NBI-AGD Submitted its Report on the Investigation of the Unathorized Release of Copies of SAROs; Recommended Filing of Charges Agaisnt Five (5) Individuals including a Congressman

11 February 2014

Pursuant to the request of Budget and Management Secretary   FLORENCIO B. ABAD to conduct an investigation in connection with the unauthorized release of copies of Special Allotment Release Orders (SAROs) for the implementation of farm-to-market roads (FMR) projects, the Justice Secretary directed then National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Officer-in-Charge Director MEDARDO G. DE LEMOS to form a team of investigators and submit a report relative thereto. On 29 January 2014, the Anti-Graft Division (AGD) of the NBI submitted its final report on two incidents of peddling of falsified SAROS, viz., the SAROs for Region II and Region VI, and recommended the following:

1. EMMANUEL T. RAZA (RAZA), a congressional staff of Congresswoman LILIA MACRUHON-NUÑO of  Zamboanga City, be charged with Falsification of Public Documents, defined and penalized under Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended; for violation of Section 3(k) of Republic Act No. 3019; and for violation of Section 7(c) of Republic Act No. 6713;

2. ELVIE RAFAEL (RAFAEL), a driver of Undersecretary MARIO L. RELAMPAGOS (RELAMPAGOS), be charged with Falsification of Public Documents, defined and penalized under Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended; for violation of Section 3(k) of Republic Act No. 3019; for violation of Section 7(c) of Republic Act No. 6713; and be administratively charged with grave misconduct;

3. BHERNIE C. BELTRAN (BELTRAN), allegedly from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), be charged with Falsification of Public Document, defined and penalized under Article 172 in relation to Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended; and for violation of Section 3(k) of Republic Act No. 3019;

4. MARY ANN V. CASTILLO (CASTILLO) consultant in the office of Congressman TEODORICO T. HARESCO, JR. (HARESCO, JR.), be charged with violation of Section 1(c) of Presidential Decree No. 1829;

5. CONGRESSMAN HARESCO, JR., be charged with Falsification of Public Documents, defined and penalized under Article 171, par. 2 of the Revised Penal Code.

It appears, that on 24 September 2013,  the DBM-Office of the Secretary received a request from Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary PROCESO ALCALA (ALCALA) for the release of SAROs with aggregate amount of Php879,856,951.00 for the implementation of the FMR projects of the DA chargeable against the Calendar Year 2013 General Appropriation Act (GAA); that in view of the absence of the network plan as required under the special provisions of the GAA of the FY 2013, DBM Undersecretary RELAMPAGOS placed a note addressed to DBM Director TERESITA M. SALUD which reads "not  recommending";  and that the set of documents, including the subject SAROs, were with the office of DBM Director PISIG until 2013 when they first received 22 October information that a copy of the unsigned and unreleased SARO was presented in DA-RFU II, Tuguegarao City.

The AGD investigators found that on 18 October ENRICO ARAO (ARAO), a staff of Congresswoman ALINE VARGAS-ALFONSO), District II, Cagayan, personally hand carried to DA-RFU II, Tuguegarao City a photocopy of the SARO with an authorized amount of Php16l,600,000.00 bearing the signature of then DBM Assistant Secretary LUZ M. CANTOR (CANTOR); that ARAO revealed that this was e-mailed to him by ABRAHAM PELONIO (PELONIO), the Chief of Staff of Congw. VARGAS-ALFONSO; that PELONIO, in turn, acknowledged that the said document was handed to him by JOSE BADONG (BADONG), a Supervising Legislative Staff Officer I of the Committee on  Appropriations, House of Representatives (HoR) in the afternoon of 16 October 2013 at the coffee shop of the south wing lobby of the HoR, Quezon City; and that BADONG declared to have received the copy of the SARO and its attachments from RAZA. On the other hand, RAZA alleged that sometime in October 2013, he received the folder containing the photocopy of the listing of the FMR projects for 2013 for Region II from RAFAEL and BELTRAN; and that after the meeting, RAZA proceeded to the HoR where he handed the documents  to BADONG. When invited to answer, RAFAEL and BELTRAN offered no evidence to controvert RAZA's allegations.

As to the premature disclosure and/or unauthorized release of the SARO, the Team commented that this was the result of apparent lack of internal control system in the DBM, such as: (1) the printing of SAROs despite deficiency in the documentary requirements, specifically, the Network Plan; (2) improper handling of documents; and (3) improper utilization of non-DBM employees in the delivery of the documents.

With respect to the falsified SARO (for Region VI) from the office of Congressman HARESCO, JR., the AGD investigators were informed by Congressman Haresco, Jr.'s Chief of Staff, Atty. NORMAN TAYAG (TAYAG), that the SARO was endorsed by CASTILLO, a consultant of Cong. Haresco.  The Team made the following remarks: that on the second visit of the AGD investigators, CASTILLO claimed that the SARO came from someone whom she was not familiar with, and the man just left the SARO and never returned; that CASTILLO was uneasy and hesitant to give any information concerning the person being asked of her; that her contract of employment terminated on 31 December 2013; and that when summoned, instead of giving a statement, she submitted a notarized affidavit, and turned down the request that she be further interviewed. The Team, hence, concluded that CASTILLO did not want to identify her source of the SARO; and that she impliedly refused to cooperate in the conduct of the investigation aimed in unmasking the perpetrators responsible for the proliferation of the fake SAROs.

Records show that DA Secretary ALCALA received a letter dated 21 October 2013 from the  office of Cong. HARESCO, JR.; that attached to the letter was a particular SARO which was included in the series of SAROs cancelled by the DBM;  that the purported signature of Assistant Secretary CANTOR was affixed in the copy of the SARO; and that Atty. TAYAG, in his affidavit, admitted that the office of Cong. HARESCO, JR. prepared the subject letter and sent it to the DA.

The Team observed that considering that the SARO was attached and referred to in a letter signed by Cong. HARESCO, JR. and sent to the DA Secretary, the legal presumption that the person who presented a falsified document is deemed to be the author, if he stands to benefit therefrom, arises". The requirement of gain or benefit was satisfied because Cong.  HARESCO, JR. would surely take the credit if the project mentioned in the SARO would be implemented considering that his district was its beneficiary.

In the course of investigation,  the AGD Investigators discovered the involvement of a well-entrenched syndicate in the DBM, and the operation of this syndicate extends to the halls of the Congress. The Team stated that further investigation will be conducted until sufficient evidence are gathered to support the filing of appropriate charges against other personalities involved in SARO peddling.

With the submission of the Report, the NBI is expected to file within the week its transmittal letter for preliminary investigation to the appropriate agency - the Department of Justice or the Ombudsman, as the case maybe, for its appropriate action.

More News Articles

We are ISO Certified