MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said he personally acted on the complaint of South Korean firm Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) regarding the Philippine Navy’s multibillion-peso frigate system deal.
"Anybody who is complaining about graft and corruption, I will give you an audience any time," he said in his speech at the 44th Philippine Business Conference and Expo in Manila.
"And that's what happened, 'yung frigate ng Armed Forces. There was this Korean who represented this - 'yung nagpabili sir - and he was complaining why there has yet no order to deliver na nanalo sila," he said.
Duterte said he gave the letter to his top aide Bong Go and asked him to "give it to legal."
Lawyers then referred the letter to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
"So legal referred it to Lorenzana. So ang nagsulat si Lorenzana," the president said.
Go has been accused of intervening in the selection of the combat management system (CMS) for the two HHI-built frigates of the Philippine Navy.
Go, Lorenzana, and Malacañang have all denied there was an anomaly in the selection of the CMS.
The frigate acquisition project started during the time of former President Benigno Aquino III and continued under the Duterte administration, which signed the notice of award to HHI on August 18, 2016.
Controversy marred the big-ticket project after it was reported that Go, who serves as the former 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.
In February 2018, Duterte already said the government merely addressed the complaint of HHI.
The allegation that Go intervened in the selection of the CMS started after it was reported that he forwarded a white paper from HHI to the Department of National Defense.
Senatorial aspirant Gary Alejano on Friday slammed Duterte's revelation, saying the president has personal knowledge on the matter.
"Ibang-iba ito sa tono ng Pangulo at ni Secretary Bong Go noong imbestigasyon sa Senado. They were trying to make it appear that the President has no knowledge on the matter. This information was also not disclosed during the Senate hearing considering its implications on the whole context," he said in a statement.
Alejano added, "Secretary Go’s defense that he was merely acting on a simple complaint out of the thousands that they receive would already be difficult to believe in when the President himself actually dipped his hands on it."
Alejano said he will continue to seek out the truth on the issue.