• NBI probes four House staff members on fake SAROs

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    At least four staffers of congressmen are being probed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for alleged use of fake Special Allotment Release Orders (SARO) to secure releases from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

    Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. made the disclosure a day after Emmanuel Raza, one of the four congressional staff members being probed by the NBI, went on a month’s leave.

    Raza, a member of the staff of Zamboanga City Rep. Lilia Nuño, has ignored an NBI subpoena. Two other staffers of Rep. Baby Vargas-Alfonso of Cagayan and one of Aklan Rep. Teodorico Haresco were not named by Belmonte.

    A SARO, released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to the implementing agencies of PDAF-funded projects, authorizing them to bid out projects. The DBM then issues a Notice of Cash Allocation, which authorizes the release the fund for the projects.

    “The NBI is checking the employees [of the lawmakers], not the congressman. They are not investigating a single congressman. They are trying to request for the statement of some employees,” Belmonte said.

    He identified Raza as the staffer who attempted to course a fake SARO to the office of Congresswoman Alfonso of Cagayan through a staffer from the House Appropriations panel named Jose Badong.

    Haresco’s staffer, on the other hand, submitted two SAROs to the Department of Agriculture (DA) which the DA found to be fake after it checked with the DBM.

    The NBI is investigating 12 SAROs in all which were allegedly used by the abovementioned staff members under probe.

    “Our trail here is with Raza. It appears he’s the one who the NBI thinks knows a lot. We learned from his office that he was planning to go to the NBI but it turns out that he hasn’t shown up. That is a suspicious circumstance,” Belmonte said.

    In an earlier interview, Nuño said she won’t be firing Raza at this point since the NBI probe is not yet done.

    “I would not fire him yet because he is still under investigation. I would rather wait for the result of that probe because I want to know the whole story behind this syndicate,” Nuño said.

    Alfonso said she wasn’t aware that the SARO coursed to her office by Raza was fake.

    Alfonso said the SARO for four projects in her district amounting to P30.6 million was handed to her Chief-of-Staff Abraham Pelonio by House Appropriations panel’s Badong.

    Pelonio then sent emailed the document to her local staff Amador Enrico Arao who submitted the said SARO to the Regional Office of the Department of Agriculture.

    “If the said SARO was fake, as claimed by the DBM, there was no damage incurred by the government because no money has been expended to implement the same. Such declaration only meant that we in Region 2 would have to wait further if the identified projects requested by our constituents will ever be implemented within the year 2013 or in the coming years,” Alfonso added in a separate statement.

    LLANESCA T. PANTI

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