MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte admitted to “plunder” when he confirmed his role in the controversial Philippine Navy frigates deal in his 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA), former senator Antonio Trillanes IV claimed on Tuesday, July 23.
In his SONA on Monday, July 22, Duterte said it was he who had passed on the complaint of South Korean firm Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) to his then aide Senator Bong Go to fast-track the implementation of the project. He first made the explicit admission in October 2018.
“Duterte’s admission of his and Bong Go’s involvement in the frigate scam is actually an admission to the crime of plunder,” Trillanes said.
“These acts made the contract grossly disadvantageous to our government and left the Philippine Navy with an expensive platform with limited capabilities,” he added. (READ: TIMELINE: PH Navy’s P15.7-B frigates acquisition project)
The Navy’s project to acquire two brand new and modern warships is one of the two big ticket modernization projects funded by the Benigno Aquino III administration, but the winning contractor HHI, wanted to use substandard equipment.
The controversy broke when Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronald Mercado was unceremoniously ousted in December 19, 2017, for alleged “insubordination” over the implemention of the project.
Mercado stood by the decision of the technical working group not to use the combat management system chosen by HHI, as it did not meet the requirements in the contract.
Duterte said in his SONA that HHI supposedly complained about the “delay” in the project.
“As confirmed by our findings during the Senate investigation, Duterte and Go’s interventions in behalf of the South Korean company helped make it profit billions of pesos more by forcing the Philippine Navy to accept several substandard equipment,” Trillanes said on Tuesday.
Go said in January 2018 that the HHI complaint was sent to Malacañang because of the President’s general call for private citizens to send their corruption complaints to the Palace.
Duterte echoed this in his latest SONA.
In a Senate hearing on the issue, Go himself admitted that his office “endorsed” HHI’s complaint. Even with this statement, Go and Duterte had accused Rappler and the Inquirer of publishing “fake news” when the outlets wrote articles about Go’s intervention or special interest in the project. – Rappler.com
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