” he said.
In a statement on Saturday, Alejano said Roque should familiarize himself with the frigate project before exonerating the present government.
He said the workshop to finalize the contract on Sept. 26-30, 2016 and the preparation and signing of the contract on Oct. 24, 2016 as well as the implementation of the project were “well within the Duterte administration.”
Alejano welcomed any investigation “regardless of who will be implicated” in both the Aquino and Duterte administrations.
He also said authorities should allow concerned military officers to freely speak up and not to intimidate them.
“At the end of the day, it is the welfare of our (Armed Forces of the Philippines) I am after and not that of the contractors and brokers profiting from the different projects under the AFP modernization program,” Alejano said.
The controversy has been largely centered on the combat management system (CMS) that the warships would use.
Vice Adm. Ronald Joseph Mercado, then Navy chief, had written Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana about the “grossly disadvantageous” provisions allegedly inserted by HHI to ensure it would have the right to choose the CMS provider.
The Navy had preferred the Tacticos CMS made by Thales Nederland, citing the disadvantages of the cheaper naval shield integrated CMS of the South Korean manufacturer Hanwha for the two frigates ordered by the Navy from HHI.
The frigate project controversy followed reports that the President’s close aide, Christopher “Bong” Go, had taken an interest in the selection of the supplier for the frigates’ CMS.
Go had denied intervening in the project. Mr. Duterte also defended his aide, saying he was already a “billionaire.”
The allegation of Palace interest in the project arose after Lorenzana was given a document supporting HHI.
Lorenzana gave the document to Mercado, telling him it came from Go.
Go’s office had also sent a letter asking then Commodore Robert Empedrad, who headed the frigate project’s technical working group, to attend a meeting in Malacañang to discuss the selection of the CMS.
Lorenzana later said he had wrongly assumed that the document came from Go. He said Go did not intervene in the project.
Empedrad was appointed Navy chief after Mr. Duterte sacked Mercado.
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