Sandiganbayan issues arrest warrant vs. Neri

June 21, 2010 9:48 pm 

By Perfecto T. Raymundo, Jr.

MANILA, June 21 – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan on Monday issued a warrant of arrest against former National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) director general and Social Security System (SSS) president Romulo Neri in connection with the botched US$ 329-million NBN-ZTE contract.

In an order issued by Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Roland Jurado, chairman of the 5th Division, Neri was ordered to be arrested in view of the graft case filed against him by the Office of the Ombudsman (Ombudsman).

However, Neri on Monday immediately went to the anti-graft court to post a P30,000 bail for his temporary liberty and evade his arrest.

A hold departure order (HDO) is also expected to be issued by the Sandiganbayan against Neri.

According to lawyer Renato Bocar, executive Clerk of Court of the Sandiganbayan en banc, it was expected for the court to issue warrants of arrest and HDOs against an accused after finding probable cause.

Bocar said that at present, only Neri filed a motion for the determination of probable cause, which is now lodged at the Sandiganbayan 5th Division.

Meantime, the Sandiganbayan 4th Division, which handles the graft case against former Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos, Jr., has yet to issue the arrest warrant and HDO against him.

Both Abalos and Neri were charged with violation of Republic Act 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, a bailable offense.

The Sandiganbayan has raffled-off with the 4th Division the graft case against Abalos while the 5th Division of the Sandiganbayan will handle the graft case against Neri.

The case against Abalos will be handled by Sandiganbayan 4th Division Chairman Associate Justice Gregory Ong, along with Associate Justices Jose Hernandez and Maria Cristina Cornejo, as members.

The graft case against Neri will be assigned with the Sandiganbayan 5th Division chaired by Associate Justice Jurado, along with Associate Justices Alexander Gesmundo and Napoleon Inoturan, as members.

The Ombudsman earlier ruled that Abalos directly demonstrated his pecuniary interest in the business transaction between the government and that of ZTE Corp.

Fully knowing that the stamp of approval of the NEDA was needed to put an official imprimatur on the project, Neri actively brokered conferences between the ZTE, NEDA director general and Amsterdam Holdings resolution, the Ombudsman ruled.

Abalos was also charged on a separate case of corruption of public officials for allegedly offering Neri a P200-million bribe. (PNA)



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