A lawmaker won’t fire her staff under investigation for alleged use of a fake Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) to secure release of monies from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) just yet.
Rep. Lilia Nuño of Zamboanga City made the announcement a day after her staff named Emmanuel Raza went on a one-month leave.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is to conduct a probe on Zara’s involvement in coursing a fake SARO to the House Appropriations panel.
“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 told reporters.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. of Quezon City, earlier identified Raza as the Congressional staff who is in possession a fake SARO and attempted to course such fake document to the office of Rep. Baby Aline Alfonso-Vargas of Cagayan.
Per Belmonte, the bogus SARO was coursed to Alfonso’s office thru a staff from the House Appropriations panel named Jose Badong.
Four under NBI scrutiny
At least four staff members of House of Representatives lawmakers are being probed by the NBI for alleged use of fake SARO to secure fund release from the Priority Development Assistance Fund.
Belmonte made the disclosure a day after Raza probed by the NBI, filed a one-month leave.
Raza, was subpoenaed by the NBI, but he didn’t show up. The other three staff members in question were from the Office of Rep. Baby Vargas-Alfonso of Cagayan (two) and the Office of Rep. Teodorico Haresco of Aklan (one). Belmonte did not disclose the names of the staff members.
SARO, solely released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to the implementing agencies of PDAF-funded projects, 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 authorized the release of 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 told reporters.
Haresco’s staff, on the other hand, presented two SAROs before the Department of Agriculture (DA), which the DA found to be bogus upon inquiry with the DBM.
A dozen SAROs under probe
The NBI is investigating a total of 12 SAROs allegedly used by the 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 revealed.
Alfonso, for her part, underscored that she wasn’t aware that the SARO coursed to her office by Raza was fake.
Alfonso cited that 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.
Her staff Pelonio then sent the document via e-mail 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.