MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte seems fine letting his top aide Christopher “Bong” Go attend a Senate probe into the frigate acquisition project of the Philippine Navy, where the latter was accused of intervention.
Duterte said Go should grab the “golden opportunity” to face the Senate probe, even joking that this could possibly lead to Go’s election to the chamber.
“Sinabi sa kaniya, ‘you’ll be called to testify’. Sabi ko, ‘That is your golden opportunity para ma-senador ka.’ Gusto atang tumakbong senador, sige,” Duterte said in his speech during the 116th anniversary celebration of the Bureau of Customs on Tuesday.
Duterte said he believes Go would not involve himself in any illegal money-making activity, noting that his aide is a rich man.
“Itong si Bong, apo ito sa biggest printing press outside of Manila. Alam ‘yan ng mga taga-Davao, ‘yung Tesoro, likod ng UN (United Nations), kanila ‘yan. Hindi na kailangang magnakaw ng frigate diyan, may yate na ‘yan eh,” Duterte said.
The President also stressed anew that his office does not intervene in government procurement.
“Ako sinasabi ko sa inyo, whether you like to believe it or not, papers about transactions in government do not reach my desk. I only sign appointments and security matters and keeps me busy all the time,” he said.
Go has been accused of intervening in the selection of the combat management system (CMS) for two warships procured by the Philippine Navy from South Korean firm Hyundai Heavy Industries.
Go, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and Malacañang have all denied there was an anomaly in the selection of the CMS.
The President’s most trusted aide had already said he would attend the probe, insisting he has nothing to hide.
The frigate acquisition project was started during the time of former President Benigno Aquino III and continued under the Duterte administration, which signed the notice of award to Hyundai Heavy Industries.
Controversy, however, marred the big-ticket project after it was reported that Go, who serves as the Special Assistant to the President, allegedly intervened in the selection of the CMS for the two frigates.
Go allegedly favored another South Korean firm, Hanwha Systems, to provide the CMS for the warships. He has denied the allegation.
The brand new frigates are expected to become the Navy’s flagships, replacing the secondhand former US Coast Guard cutter BRP Gregorio del Pilar.