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May gustong manalo? Bong Go meddles in P15.5B project to buy warships

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President Rodrigo Duterte’s long-time aide intervened in the Philippine Navy’s P15.5-billion project to acquire two new warships, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported Tuesday (January 16).

Based on the documents Inquirer obtained, Go wrote Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to explain why the Naval Shield Integrated Combat Management System (ICMS) of Hanwha Thales (HTC) should be chosen for the warships instead of the Tacticos CMS of Thales Nederlands Inc.

In a post-it note dated January 12, 2017, Lorenzana told Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado, then the Navy flag officer-in-command to go over Go’s letter.

“Ronald, This was given to me by Bong Go. Go over it and prepare a report/rebuttal to be submitted to the Pres,” Lorenzana wrote.

The post-it note carried Lorenzana’s signature.

Before Mercado came up with a reply, Go’s office sent a letter to Commodore Robert Empedrad dated January 18, 2017, asking him to attend a meeting at the New Executive Building of Malacañang.

Empedrad was then the chairman of the technical working group on the Navy frigate project.

“We would like to specifically discuss with you the issue on CMS selection,” said the letter from Go’s office, written on the letterhead of the Office of the President. It was signed by Lloyd Christopher Lao, an undersecretary in Go’s office.

The CMS is important to warships as it integrates real-time data from all of the ships sensors and nearby entities.

Despite Go’s letter, Mercado stood by Tacticos CMS as the most viable choice for the frigates because it had been recommended by thee technical working group created for the project.

His firm stand on the contractor was believed to have cost him his position. He was relieved in December 2017.

Empedrad, the officer summoned to Malacañang, was named as the Navy officer-in-charge.