Lorenzana blames sacked Navy chief for frigate deal controversy

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 07 2018 10:21 PM

MANILA- Defense Chief Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday blamed sacked Philippine Navy chief Ronald Joseph Mercado for the controversy hounding the purchase of two new ships under the military modernization program.

During a legislative inquiry into the matter, Lorenzana said Mercado was removed from his post due to his supposed interference in contracts and for usurpation of power.

He said the Navy frigate acquisition project should have gone smoothly if not for Mercado.

"I have lost the trust and confidence in his (Mercado) ability to lead the Philippine Navy. How can you continue to have confidence and trust on a leader who interferes in a legally binding contract, usurp your authority and defy your orders?" Lorenzana told members of the House of Representatives Committee on National Defense.

"There is no issue in the frigate acquisition project, and it should have moved smoothly...The frigate project was conducted above board and I will ensure that it will continue that way until the 2 frigates are delivered to the Philippine Navy in accordance with the contract agreement," he added.

Mercado was relieved from his post in December 2017 following these allegations.

The former Navy chief, however, denied any wrongdoing in relation to the frigate acquisition project.

"I have never disobeyed any lawful order of my superior. It was my pure and honest intention to strictly implement the provisions of the Frigate Contract According to its literal and technical meaning consistent with the COA (Commission on Audit) rules and regulations," he said in his opening statement.

The frigate acquisition project was initiated by the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III. 

The Duterte administration signed the notice of award to winning bidder, South Korean firm Hyundai Heavy Industries, in August 2016.