The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) probe into the fake special allotment release order (SARO) scheme should also reveal details as to who really pocketed the funds supposedly allocated for farm-to-market road projects.
Rep. Fernando Hicap of Anakpawis party-list said the NBI should disclose the main proponent of the scam, which has allegedly been happening since time “immemorial.”
“We don’t see any end to this ‘farm-to-pocket roads scam’ because the Aquino government stressed that the farm-to-market program is a ‘key component to invest further in infrastructure and public construction.’ This is clearly outlined in DBM [Department of Budget and Management]’s Transportation Infrastructure program,” Hicap said.
The lawmaker noted that for 2014, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has allocated P12.15 billion for the concreting of 1,000 kilometers of “all-weather farm-to-market roads.” This budget is 70.10 percent higher than the 2013 budget of P7.05 billion.
“If the NBI probe found out that ‘a well-entrenched syndicate’ operating in the DBM and even in Congress is involved in the proliferation of fake SAROs, farmers want to know who really pocketed the funds supposedly intended for the construction and upgrading of farm-to-market roads,” Hicap said.
“Fake, ghost projects were funded under the objective that it will benefit farmers and the rural agricultural sector. But nothing happened. Where is the money now? The government owes it to farmers and taxpayers to punish all those involved in this farm-to-pocket roads racket.”
On Tuesday, the NBI Anti-Graft Division recommended the filing of charges of falsification of public documents and other charges against Rep. Teodorico Haresco Jr. of Aklan; Elvie Rafael, driver of DBM Undersecretary Mario Relampagos; Bhernie Beltran from DBM; and Emmanuel Raza, a staff member of Zamboanga City Rep. Lilia Macrohon-Nuño. Mary Ann Castillo, a consultant in the office of Haresco, was to be charged with obstruction of justice.
Besides Haresco, 31 other lawmakers are reportedly being linked to the fake SARO scam. Haresco has denied involvement.
The NBI probe included 12 fake SAROs for farm-to-market road projects in Cagayan Valley, Southern Luzon, Western Visayas and Soccsksargen regions. One fake SARO is for FMR projects in Region 2 at a project cost of P161,600,000 and another SARO for the P10 million construction of a farm-to-market road in Balete, Aklan.
Republic Act 8435 known as the “Agriculture and Fishery Modernization Act of 1997” mandated the construction and upgrading of farm-to-market roads as one of the priority infrastructure interventions of the government to increase agricultural productivity and reduce losses by Filipino farmers.
However, Hicap believed that the farm-to-market roads program was “used and abused for corruption by unscrupulous government officials in the local governments, DBM and DA in collusion with contractors.”