• CA upholds guilty verdict vs Neri on US$ 329-M NBN-ZTE deal

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    THE Court of Appeals (CA) has upheld the verdict against former Social Security System president Romulo Neri guilty of misconduct pertaining to the aborted US$ 329-million national broadband network deal with ZTE Corporation of China.

    This after the CA affirmed with modifications the decision of Office of the Ombudsman finding Neri administratively liable.

    In a 12-page ruling written by Associate Justice Edwin Sorongon, the CA’s Sixth Division said the Ombudsman was right when it rendered its guilty verdict on Neri on the questioned resolution as it denied the petition for review filed by the former SSS president.

    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 months as penalty therefor,” the CA ruling said.

    Concurring in the ruling are Associate Justices Hakim Abdulwahid and Marlene Gonzales-Sison.

    The Ombudsman imposed a suspension for six months on Neri in 2009 for grave misconduct based on how he supposedly attended lunch meetings, among others, with former Commission on Elections Chair Benjamin Abalos, Sr.

    Abalos was said to have brokered the botched NBN-ZTE deal.

    Neri and Abalos were earlier indicted for graft and bribery.

    The Ombudsman said Neri had a hand in the anomalous NBN deal.

    However, for lack of substantial evidence, former Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza, Undersecretary Lorenzo Formoso, Assistant Secretary Elmer Soneja, and ZTE Corp. officials were all cleared.

    Neri elevated the case to the CA when his appeals before the Ombudsman were denied.

    In the ruling, the CA said Neri’s case lacks elements of corruption.

    “Lacking the elements of corruption and the intent on the part of petitioner (Neri) to violate or disregard the law, this court therefore finds petitioner liable for simple misconduct only,” the CA said.

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