THE Court of Appeals (CA) has affirmed the Ombudsman ruling finding former Social Security System president Romulo Neri guilty of misconduct in connection with the aborted $329-million national broadband network deal with ZTE Corp. of China.
In a 12-page decision penned by Justice Edwin Sorongon and concurred in by Justices Hakim Abdulwahid and Marlene Gonzales-Sison, the CA’s Sixth Division held that the Office of the Ombudsman was right in handing down a guilty verdict on Neri on the questioned resolution as it denied the petition for review filed by the former SSS head.
However, the CA downgraded Neri’s case from misconduct to simple misconduct.
“The assailed Joint Decision of the Office of the Ombudsman dated April 21, 2009 is hereby affirmed with modifications in that . . . Neri is only held guilty of simple misconduct and is directed to pay a fine equivalent to his salary for six (6) months as penalty,” the appellate court said.
The anti-graft office slapped a six-month suspension on Neri in 2009 for grave misconduct. The Ombudsman held that Neri had a hand in the anomalous NBN deal.
Neri and former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos were indicted for graft and bribery.
The charges against former Transportation secretary Leandro Mendoza, undersecretary Lorenzo Formoso, assistant secretary Elmer Soneja, and ZTE Corp. officials were dropped for lack of evidence.
In its ruling, the CA held that Neri’s case lacks elements of corruption.