PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — Rattling off his qualifications, newly-appointed Social Security System administrator Romulo Neri yesterday cried foul over allegations he is not fit for the job.
“I think it was an unfair statement and my record in government speaks for itself. They could check my bio-data, they could check on how I performed in various function in NEDA, in DBM, in CHED,” Neri told Palace reporters.
“I think I’m qualified for the new position, I’m an MBA graduate from UCLA, major in finance, international business and my background has also been finance. I teach finance, at the Asian Institute of Managament, investment banking, pension fund management, other areas of finance,” he said.
Opposition lawmakers criticized Neri’s appointment to the SSS post claiming it was only a reward for “covering” up for President Macapagal-Arroyo in the Senate investigation into the botched national broadband network project.
Aside from being SSS chief, Neri was also appointed as the head of the Cabinet cluster tasked to implement a P45 billion national social welfare program, which carries a Cabinet rank.
Neri allayed fears that Malacañang would dip its fingers into the pension fund. “It’s the council…it’s a collective decision and it has representatives from workers groups and so I guess that alone will ensure that the funds will be properly used,” he said.
He said the SSS post is a “new challenge” for him to put in place the proper safety nets to safeguard public funds.
Neri will assume his new post on August 1 but will perform his job as head of the Cabinet cluster to implement a national welfare program much earlier.
He said he already talked with outgoing SSS chief Corazon dela Paz and they agreed to meet on Monday for a briefing. “I agree with that, that Cora dela Paz has done very well…..but I guess these are new challenging times, new challenges have to be met and social welfare is becoming more and more important,” he said.
He has credentials
Some lawmakers also said Neri is qualified.
“All you need is to look at his credentials. Those who say otherwise are biased or emotional or both,” Speaker Prospero Nograles said.
Antique Rep. Exequiel Javier agreed and said he can vouch for Neri’s qualification.
“Let’s not look at it as bayad utang or a bribe. Let’s look at his qualifications and integrity. He’s qualified for the job. He’s a good manager being a professor of AIM. He’s a well-meaning public official. I know him personally since he was still with the House’s Congressional Planning and Budget Department,” Javier said.
Sen. Edgardo Angara also said Neri is “more than qualified” to head the SSS and protect the agency’s investments amounting to P248 billion.
He said Neri worked for a long time as head of policy research in the House of Representatives.
“Iyang SSS ay nangangailangan ng mga qualifications na katulad noon sapagkat it is really a question of management and research because ang SSS maraming ini-invest diyan so kailangan ang isang manager na nakakaintindi ng research into all these investment areas. So, Secretary Neri, I think, is very qualified to head that organization,” Angara stressed.
Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante also urged the people to give Neri a chance.
“His expertise is economy and business. I believe he is very much qualified to head the SSS. He should be given a chance to prove his worth,” Abante said.
Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano however believes Neri is “totally ineligible” for the post.
“Neri may be academically fit and competent enough to head the SSS. But his involvement in scandals made him politically and morally ineligible to the post,” Mariano said.