MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte's long-time aide, Christopher "Bong" Go, appeared before a Senate investigation on Monday on the military's purchase of Navy ships from South Korea.
Go, who serves as Special Assistant to the President, allegedly intervened in the selection of combat management systems that act as the brains of the 2 frigates. He has denied the charge.
"Ang dadalhin po ni SAP Bong Go doon ay katotohanan lang. Isisiwalat niya ang lahat, wala kaming itinatago," Presidential Spokesman Harry 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.)
Roque said Go had nothing to do with the frigate acquisition project, which started during the time of former President Benigno Aquino III.
The purchase of the 2 missile-capable ships had continued under the Duterte administration, which signed the notice of award to winning bidder, South Korean firm Hyundai Heavy Industries, in August 2016.
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 reportedly gave the white paper to then Navy Chief, Ronald Joseph Mercado, with a 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 to discuss the CMS selection.
Go, however, said he did not know about the invitation supposedly signed by his Undersecretary Christopher Lao.
Empedrad submitted a report to Malacañang on January 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 system.
Watch a live streaming of the Senate probe here.