Neri’s fate tossed to GMA

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE– MALACANANG yesterday tossed to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo the fate of former National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) chief Romulo Neri, who is now chairman of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), in connection with the raging Senate probe on the controversial $329-million national broadband network (NBN) deal with China’s ZTE Corporation.

But Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita assured that Neri still enjoys the President’s trust and confidence, pointing out that the Palace is hardly disturbed by the Senate inquiry.

Ermita also indicated at yesterday’s Palace briefing that Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Ben Abalos Sr. also have the President’s confidence.

He said that ranking government officials like Abalos — who is a lawyer — are presumed with regularity in their actions in the absence of any proof of misdeeds.

The Palace official said that Neri has done nothing wrong, pointing out he only narrated the events based on his knowledge about the controversial NBN-ZTE deal.

Ermita declined to pass judgment on the testimonies of Neri and Abalos, who exchanged charges in the Senate hearing.

Abalos called Neri a liar when the latter accused him of bribing him with P200 million during a golf game in January early this year to seal the broadband contract.

Ermita instead left the matter to be resolved in the proper forum.

Ermita stressed that the Palace would have to await the final outcome of the Senate inquiry before the President decides on the controversy.

“Let the final outcome of the hearing come out. We cannot jump the gun on the matter,” Ermita said, adding that the findings of the Senate would have bearing on whether the President will form a different investigative body or asked the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC) to determine the culpability of any Cabinet secretary and other government officials being linked to the scandal.

He stressed that Neri is not being dropped by the Palace, and being supporter by the Cabinet since they were not in full force in yesterday’s Senate probe.

Ermita also dismissed reports of U.S. pressure to the Arroyo regime to ensure that he face yesterday’s Senate probe.