Trillanes claims Duterte admitted to plunder in his SONA, cites intervention in navy frigate deal

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Former senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Tuesday claimed that President Rodrigo Duterte has committed plunder for his intervention in the frigate deal in the Philippine Navy.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN) Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV
(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

The staunch administration critic said Duterte admitted this when he mentioned his and his assistant, Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go's involvement in the purchase of P15.7-billion Navy ships in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 22.

"Duterte's admission of his and Bong Go's involvement in the Frigate scam is actually an admission to the crime of plunder," Trillanes said in a statement.

Trillanes, citing the supposed findings of the Senate inquiry on the matter, said Duterte and Go's interventions in the deal helped the Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) earn billions of pesos "by forcing the Philippine Navy to accept several substandard equipment, such as the combat management system, that were different from the list specified in the original contract."

"And when then Navy Flag Officer In Command, Admiral Mercado insisted that the contract be implemented faithfully, Duterte had him fired unceremoniously. These acts made the contract grossly disadvantageous to our government and left the Philippine Navy with an expensive platform with limited capabilities," he added.

In speaking about his anti-corruption drive during his fourth SONA, Duterte recalled the HHI complaining to Malacañang about the delay in the delivery of the equipment, which prompted him to order Go to give to their lawyers who later referred it to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

Trillanes had called for a legislative inquiry on the controversy, which Duterte said was key to Go's successful senatorial bid in the May 13, 2019 elections.

Republic Act 7080, as amended by RA 7659, states that a crime of plunder is committed when "a public officer who, by himself or in connivance with members of his family, relatives by affinity or consanguinity, business associates, subordinates or other persons, amasses, accumulates or acquires ill-gotten wealth through a combination or series of overt criminal the aggregate amount or total value of at least P50 million."

"Any person who participated with the said public officer in the commission of an offense contributing to the crime of plunder shall likewise be punished for such offense," the law also reads.