NOT a single centavo was released for farm to market road projects based on forged Special Allotment Release Orders (SARO), Malacañang has clarified on Monday.
According to Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad, there was no truth to a newspaper report (not The Manila Times) about a the purported release of some P870 million by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) based on fake allotment orders.
“I think the very first clarification is there was no release. Secondly, this involves 12 [SAROs] for farm-to-market roads all over the country costing 879 million. That has not been released yet nor signed by then Assistant Secretary Luz Cantor, who’s now undersecretary,” Abad told reporters.
He said that it was his office that actually requested the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate the forgeries, which they discovered last October 22.
“What happened was on October 22, our office—one of our directors in the office in charge of agriculture got a call from the regional office—regional field unit office of the Department of Agriculture, inquiring about the originals of SAROs involving farm-to-market roads in Region 2, if they had in fact been released because they were in possession of request for released SARO that was already signed involving FMRs in Region 2. So when the director in charge inquired from the office of then Assistant Secretary Luz Cantor in our office, she was told that the SAROs are still with her and, in fact, they had not been signed,” Abad explained.
“So when I learned about this . . . This was October 22 so we got all the documents and looked at the so-called signed SAROs and concluded very clearly that these were forgeries because we had the originals, which were not signed and had not been released,” he added.
Abad said that on October 23, he wrote lawyer Medardo de Lemos, the officer in charge of the National Bureau Investigation, informing him about what they discovered and requested for a probe.
“And similarly on that day, October 23, we cancelled all the 12 SAROs that had been prepared but were not released nor were they signed by the authorized signatory who was Assistant Secretary Luz Cantor. So right now, the investigation is still ongoing.
We asked [you to]just wait for the NBI to finish its findings because we certainly would have been open to informing the public about the results of the NBI findings but not in the middle of the investigation which is still ongoing,” Abad further clarified.
Asked if there was indeed money lost in the fake transactions, Abad replied: “There was none.”
For his part, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala echoed Abad’s claim that funds have not been released for the said projects.
“In fact, there was proper coordination between our agencies that is why this is now being investigated,” Alcala said.
Both officials admitted that they were asked by the president to clarify the issue after the report was published.
“He [Aquino] said you have to clarify that and that’s why we’re here with Secretary Alcala. He just wanted to know what this is all about, you know. Kasi hindi naman maganda sa harap ng publiko kasi the way the report put it, parang hindi kami nagkakasundo at nagkaka-ugnayan ni Secretary Alcala,” Abad stressed.