Malacañang: Frigate deal controversy part of ‘destabilization’ plot

Pia Ranada
Malacañang: Frigate deal controversy part of ‘destabilization’ plot
Articles about Palace involvement in the frigate project and accusations that the administration is suppressing press freedom are efforts 'to discredit this administration,' says Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque

MANILA, Philippines – After claiming Rappler published its story on Malacañang intervention on the P15.5 billion Philippine Navy frigate deal out of spite, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque now says the controversy is part of a “destabilization” plot against the government.

“I think this is the start of the [destabilization] they mentioned,” said Roque on Monday, January 22.

He was speaking during a radio interview with government-run station Radyo Pilipinas.

Roque had been explaining how he heard from his former “consultant” in Congress and a “public relations practitioner” that there is a “major destab effort” linked to the controversial frigate deal.

He was asked in a press conference the next day whether he really thought the news articles about the frigate deal is part of destabilization efforts.

“I can also say, issues being thrown at the administration simultaneously show that there is what seems to be efforts to discredit this administration,” responded the President’s chief spokesman.

It was Roque who had falsely claimed that only Rappler ran a story on the alleged intervention  by Special Assistant to the President Bong Go into the P15.5-billion Navy frigate project.

On Monday, Roque admitted a similar article was published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer but that he was “not aware” of it when he gave the statement.

He had used the false accusation as premise to claim Rappler published the story out of spite.

‘Intelligent people’

Duterte’s spokesman also said it’s “easy” to dispute the accusations in the articles as Malacañang was merely relaying the concerns of Hyundai Heavy Industries to the Department of National Defense.

When pointed out by Rappler on Monday that Malacañang went beyond relaying the concerns and that it even called a meeting to discuss the selection of a secondary supplier for the ships’ Combat Management System, Roque merely repeated his assertion that the Palace is duty-bound to look into complaints.

Asked if the Malacañang procedure of looking into complaints of private companies about projects already in the implementation stage could be abused by private interests, Roque admitted this was possible.

“Could be, but that’s why we retain very intelligent people in the Palace,” he said.

Duterte’s rabid supporters online have frequently alleged destabilization plots in an effort to discredit the President’s critics. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.