DND throws punch at Pacquiao over corruption claim in frigate deal
MANILA, Philippines—Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday (July 1) threw a punch at Sen. Manny Pacquiao for supposedly listing the Philippine Navy’s frigate project as a corrupt deal among several others in the Duterte administration.
The allegation was made on an illustration, bearing Pacquiao’s image and a list of supposedly corrupt agencies, which spread on social media.
The camp of Pacquiao, however, has disowned it.
But it apparently prompted Lorenzana to issue a statement.
“Sen. Pacquiao, the frigate deal has been thoroughly investigated by the Senate… and they found nothing anomalous. In fact you were in one of the hearings, Senator,” Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana was referring to the two brand new Rizal-class warships built by South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) for P16 billion, which were delivered in 2020 and 2021.
“By the way, Senator, those frigates were delivered last year ahead of schedule and they passed the Navy’s Technical Inspection and Acceptance Committee,” the defense chief said.
“Since you seem to be so sure of your allegations, it would be much appreciated if you could provide details of this alleged corruption,” he added.
But it appeared, however, that Lorenzana was reacting to an allegation that did not come from Pacquiao’s camp.
Asked by Inquirer.net what particular statement of Pacquiao he was responding to, Lorenzana sent a social media card circulating online that bore the face of Pacquiao and a list of supposed corrupt agencies and projects.
Pacquiao’s side denied that the social media card came from the senator or his office.
“Definitely not from our camp. It’s just funny that the executive department is reacting to unverified social media posts,” said Ron Munsayac, PDP-Laban executive director.
Told about the denial by Pacquiao’s camp, Lorenzana refused to believe it. “Really? Tell that to the marines,” he told Inquirer.net.
The frigate acquisition project was fraught with controversies. Then Navy chief Vice Adm. Ronald Joseph Mercado was unceremoniously sacked from his post in 2017 for his supposed inappropriate insistence to acquire a certain brand of combat management systems that met the Navy technical working group’s requirements.
The selection of the CMS, or the brains of the warships, was the main source of contention that led to congressional hearings, because of the Navy’s Link 16 compatibility requirement.
Malacanang was also dragged into the controversy. President Rodrigo Duterte said himself in late 2018 that he acted on a complaint of the South Korean supplier and forwarded it to his trusted aide Bong Go, who was not yet a senator at the time.
But lawmakers already cleared Go of his alleged intervention in the project months before Duterte’s statement.
Both ships are now in service and currently deployed around the archipelago. The Navy’s Link 16 compatibility requirement was not officially met upon the delivery of the ships, but the South Korean Ministry of National Defense issued a guarantee to resolve it. HHI will shoulder the Link 16 integration costs when the Navy acquires the equipment in the future.
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