House leaders have thrown their support behind embattled Rep. Teodorico Haresco of Aklan, the lawmaker whom the National Bureau of Investigation wants charged over the use of fake Special Allotment and Release Order (SARO).
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. of Quezon City and House Games and Amusments and panel Chair Elpidio Barzaga of Dasmarinas noted that the SARO is only issued by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
The SARO—solely released by the DBM to the implementing agencies of government projects, including those funded by Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) by lawmakers—is a document that authorizes the implementing agencies to bid out the said projects. The SARO would then need to be obligated by the DBM before it issues the Notice of Cash Allocation—a document that authorizes the release the fund for the projects.
“I believe Congressman Haresco is a victim, not the perpetrator of the fake SARO scam,” Belmonte, a lawyer, said in a text message.
Haresco has earlier denied any wrongdoing and has asked the NBI to reinvestigate the matter. The Aklan lawmaker argued that he and his staff cannot possibly produce fake SAROs since it requires complex knowledge of fabricating serial numbers and other markings.
“I cannot comprehend why my colleague Congressman Haresco was included in the criminal complaint. SAROs are official issuances of the DBM. I can’t see how Congressman Haresco could participate/influence the issuance fake SAROs,” Barzaga, also a lawyer, added in a separate text message.
Barzaga then challenged the NBI to disclose the witnesses and their damaging statements which give rise to the filing of a criminal complaint against Haresco.
Further, Barzaga urged Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and the NBI convince Elvie Rafael, driver of DBM Undersecretary Relampagos as well as Bhernie Beltranan to turn state witness to uncover the entire fake SARO syndicate.
“The continuing effort of the government to curb corruption and establish high standard of public accountability would be meaningless if only the small fry would be charged and the brains of the multi million fake SARO syndicate would not be included in the complaint,” Barzaga, also an accountant, pointed out.
“While the NBI findings would be a laudable initial step nonetheless, it seems that the head of the syndicate has not yet been determined. It is only through the whistle blower’s testimony and admission that the whole truth would come out,” Barzaga added.