DBM staff also summoned to NBI in pork barrel scam probe

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Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda FILE PHOTO

MANILA—Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos and three members of his staff who allegedly dealt with Janet Lim Napoles were also investigated in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam, Malacañang said Friday.

Relampagos and his staff were  summoned by the National Bureau of Investigation to shed light on the alleged large-scale misuse of the pork barrel, said Edwin Lacierda, President Aquino’s spokesman.

“My understanding is that they were summoned a few weeks back by NBI to shed light on the investigation,’’ Lacierda said.

Whistle-blowers said Napoles would call the office of Relampagos to follow up on the release of the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) and Notice of Cash Allocation (NCA) from a lawmaker’s pork barrel for a certain project.

A SARO is a specific authority issued by the Department of Budget and Management to an agency to incur obligations within its allocation during a specified period. NCA, on the other hand, is a cash authority issued by the DBM to an office.

Whistle-blowers Benhur Luy and Merlina Suñas said that Napoles would often talk to members of Relampagos’ staff  identified only as Leah, Malou and Lalaine  to badger them about the status of SARO or NCA. They also called the three to follow up Napoles’ requests.

“So, as to the testimony, I’m not privy to that. So let’s just wait for the investigation report of the NBI,’’ Lacierda said.

Relampagos is the DBM’s undersecretary for operations. The three ladies still work for him.

Napoles allegedly ran her racket from a unit in a posh hotel in Pasig City, where her staff churned out requests for funding from lawmakers using forged signatures of local officials, concocted dummy foundations to serve as conduits for the pork barrel, and made calls to government officials to approve the documents and release the funds, with the promise of commissions.

Meantime, Napoles met with the lawmakers or their chiefs of staff to discuss how to split the kickbacks from their pork barrel allocations that remained with banks, waiting to be withdrawn by her own staff.

Luy, Napoles’ chief aide and cousin, exposed the scheme following his rescue in March by NBI agents. Napoles allegedly ordered him detained for three months after finding out he was engaging in a similar racket.

Soon, several other members of Napoles’ staff followed Luy’s lead and executed affidavits detailing the scheme, and identifying the key players, including legislators.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad also confirmed that Relampagos and his staff were investigated for their role in the scam on the President’s orders.

“He had the DOJ-NBI investigate the personalities initially mentioned by the whistleblowers,’’ Abad replied when asked if Mr. Aquino ever asked Relampagos to explain his role in the whole affair.

Abad said Malacañang also constituted a task force to work with the Department of Justice and NBI.

“The investigation is still ongoing and we are as eager as you to learn about their findings so we can act accordingly,’’ he said in a text message.

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