The Senate will start its inquiry into the P15bn frigate deal entered into by the Philippine Navy amid allegations that a close aide of President Rodrigo Duterte intervened in the negotiations and to determine whether the acquisition of the frigates “promotes the goals of the modernisation programme and complies with pertinent laws.”
The committee on national defence and security, led by Sen. Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, and the congressional oversight committee on the Armed Forces Modernization Act, were directed under Senate Resolution 584 to spearhead the investigation today.
Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana; Rear Admiral Robert Empedrad, Philippine Navy’s new Flag Officer-in-Command (FOIC); former FOIC Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado; and Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go are among those expected to be present at the hearing.
Go reportedly intervened in the negotiations for the acquisition of the two missile-capable frigates for the Navy and in the selection of the weapons system supplier.
Go denied the allegations as top defence and military officials and Malacanang expressed confidence that he could prove his innocence during the hearing.
In a separate interview in Baguio City yesterday, Empedrad also said that he was expecting the “truth” to come out.
The “truth” for Empedrad is “that there is no anomaly in the frigate.” “Tomorrow (Monday), the (hearing) will be about that item. For me, there was no anomaly, there was no problem and there was no intervention,” Empedrad told reporters on the sidelines of the Philippine Military Academy’s (PMA) Alumni Homecoming.
Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado was relieved in 2017 from his post as Navy chief, which stemmed from alleged “insubordination” after he insisted that Dutch company Thales Tacticos supply the combat management system (CMS) for the frigates.
A source who requested anonymity said Mercado and Empedrad had a rift over the frigate deal.
Empedrad said, however, that he and Mercado were “good.”
“Good, we are good. We are okay and we are (in) very good terms,” he said.
After the alumni parade at the PMA, Empedrad was asked if he saw Mercado, he said: “I haven’t seen him yet now but I did see him during the parade.”
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