Facing the Senate
Today, I devote my column to publish in en toto, with sparse comment or omissions or additions, the press statement of the presidential palace on the appearance before the Senate the other day (Monday, Feb. 19), of President Duterte’s top aide and factotum, Special Assistant to the President (SAP) Christopher “Bong” Go.
Go has become the most powerful man in Duterte’s Cabinet, the go-to man if you want to contact the President himself. Reading the press release one can glean that Go has a handle on many things, including military procurement and a strategic view of the country’s security situation. Here is the press release:
SP Bong Go denied anew accusations that he intervened in the Philippine Navy’s frigate deal or influenced the selection process for the combat management system of the two new warships.
In his opening statement during the hearing, Go categorically dismissed the allegations being hurled against him saying that all of it was part of a plan to destabilize the Duterte administration.
“I speak before this committee primarily for the purpose of clearing my name and ultimately for purpose of getting to the bottom of this frigate controversy, so that the Filipino people may know the whole truth,” Go said.
“In fact, I find it extremely difficult to respond to allegations of which I have no knowledge at all. I did not intervene in the acquisition of the two frigates by DND nor interfere in the selection of its combat management system,” he added.
Go said his name was being dragged into the controversy due to the “malicious” news reports published by two news outlets, Rappler and the Inquirer, in early January. The reports alleged that Go meddled in the P15.7- billion ($310 million) frigate deal.
He chided the two firms calling the news articles as “fake news” and “irresponsible reporting.”
This incident prompted Go to ask the Senate to resume its investigation on proliferation of fake, misleading and false information.
“I would like to sincerely request the Senate to continue with the hearing and the investigation on fake news and to summon Rappler and Inquirer to the next hearing to shed light on what they reported,” Go said adding that he is not the only victim but many others.
Go, a trusted aide of President Rodrigo Duterte, reiterated that the frigate project was already a done deal during the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III.
He said that nothing was changed and nobody interfered or intervened in the contract.
“While it would appear inappropriate to describe it as such, I would say that the contract was a photo-finish as it was concluded just before the end of the Aquino administration,” he said.
He stressed that people or groups with political agenda have dragged him into the issue in an attempt to malign the Duterte administration.
“We are being castigated for endorsing a complaint to the proper agency—a mere notary endorsement which is one of the thousands of complaints we endorsed as part of PRRD’s agenda to open the gates and ears of Malacañang to all complaints against public officials and against the bureaucracy,” he said.
“Where else can the countless, helpless and hopeless Filipino go if we close our doors to them?”
He underscored the need for the frigate project to be implemented at this time “when this country is faced with grave security threats.”
He said the warships are needed by the Philippine Navy to patrol the country’s territorial borders and waters.
“Perhaps, this is really their intention to block the implementation of this important security program and ensure that this administration will fail. But we will not allow them to win because the truth is on our side,” he said.
He expressed confidence that the Senate will be a “vehicle of truth” and will do its part to put an end to the frigate issue.
During the hearing, Go’s innocence was again guaranteed by former Philippine Navy flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado.
“Secretary Bong Go never approached me to inquire about the frigate acquisition project, neither did he make any form of communication to influence my decision making,” Mercado stressed.
Several senators likewise threw their support behind Go believing that the latter was an honest and clean man.
“You know he has characteristics, Mr. Chairman, that are solely lacking in many public officials and public servants—loyalty, humility, and honesty. So I can vouch for his credibility knowing him for that long,” Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri said.
“I think we are wasting Secretary Bong Go’s time sitting here. It is very clear na wala naman siyang kinalaman dito. I am not prejudging it. All I’m saying is I’m just calling a spade, a spade. I’ve done my homework, I’ve read all documents, and all I see is this handwritten message and it’s a formal request of Secretary that says ‘look into it’,” Senator Loren Legarda, for her part, said.
Some of the Cabinet members led by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea also accompanied Go during the hearing to show their support for the embattled secretary.
Prior to his appearance in the hearing, Go addressed a large crowd of supporters gathered outside the Senate.
“Ito naman pong binibintang sa akin sasagutin ko lahat ’yan. Dalawa lang po ang sasabihin ko at nasabi ko na kanina:
“Ma at Pa. Malay ko at pakialam ko diyan,” he said as he thanked his supporters for braving the heat of the sun to show their care and support for him.