Sacked Navy official speaks up: 'I am still hurting'

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(File photo) Vice-Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 17) — For the first time since he was unceremoniously sacked as the Philippine Navy's Flag-Officer-In-Command (FOIC) last December 19, Vice-Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado is finally breaking his silence.

But he is doing this only to clear the name of a Palace official who is being dragged into a controversial Navy project, one that cost Mercado his post.

Speaking to defense reporters in Camp Aguinaldo by phone on Wednesday afternoon, Mercado admitted he was still "hurting" over his relief.

"Siyempre nasaktan ako [Of course I'm hurt]", Mercado said.

"You know I'm a military officer. I obey orders. I know, the Secretary of National Defense (Delfin Lorenzana)... he has some justification for doing it, so i respect it, ganun talaga [that's how it goes]," he added.

Mercado is speaking out for the first time to defend Special Assistant to the President Christopher "Bong" Go, whom he described as "very kind to me."

RELATED: Officials deny Bong Go’s involvement in frigate acquisition project

He is in the center of the controversy for standing firm on his decision to oppose a deal to buy two frigates from a South Korean firm, subsequently delaying the acquisition of the warships as part of the Philippine Navy's long-term modernization program.

RELATED: DND Secretary: I recommended Navy chief 's relief over questionable frigate deal

Lorenzana admitted meeting "to explain" with former FOICs, who "expressed disappointment" why Mercado was hastily booted out of his post.

When asked whether Mercado, who is due to retire this March, has expressed a desire to resign from the service, Lorenzana said it was not the impression he got from the former Philippine Navy leader.

Mercado confirmed he has not opted to seek early retirement, hinting he is hoping an investigation could be conducted on the controversial project before he bows out of the service.

"Those are options available to me but not yet. I have been thinking about it because I'm more concerned with preparing for possible investigation if there is one," Mercado said.

Despite what could be the biggest setback in his long military career, Mercado still found humor in his situation.

"I'm still a full blooded Navy officer kasi floating ako [because I am floating]," Mercado said in jest.

"I'm fine right now. I'm preparing what I need if there is any investigation," he added.

He is currently reporting to the office of AFP Chief, General Rey Leonardo Guerrero, until his retirement.