By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
President Duterte’s right-hand man is willing leave his boss if reports on his supposed intervention in a deal of the Department of National Defense (DND) is proven true.
Special Assistant to the President (SAP) Christopher “Bong” Go issued the statement the day after embattled online news agency Rappler reported that he intervened in the acquisition of Combat Management System (CMS) that will be installed in two new warships.
Go on Wednesday said that he does not have any role, directly or indirectly, in the purchase of the brand new warships and vowed to resign if Rappler’s claim against him is proven true.
“My name has been unfairly dragged in this issue. I am not privy to the frigate transaction of the DND,” Go said.
The SAP also said that he has never seen the document acquired by Rappler, adding that it was impossible for him to intervene on a done deal.
“I have never seen the controversial document (white paper) that is alleged to have come from me, much less, handed the same to SND (Secretary of National Defense) [Delfin] Lorenzana,” Go said.
“In fact, I will resign if it can be proven that I intervened. It should be emphasized that the frigate project was already a done deal in 2016 during the time of former Pres. [Noynoy] Aquino,” he added.
According to the Rappler report, Go gave Lorenzana a white paper endorsing a supplier which will provide the CMS to be installed in the P15.5-billion project.
Roque, in a press briefing in San Fernando, La Union Wednesday morning, said that it was impossible for Go to intervene in the said project because it was done during the previous administration.
“Now the acquisition/decision memorandum for these frigates actually was entered into as early June 7, 2013. On June—on January 24, 2016 the final technical specifications for the procurement of the frigates was approved by then Secretary of National Defense Gazmin,” Roque said.
“Now, on June 30, as you all know, the President assumed office and the only involvement of the Duterte administration in this regard is the ministerial issuance of the Notice of Award,” he added.
On Tuesday night, President Duterte himself defended Go and said he would fire Go if the online news agency can prove its allegations with concrete evidence.
“Find a way na magsabi ka ng totoo nag-intervene kami (that will prove that we intervened). I’ll give it to you. And if you can find, I will ask Bong to resign tomorrow. Work on it tonight. Let me know tomorrow and I will fire him if he did intervene, even for one word,” Duterte said.
Roque, in his press briefing, recognized Rappler’s article which showed a marginal note purportedly originating from Lorenzana saying that certain matter were being referred to the DND by Go.
However, the Palace official said that the note presented by Rappler does not prove anything.
“If the evidence that Rappler is referring to, I’m afraid that’s not evidence of anything. Because as a matter of course, kami pong mga (us) members of the Cabinet based in Malacañang, we have no recourse but to send all relevant information that we receive to the relevant line agency of government,” Roque said.
Roque said that the President will only fire Go if Rappler will back up its claims with concrete evidence because Duterte will not act on hearsay.
“Wala pong ebidensiya na iprinisinta ang Rappler gaya ng hiningi ng Presidente, dahil kung meron namang ebidensiya, sisibakin niya si Bong Go (Rappler has not presented evidence just like what the President asked for. Because if they did, he will fire Bong Go),” Roque said.
“Wala pong sinasanto ang Presidente, pero kinakailangan may ebidensiya naman, hindi tsismis. (The President favors no one. But there has to be evidence, not just mere rumors),” he added.
This was not the first name Go was accused of using his influence in the government. In November, 2016, detained Senator Leila de Lima accused Go of ordering the reinstatement of Supt. Marvin Marcos.
Go has dismissed De Lima’s claims as pure hearsay. Marcos was the head of the regional Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) allegedly involved in the killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr.
Duterte also defended Go from De Lima’s accusations, saying he was the one who ordered Go to call Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa about Marcos’s reinstatement.
Meanwhile, Rappler said in a statement that Malacañang has missed the point, saying that their story was not talking about the CMS.
“The accusation is that Go intervened in the selection of the supplier for the Combat Management Systems (CMS) of the two ships. The critical CMS, while part of the contract awarded to HHI, is to be provided by a secondary supplier, the choice of which is usually dictated by the technical specifications of the contract,” Rappler reporter Pia Ranada said in her story.
“The Philippine Navy has not yet approved the CDR, meaning construction of the ships cannot start,” she added.
However, Roque insisted that Rappler was ignorant of the law and claimed that the online news site has peddled fake news anew.
“It is obvious that Rappler is ignorant of the government’s procurement law, Republic Act 9184, as well as the technical specifications of bidding of the two navy frigates of the Philippine Navy,” Roque said in a statement Wednesday evening.
“We have to underscore that the Aquino administration chose Hyundai as supplier of the two frigates. This means it will supply the boat, the navigation, the communications, and the combat management systems (CMS),” he added.
“It was also during the previous administration that Hyundai was declared the responsive bidder and awarded the two frigates, including the CMS,” he continued.
According to the Palace official, this proves that Rappler’s accusations against Go are without factual basis.
“This proves that Rappler’s allegation against SAP Go is without legal and factual basis. Rappler, once again, has peddled fake news,” Roque said.