Philippine senate probes frigate deal; Duterte aide denies meddling

From Reuters - February 18, 2018

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine senators began a public inquiry on Monday into the$300 million purchase of two navy frigates, to determine whether President Rodrigo Dutertes closest aide had interfered in the procurement process.

The inquiry was prompted by media reports that carried a leaked document with an annotation that links the presidents longtime special assistant, Christopher Bong Go, to the process of procuring a combat management system for the frigates from a South Koreas Hyundai Heavy Industries.

The hearing called by the Senate committee on national defense and security is looking to establish whether or not Go had gone beyond his remit by getting involved in a defense contract. He has not been accused of corruption.

Go denies any wrongdoing and read a statement critical of the media, calling it fake news. He said he was simply passing on to the defense department a complaint the Office of the President had received.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper and news site Rappler last month carried leaked copies of a white paper originating from the presidents office and asking the navy to look at a proposal by a South Korean subcontractor, Hanwha Land Systems, to supply the weapons system.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has confirmed he added an annotation to that document telling the navy chief to look at the proposal, and that the document had been given to him by Go.

However, Lorenzana told the inquiry on Monday that he could not be certain who gave it to him.

Hanwha Land Systems in South Korea did not immediately respond to a request for comment and was not represented at the hearing.

Sandra Han, a representative for Hyundai Heavy Industries, attended Mondays hearing but was not asked about whether Go was involved or not. A Hyundai Heavy Industries communications official could not immediately be reached for comment.

Go said his office had merely endorsed what he said was a complaint from Hanwha. He did not specify what the complaint was about.


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