Trillanes believes there’s more to uncover in controversial purchase of 2 Navy frigates

Published February 19, 2018, 7:12 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV believes there is more to uncover in the controversial purchase of the two Navy frigates as the Senate has just started its probe on the issue.

Trillanes said he looks forward to the continuation of the Senate committee on national defense and security’s investigation on the P15.7-billion procurement of two Philippine Navy warships as he still raised questions over the preference to Hanwha Systems to provide the combat management systems (CMS) for the ships.

The South Korean firm was chosen by its Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), the winning supplier of the Navy frigates, to provide the weapon systems for the ships. Hanwha is a subcontractor of the HHI.

Senator Antonio "Sonny" Fuentes Trillanes IV gestires during the AFP Modernization Program hearing in Pasay, February 19,2018.(Czar Dancel)
Senator Antonio ‘Sonny’ Trillanes IV during the AFP Modernization Program hearing in Pasay, February 19,2018. (Czar Dancel/Manila Bulletin)

The opposition senator pointed out that the Philippine Navy had initially chosen Dutch firm Thales Tacticos as the subcontractor for the CMS.

Trillanes, in the Senate panel’s hearing today, showed documents signed by Navy officials stating their position, adding that it was not only former Philippine Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado who supposedly insisted on choosing Thales over Hanwha.

Trillanes also presented the so-called white paper which dragged Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go for allegedly meddling in the deal.

The former soldier, however, failed to prove Go’s involvement in the acquisition of the warships as the latter denied intervening in the matter.

“Let the people decide, ang pinakita lang naman natin itong CMS na gusto ng Navy hindi ito nasunod. It so happened ang nasunod ay galing dun sa sulat na ifinorward ni Sec. Bong Go kay SND (Secretary of National Defense) so yun na yun. Malalaman na lang natin yung katotohanan kapag may nagkalakas ng loob na magsabi ng totoo,” he told reporters in the interview.

“Kasi masyadong ano yung coincidence na bakit hindi sinusunod yung end user. Nakita nyo ipinakita ko yung letter exchanges, hindi ito si Mercado ang nag-iinsist kundi buong Navy,” he added.

Trillanes earlier claimed that Go, if he indeed had intervened in the frigate deal, may have acted upon President Duterte’s order.

Asked if he was able to prove Duterte’s hand over the project, Trillanes said, “Darating tayo dyan, may next hearing pa naman kaya abangan ang susunod na kabanata.”

Go and Trillanes shared a light moment after the hearing as they posed for photos along with Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri.

Trillanes said he and Go also briefly talked about the purchase of the frigates.

“Ang sinasabi ko bakit hindi na lang ibigay ang gusto ng Navy. Yun na nga kung kinakailangan dagdagan. Sabi niya pararatingin daw niya sa kinauukulan. Sabi ko pag ganun, di mawawala yung mga apprehensions and concerns ng Navy dito sa Hanwha,” he narrated.

Meanwhile, Trillanes said he expected that Cabinet members will support Go in attending the Senate hearing.

“Totally expected. Nagtataka lang ako if this was only Bong Go, bakit full force? Bakit may mga hakot pa, ano lang, medyo palaisipan lang,” he noted.

Majority of President Duterte’s Cabinet members graced the hearing today to show support for Go. Hundreds of pro-administration rallyists, clad in green and red, also trooped at the Senate gates.