Frigate deal controversy a 'destab plot?' Palace is 'desperate' – Alejano

MANILA, Philippines – A lawmaker and former Navy officer dismissed as “desperate” the Palace’s allegations that the controversy surrounding a P15.5 billion Philippine Navy frigate deal is part of a supposed “destabilization” plot against the government.

In a statement Tuesday evening, January 23, Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano said Palace Spokesman Harry Roque’s claim is “baseless.”

“‘Destabilization plot’ has been overused by this administration to shield it from issues that should have been answered point by point instead,” said Alejano, a former Navy officer and graduate of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).

Alejano said the destabilization claim only showed the Palace’s “struggle to answer the accusations and clear Bong Go of his involvement in the anomalies regarding the frigate project.”

Last week, both the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Rappler came out with reports detailing the intervention of President Rodrigo Duterte’s long-time aide, Special Assistant to the President Bong Go, in the choosing of the Combat Management System (CMS) supplier for the multi-billion peso project.

While the Palace’s allegations were “baseless,” said Alejano, those against Go were backed by documents, including official communications.

Both Rappler and the Inquirer obtained copies of a white paper endorsing Hanwha Thales. On a Post-it note attached to the document, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenza told then Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronald Mercado to prepare a rebuttal to the paper, which he said came from Go.

A former undersecretary at the office of Special Assistant to the President Bong Go has since confirmed that he called a meeting with the Navy to discuss the selection of the CMS supplier. 

Mercado was sacked unceremoniously from his post in December 2017. (READ: Magdalo's Alejano wants probe into Navy chief's sacking)

Go has denied intervening while Lorenzana said that the paper came from Malacañang and not Go in particular. The defense chief then said he could not remember who the paper actually came from.

Roque’s destabilization allegation claim after he falsely said that only Rappler ran a story on Go’s intervention. He also said that the story was done out of spite, in reaction to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)’s decision to revoke the company’s license.

Rebutting Palace claims 

In his statement, Alejano also rebutted Malacañang’s claim that it was merely relaying the concerns of Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), which won the bid to build the two ships, to the defense department.

“First, it was Hanhwa that lobbied for their combat management system (CMS) and not HHI. Second, what does the office of Bong Go have to do with Navy frigates that Hanhwa would approach him? What does Bong Go have to do with the frigate project for him to demand a meeting with the Navy’s Project Management Team (PMT)?” added the lawmaker.

Alejano had earlier told media that he would reveal other supposed anomalies in the military’s modernization projects, pending the collation of evidence.

The lawmaker belongs to an independent opposition bloc in the House.

His fellow Magdalo legislator, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, is among Duterte’s most vocal critics.

Alejano too is a fierce critic of Duterte. He filed an impeachment case against the president before the House, but this was dismissed right away. –