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Unfair to Bong Go

The past week has seen the media cycle spit out pages, and innumerable minutes over TV and radio discussing the alleged intervention of Presidential Management Staff Head and Special Assistant to the President Secretary Christopher “Bong” Go in the selection of a weapons system supplier for the Navy.

Go has categorically denied he has intervened in the procurement process of the Philippine Navy’s controversial selection of the weapons system supplier for the P15.7-billion frigate program.

In a statement, the most trusted aide of President Duterte said that “I have not intervened in the procurement of DND of its computer system for its ships. I have not participated nor intervened, directly or indirectly, in the transactions of DND. Further, I even have no information nor knowledge of the said transaction,”

He pointed out that “Further, I even have no information nor knowledge of the said transaction.”

Let me give my two cents worth on the matter.

First. It is easy to accuse but difficult to prove.

Second. It is the easiest thing in the world to create an unsigned letter allegedly from someone.

Third. The accuser should present a solid evidence. Go happens to be an easy target simply because he is very close to the President.

The thing is, President Duterte’s enemies can’t seem to make anything stick so now they are targeting those who are close to him. Thus, it is poor Secretary’s turn.

Fourth. We spoke to some schoolmates and childhood friends of Go and they attest to the fact that he is a very simple person. He doesn’t have a reputation for flaunting himself or his influence.

A close friend who is now based in Sacramento, California said: “Bong is a very low key, mild mannered individual. In fact, one can say he is almost the opposite of his boss. The yin to Duterte’s yang or vice versa.”

Then again, in this political battle, one uses every weapon he has to defeat the enemy, or at least cast some shadow of darkness if not on him, then on the people he trusts.

However, Go, quiet person that he is, will not take this charge sitting down. Neither will the people who know the kind of person he is.

Let us go back to the beginning.

According to news reports, in a span of two weeks this January, the Palace, the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Navy discussed the combat management systems (CMS) of the Navy’s frigate program.

The Navy said in a letter to Duterte why they preferred Tacticos CMS of Thales Nederlands, Inc. over Hanwha Thales HTC.

Another daily reported that Go sent an unsigned two-page letter to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana where he allegedly assailed the Navy’s preference for Tacticos CMS while it highlighted the advantages of choosing the Naval Shield Integrated Combat Management System (ICMS) of HTC of South Korea for the frigates.

Go denied sending such a letter and emphasized that “clarification on the issues should be addressed to Lorenzana.

Indeed, the DND issued a statement last week clearing Go and Malacanang of “interference” in the selection of a weapons system supplier for the Philippine Navy’s P15.7-billion warship program.

The statement further said that neither Malacañang nor Go gave any “hint or guidance” that would have influenced the outcome of the Navy’s Frigate Acquisition Project (FAP).

It categorically stated that “The secretary of national defense is confirming that no intervention or interference by Secretary Bong Go happened.”

Apparently, DND officials mistakenly assumed that the controversial document, which favored a South Korean weapons system supplier, had come from Go.

Secretary Go naturally denied having ever seen the document or handing it over to Lorenzana.

“I have never seen the controversial document that is alleged to have come from me, much less, handed the same to SND Lorenzana. In fact, I will resign if it can be proven that I intervened,” Go said in a statement.

Go said “My name has been unfairly dragged in this issue. I am not privy to the frigate transaction of the DND.”

Now, here lies the rub. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that the acquisition memorandum for the project was entered into on June 7, 2013. On Jan. 24, 2016, the final technical specifications for the procurement of the frigates was approved by then Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Roque said.

He pointed out that the bids for the project were submitted and opened on March 16, 2016.

This means the bidding and awarding was done during the past administration. Roque pointed further that the only involvement of the Duterte administration in this regard is the ministerial issuance of the notice of award,” he added.

For his part, the President defended Go, but said he would ask him to resign if there was evidence against him. He emphasized though that he did not believe Go intervened in the Navy project, even pointing out that his trusted aide and friend is a “billionaire.”

To those who would take on Bong Go, may we suggest you try harder and do a cleaner job next time .

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