CA justices uphold their 2013 decision that the Ombudsman was right when it rendered its guilty verdict on Neri
MANILA, Philippines – The Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed its earlier ruling finding former Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri administratively liable for simple misconduct over the botched $329-million national broadband network government deal with ZTE Corporation of China.
In a two-page resolution dated May 5 but released Monday, May 12, a CA division upheld its July 3, 2013 decision that the Ombudsman was right when it rendered its guilty verdict on Neri.
“Notably, the parties 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 (rationale behind the decision) would be to belabor the issues without end,” the resolution read.
The Ombudsman in 2009 ordered Neri’s suspension for 6 months over grave misconduct, which the CA modified to simple misconduct in its 2013 decision.
Assailing the 2013 CA decision, Neri argued that the mere fact that he dined with ZTE and Chinese embassy officials and played golf with former elections chairman Benjamin Abalos does not prove that his approval and recommendation for approval of the ZTE proposal was tainted with corruption.
But the private respondents, including Father Jose “Joe” Dizon, argued that the Ombudsman was correct in issuing a guilty verdict on Neri over grave misconduct. Neri, they argued, was part of a criminal conspiracy where his cooperation was indispensable. They added that Neri’s silence and inaction caused damage to public interest.
The NBN-ZTE deal was one of the biggest corruption scandals to hit the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Whistleblowers Jun Lozada and businessman Joey de Venecia linked Mrs Arroyo’s husband Mike to the deal.
Neri’s office was tasked to oversee big-ticket development projects of the government. Abalos allegedly brokered the deal. The former elections commissioner was accused of offering a P200-million bribe to Neri for the approval of the project. Abalos was also accused of offering $10 million to De Venecia, who was then a competing contractor, in exchange for dropping his bid for the project.
The CA resolution was penned by Associate Justice Edwin Sorongon and concurred in by Associate Justices Hakim Abdulwahid and Marlene Gonzales-Sison, the same justices who issued the 2013 decision on Neri. – Rappler.com