De Lima says Frigate contract approved by Duterte administration
A detained opposition senator on Friday defended former President Benigno Aquino III against allegations that the controversial P16-billion Frigate Acquisition Program for the Philippine Navy (PN) was approved during his administration.
Sen. Leila De Lima, a former justice secretary, said the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte should stop blaming the Aquino government for whatever anomalies its officials might have committed.
“As I have said before, every time the Duterte government gets involved in dubious deals, the President and his cohorts always divert the issue instead of addressing it head-on — either Duterte and his lackeys will blame the past administration, or they will invent another outrageous lie to change the headlines,” she said.
“The revelations made by (Magdalo Representative Gary) Alejano, a former Navy and Marine officer, in his privilege speech, further affirms that the Aquino government cannot be blamed for any anomaly in the bidding because the awarding of the contract via a notice of award was actually consummated in Aug. 2016, and the signing itself of the contract on Oct. 2016, both during Duterte’s term,” she added.
Reports said that Christopher “Bong” Go, a special assistant to the President, supposedly intervened in the acquisition of two missile-capable frigates for the PN, but he denied his supposed intervention in the selection of the weapons system supplier.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque immediately came to Go’s defense, saying the South Korean bidder for was selected during the administration of then President Aquino.
Roque stressed that the present administration’s role in the procurement was merely ministerial, making it impossible for Go to interfere with the acquisition.
In his recent privilege speech, Alejano belied Roque’s claims and confirmed that Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) of South Korea won the bidding for P15.745 billion during Duterte’s term on Aug. 16, 2016.
He questioned why Malacañang got involved in the issue, which could have caused the unceremonious relief of former Navy Flag Officer in Command (FOIC) Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado.
De Lima said that Alejano’s revelations should be taken seriously as they put to question the crucial role Malacanang played not only in the relief of Mercado but also in the suspicious procurement process.
“Rep. Alejano’s revelations raise more suspicions about this frigate acquisition program which might jeopardize our AFP modernization program and our national security,” she said.
Mercado who was set to retire this March has been unceremoniously relieved from his post last Dec. 18 after his relief was ordered by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
The PN’s contract with HHI stipulates options between Hanwha Thales of South Korea, a subcontractor of Hyundai, and Tacticos Thales of the Netherlands to provide the Combat Management System (CMS) for the warships.
Alejano also revealed that Go demanded an explanation when the Navy, under the leadership of Mercado, insisted on tapping Tacticos Thales to install the combat management system on the two frigates because Hanwha Thales consortium has been dissolved even before the contract with HHI was signed.
De Lima described as “disturbing” Alejano’s revelation that the contract with HHI contains very disadvantageous provisions that give power to the shipbuilder — instead of the Navy as the end-user– to dictate the configuration of the warships.
De Lima and other members of the Senate minority bloc have filed Senate Resolution 584 which calls for an investigation into the Navy’s suspicious multibillion-peso frigate acquisition program.#