MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte's right-hand man Christopher "Bong" Go has "nothing to hide" as he faces a Senate hearing on the alleged anomalies surrounding the military's P15.7-billion purchase of warships, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Sunday.
Controversy marred the big-ticket project after it was reported that Go, who serves as the Special Assistant to the President (SAP), intervened in the selection of the combat management systems for the 2 frigates.
"Ang dadalhin po ni SAP Bong Go doon (Senate probe) ay katotohanan lang. Isisiwalat niya ang lahat, wala kaming itinatago," Roque told DZMM.
(The only thing that SAP Bong Go will bring there is the truth. He will divulge everything. We have nothing to hide.)
"Kung mayroong kapalpakan po d'yan, sigurado kami, hindi po iyan responsibilidad ng administrasyon ni Presidente Duterte," he added.
(If there is an anomaly there, we are sure that it is not the responsibility of the administration of President Duterte.)
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 winning bidder, South Korean firm Hyundai Heavy Industries, in August 2016.
Neither Go nor anyone in the current administration could have intervened with the deal because it has already been awarded to a winning bidder, Roque said.
Duterte had also defended his top aide, slamming news website Rappler for its report that cited documents supposedly showing Go's intervention in the CMS selection for the Navy’s 2 missile-capable frigates.
Rappler and Philippine Daily Inquirer had reported that Go supposedly gave Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in January 2017 a white paper endorsing another South Korean company, Hanwha, to provide the CMS.
The white paper supposedly criticized the Navy’s choice of CMS provider, Dutch firm Thales Tacticos, as it praised the capabilities of the Korean firm.
Lorenzana then reportedly gave the white paper to then Navy Chief Ronald Joseph Mercado, with a marginal note saying the document came from Go and that a rebuttal or report must be submitted to the President addressing the concerns raised.
The Rappler report said that a week after Go gave Lorenzana the letter, the presidential aide's office sent a letter to then Frigate Project Technical Working Group chairman Commodore Robert Empedrad, inviting him to Malacañang on January 20, 2017 to discuss the CMS selection.
Go, however, said he did not know about the invitation supposedly signed by his Undersecretary Christopher Lao.
Empedrad, nevertheless, submitted a report to Malacañang on January 23, 2017 vouching for the efficiency of the Thales Tacticos CMS, Rappler reported.
The discussion over the selection of the CMS supposedly dragged and delayed the frigate project, culminating in the firing of then Navy chief Mercado, who preferred the Dutch CMS.
The Senate national defense and security committee will open its investigation into the issue on Monday.