NBI recommends charges vs Aklan lawmaker over fake Saro

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

MANILA (Updated) -- The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has recommended the filing of charges for falsification of public documents against Aklan Representative Teodorico Haresco Jr. and four others in connection with the alleged forgery of Special Allotment Release Orders (Saros).

Emmanuel Raza, congressional staff of Zamboanga City Representative Lilia Macruhon-Nuno; Elvie Rafael, driver of Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Undersecretary Mario Relampagos; Bhernie Beltran, allegedly from the DBM; and Mary Ann Castillo, consultant in the office of Haresco were also recommended to face the same charge.

Haresco, Raza, Rafael and Beltran were accused of violating Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code on falsification of documents.

The NBI also accused Raza, Rafael and Beltran of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, while Rafael and Raza may face charges for violating the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

Lastly, the NBI asked the DBM to charge Rafael with grave misconduct, and Castillo should be criminally liable for obstruction of justice for her refusal to cooperate in the investigation.

The NBI Anti-Graft Division (AGD) submitted its final report to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on January 29 on two incidents of peddling falsified Saros for Cagayan Valley and Western Visayas.

A Saro gives the government agency the go-signal to proceed with a project since funds will be allocated for it.

It appears that on September 24, 2013, the DBM-Office of the Secretary received a request from Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Proceso Alcala for the release of Saros with an aggregate amount of P879,856,951 for the implementation of the farm-to-market road projects of the DA chargeable against the 2013 General Appropriations Act (GAA).

Records show that Alcala received a letter dated October 21, 2013 from the office of Haresco, and attached to the letter was a particular Saro (BMB-E 13-0017726), which was included in the series of Saros cancelled by the DBM.

The purported signature of DBM Assistant Secretary Luz Cantor was affixed in the copy of the Saro and that lawyer Norman Tayag, chief of staff of Haresco, admitted that the office of Haresco prepared the subject letter and sent it to the DA.

The Saro was endorsed by Castillo, who claimed that the Saro came from someone with whom she is not familiar. She said the man just left the Saro and never returned.

Castillo could not describe the man's physical features, as the NBI noted that she was "uneasy and hesitant" to give more information. She promised to personally appear at the NBI to give further statement but she never came, the NBI said.

Castillo's employment contract ended on December 31, 2013.

In its report, the NBI said Haresco would surely take the credit if the project mentioned in the Saro would be implemented considering that his district was its beneficiary.

"In fact, that credit was the reason why he took initiative of writing to the DA secretary informing the latter of the release of the questioned Saro with request for the bidding of the project covered by the Saro," the report stated.

Haresco, in a separate interview, requested the NBI to re-investigate the controversy.

"I'm the only one being singled out. Why I am criminally liable for something I didn't do. Bakit hindi lahat kami para masaya? There is some injustice here," the lawmaker said.

For his part, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said they will come up with an "appropriate action" on DBM personnel found to have been involved in the scam after reviewing the NBI report.

During the investigation, the AGD probers discovered the involvement of a well-entrenched syndicate in the DBM and the operation of this syndicate extends to the halls of Congress.

Some government employees who requested anonymity also told the AGD that other employees and a high-ranking official are involved in the illegal activity.

The AGD said further investigation will be conducted until sufficient evidence are gathered to support the filing of appropriate charges against other personalities involved in Saro peddling.

The probers also blamed the premature disclosure and/or unauthorized release of Saro to the gross negligence and apparent lack of Internal Control System in the DBM.

They noted that Saros were printed despite deficiency in documentary requirement, improper handling of documents and improper utilization of non-DBM employees in the delivery of documents. (PNA/John Carlo Cahinhinan/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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