SC upholds grave misconduct verdict vs. ex-NEDA exec

Supreme Court (Facebook photo)

MANILA – The Supreme Court (SC) turned down a suit by former National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) director general Romulo Neri questioning the decision on his role in an anomalous USD329-million telecommunications deal with a foreign firm in 2006.

In a 20-page decision uploaded to the SC website on November 11, the high court’s 3rd Division denied Neri’s petition and reversed the Court of Appeals (CA) decision that downgraded his verdict from grave misconduct to simple misconduct.

Likewise, the court decreed that “petitioner Romulo L. Neri is dismissed from service, which includes the accessory penalties of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of leave credits and retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification from reemployment in the government service.”

The CA 6th Division in July 2013 modified the Ombudsman’s 2009 findings and held Neri administratively liable for simple, instead of grave, misconduct.

The deal between Chinese firm Zhing Xing Telecommunications Equipment (ZTE) and the National Broadband Network involved a nationwide public telecommunications structure to link all government agencies and offices.

In reversing the CA decision, the SC said, “there is substantial evidence supporting the charge of grave misconduct (instead of simple misconduct) against petitioner (Neri). The facts show that his conduct was attended with corruption and a clear intent to violate the law.”

The high court noted that as NEDA chair, Neri “had the power over the approval of ZTE’s bid (and that while) he insists that his office only evaluated the economic viability of the project and had no discretion as to the contractor to be chosen, this argument rings hollow.”

It also said Neri’s “meeting with the ZTE officials, who were heavily interested in the project’s approval, raised questions on his integrity and fairness in the award of the bid.”

The SC further said “the Constitution and our laws demand a high standard of ethics from public officials and employees“ and Neri’s “acts undoubtedly fell short of this standard and diminished the people’s confidence in the government.” (PNA)

Source: Business Diary Philippines

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