Bong Go faces Senate on frigate deal

Pia Ranada

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Bong Go faces Senate on frigate deal
With a large gathering of supporters outside the Senate, President Rodrigo Duterte's closest aide arrives for the hearing on the P16-billion Navy warships deal

MANILA, Philippines – The official closest to President Rodrigo Duterte, Special Assistant to the President Bong Go, faces the Senate for the first time to speak on issues hounding the P16-billion Philippine Navy frigate project.

Go arrived at the Senate at around 8:40 am on Monday, February 19, a rare public appearance without the President.

Other Cabinet officials present at the hearing were Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, among others.

Supposed supporters of Go gathered outside the Senate carrying signs saying “#SupportSecBongGo” and “We Support Sec Bong Go.” Their posters proclaimed that some of them are members of various PDP-Laban chapters all over Luzon.

The Office of Senator Gregorio Honasan said Go was invited to attend only after he had declared publicly that he would participate in the hearing.

“Bong Go volunteered to appear and present himself. The committee laterally decided to invite him,” said a staff from his office.

Go is known as Duterte’s closest aide, having served as his executive assistant since 1998 when Duterte was still a congressman.

Even among Duterte’s closest friends, Go is considered the “gateway” to the President and is almost always by his side.

His instructions are often interpreted as being those of Duterte himself.

Duterte had come to Go’s defense when reports by the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Rappler showed his name had come up in documents related to the big-ticket Navy frigates deal.

Go has maintained that he never intervened in the deal, even as a note by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana stated that a white paper endorsing a supplier of the frigates’ Combat Management System (CMS) came from him. Go’s former undersecretary, Lloyd Christopher Lao, had also arranged a meeting with Navy officials about the project in Malacañang.

Lorenzana had said he had indeed written the note but that the white paper did not come from Go. He said he could not remember which official had handed him the document in Malacañang.

Duterte, in recent speeches after the reports on Go’s alleged intervention, has repeatedly insisted to the public that such government contracts never reach his office.

Before he received any invitation to attend the Senate hearing, Go declared he would attend for transparency. Duterte said he does not want Go participate in an executive session, urging his aide to speak in the open. –

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is Rappler’s Community Lead, in charge of linking our journalism with communities for impact.