Supreme Court acquits ex-PNR official of graft over wood supply deal

THE SUPREME Court (SC) has acquitted a former general manager of the Philippine National Railway (PNR) over his involvement in a wood supply deal that favored a private trading firm. 

In a 14-page resolution on Sept. 14 and made public on Oct. 19, the SC First Division said Junio Norberto M. Ragragio did not neglect his duty as general manager since his participation in the contract awarded to Nikka Trading (Nikka) was “extremely limited.” 

“The court finds that the evidence on record does not show that Ragragio committed any act that would constitute gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service,” said the tribunal. 

It added that the charges against Mr. Ragragio did not “have a factual leg to stand on.”

The ex-PNR manager had voted in favor of awarding the procurement contract to Nikka after the PNR bid and awards committee recommended it. 

The deal involved two batches of wood deliveries worth P9.92 million and P39.89 million for the rehabilitation of a train line from Calamba, Laguna to Bicol. 

The court noted that the inspection committee involved in the deal concluded that the wood to be supplied was “technically acceptable” before the deal with Nikka was signed. 

The Ombudsman found Mr. Ragragio guilty of misconduct for awarding the contract to Nikka despite being aware of the irregularities in the bidding process. He was sentenced to a fine equivalent to one year’s salary along with dismissal from service. 

The Court of Appeals modified the ruling to a six-month suspension without pay since the Ombudsman did not provide enough evidence. The appellate court said he was only liable for gross negligence and not misconduct. John Victor D. Ordoñez