Representative Gary Alejano’s privilege speech before the House exposing a frigate mess in the Philippine Navy opens a lot of questions and a handful of raised eyebrows.
Nikko Dizon’s article today at the Philippine Daily Inquirer narrates in near chronological order what happened. Based on the Philippine Military’s plan to modernise, the Philippine Navy acquired a frigate. Frigates are naval warships that protect bigger navy ships. They provide anti-submarine warfare (ASW) combatants for amphibious expeditionary forces, underway replenishment groups, and merchant convoys. For poor countries such as the Philippines, it is cheaper to acquire frigates than other ships.
Now, like other warships, frigates must have a sophisticated weapons system to arm it against any other enemy. Sources say, the frigate seller, Hyundai wants its own Hanwa weapons system which is the most unreliable and the poorest weapons system in the world, while most Navy officials want the Tacticos weapons system of Thales.
Thales is known throughout the world as the best supplier of sophisticated weapons systems. The weapons systems they want to supply with the Navy is the most sophisticated in the world used by over 172 warships as of this date.
The issue is simple—why would you choose an old grandpa to fight your wars when you could definitely use a muscled young man?
Answer—probably the old grandpa had a deal with you that if you chose him, he’ll be half the price of the young man and you get that half price for yourself. Or, those who decided for the old man are too cranky and too stupid, they chose to sacrifice lives rather than save lives.
Or, as what many officials really believe–they are traitors. Traitors want to earn monies at the expense of others. Traitors mess up a country’s defense systems so that, come war, the enemy or the aggressor can definitely get what it wants in a jiffy.
The Philippines is a poorly defended state. Compared with our neighbours, the Philippines does not stand a chance against states with highly sophisticated defense systems.
And in an era where the chances of having a naval battle is 8 out of 10, and us, being an archipelagic country, needs those sophisticated defense systems not just to protect our natural assets but also our ships procured with so much public expense, it is too stupid to even ponder the fact that our leadership views naval systems acquisition like how they buy fish in the market.
Ask Jane or any other navy official in the Philippine Navy today and compare Thales with Hanwa–there’s no comparison. It’s like comparing French wine with moonshine.
Sources say Defense secretary Lorenzana made the call, and when former Navy chief Mercado stood his ground, Lorenzana called for his head and accused him of insubordination.
Mercado, who is slated to retire several months from now, is now serving his time in a dinky office, waiting for his formal separation from an institution which he had spent and sacrificed all his adult life.
Being in a freezer is a small price to pay for one’s principles, and anyone worth his salt would not agree with the prospect of eventually being blamed for future deaths a Hanwa weapons system would cause the minute such a system equips our frigate.
Those who decided against the new and sophisticated and preferred an old system based on money concerns are committing the very same mistake and stupidity of the Abaya group of the Department of Transportation and Railways when they purchased MRT trams that were incompatible with existing MRT systems.
Billions of pesos were spent and probably more than half of the price of those trams went to someone else pockets. Look at the enormous damage such a decision is now causing hundreds of thousands of ordinary Filipino commuters—every single day.
Now, tell me if that is not treachery, and a purely business decision and I’ll hang myself.