MANILA, May 12 (Mabuhay) – The Court of Appeals has upheld the guilty verdict on former Socio-Economic Planning secretary Romulo Neri for misconduct in connection with the botched $329-million ZTE-NBN deal, one of the biggest controversies that rocked the Arroyo administration.
Neri was the one who recommended the approval of the national broadband network deal with Chinese firm ZTE Corp. in 2007 despite the bribery allegations that hounded the project.
In its decision, the CA denied Neri’s motion for reconsideration, which sought to overturn an earlier CA decision that affirmed with modification an Office of the Ombudsman resolution finding him guilty of grave misconduct.
In that original ruling, the CA modified the April 21, 2009 Ombudsman decision by downgrading the administrative charge against Neri from grave to simple misconduct. The appellate court said there was no substantial evidence showing that Neri’s recommendation was “tainted with corruption.”
In denying Neri’s reconsideration bid, the CA said: “From the foregoing, it is apparent that the arguments raised by the parties in their respective motions for reconsideration had been exhaustively considered and duly adjudicated by this court in the formulation of the assailed decision.”
The CA said Neri failed to raise “any fresh proposition or presented new evidence which would warrant a modification or reversal thereof. Thus, to discuss again its ratio decidendi would be to belabor the issues without end.”
While already final at the CA level, Neri can still elevate the case to the Supreme Court.
In its original ruling, the CA said Neri was only guilty of simple misconduct and was directed to pay a fine equivalent to his salary for six months.
In its April 2009 ruling, the Ombudsman had convicted Neri of grave misconduct and ordered him suspended for six months.
Neri had introduced Senate whistleblower Rodolfo Lozada to former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Benjamin Abalos, described in the CA decision as the person “highly interested in pursuing a telecommunications project with the government” during the administration of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Neri then eventually processed the approval of the NBN project with ZTE as the proponent, despite the alleged P200-million bribe offered to him by Abalos.
The CA questioned Neri’s attendance in social events with ZTE officials, considering his authority over the project’s approval. (MNS)