DBM ‘Xerox gang’ out to get Saro info–Abad | Inquirer News

DBM ‘Xerox gang’ out to get Saro info–Abad

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad: The people behind the photocopying of original special allotment release orders could be interested in getting advance information on specific projects that have been approved for funding. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

The people behind the photocopying of original special allotment release orders (Saros) could be interested in getting advance information on specific projects that have been approved for funding, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said on Thursday.

A Saro is a document issued by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to indicate that a project has been approved and that funds shall be released for it.


Abad said the advance information was probably used by people behind the scheme to alert those in concerned government positions to start looking for contractors they can strike a deal with for potential kickbacks.


The budget secretary made the observation a day after the Inquirer reported that investigators had identified two suspected members of a syndicate engaged in producing photocopies of Saros.

The probers said the two suspects belonged to the “Xerox gang” and were connected with the office of Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos.

Abad said people behind the faking of Saros could be thinking they could dupe a government agency into implementing a project and tapping a contractor related to them.

But he said that was just not possible.

Abad said a government agency normally would confirm with the DBM whether a Saro for a specific project had indeed been issued before the agency could proceed with tapping contractors and implementing proposed projects.

This was exactly what the Department of Agriculture did when its regional office encountered a fake Saro and so no funds were released, Abad said.


“One cannot fool government agencies. They know what to do,” Abad said.

Because the DBM is the only entity that issues Saros and releases funds to government agencies, there is no chance for a fund to be released for a project that is covered by a fake Saro, the budget secretary said.

Abad said the DBM could not yet officially act on the reported existence of a syndicate manufacturing photocopies of Saros right in the department.

He said his hands were tied at the moment while the National Bureau of Investigation was looking into the extent of the operation of the Xerox gang.

“We’re awaiting the Department of Justice (DOJ)-NBI investigation results so we can take appropriate action,” was all Abad could say when contacted on Thursday by the Inquirer.

‘Practically on leave’

Relampagos was charged with plunder in the Office of the Ombudsman on Oct. 3 along with businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, three of her Cabinet secretaries and 17 others for allegedly stealing P900 million from the Malampaya gas fund.

Napoles allegedly masterminded the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

“He’s practically on leave already. We just need him to finish his work on the (national) budget (for 2014) since Congress is almost finished deliberating on it,” Abad said of Relampagos.

No funds released

Abad assured the public that no public funds had been disbursed by the DBM on account of the fake Saros.

“Was there any money that was lost as a result of this? There was none because it was just a Saro that was forged, which was not released at all,” he had said.

Abad said the fake Saro scam was just one of the latest controversies facing the Aquino administration.

He said the fact that scams were being disclosed indicated that the administration was supportive of efforts to unearth irregularities.

Credit administration

“We should give this administration credit for this policy [of transparency] because it is during this administration that all these [scams] are being known and addressed,” Abad said.

He said it was the DBM that asked the NBI to look at certain employees who might be involved in the fake Saro scam.

Acting on a letter from Abad, the NBI launched a discreet investigation into 12 fake Saros for farm-to-market road (FMR) projects worth P879 million that were supposed to be implemented by the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima earlier said that among the fake Saros for the farm-to-market road projects were meant for Regions II (Cagayan Valley), IV-A (Calabarzon) VI (Western Visayas) and XII (Soccsksargen).

Alerted by field officer

At a press conference last week, Abad said there was no release of funds to projects covered by the fake Saros.

“This involves 12 special allotment release orders for farm-to-market roads all over the country costing P879 million. That has not been released yet nor signed by then Assistant Secretary Luz Cantor, who’s now undersecretary,” Abad said.

Narrating the facts that led to the inquiry, he said that on

Oct. 22, “one of our directors in the office in charge of agriculture got a call from the regional field unit office of the Department of Agriculture, inquiring about the originals of Saros involving farm-to-market roads  in Cagayan Valley.”

The DBM director, who was not identified, was in possession of request for released Saro that was already signed involving FMRs in Cagayan Valley.

“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 were still with her and, in fact, they had not been signed,” Abad recalled.

“So when I learned about this (on) Oct. 22 … 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 said.

The following day, Oct. 23, he wrote lawyer Medardo G. de Lemos, the NBI officer in charge, requesting that this matter be investigated.

“So this was as early as the day after we found out about these fake Saros. And similarly on that day, Oct. 23, we canceled 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,” he said.

Abad said he kept quiet about the investigation so as not to unduly alarm those involved.

“We’d wanted to write about it (but decided that we) 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 an investigation, which is still ongoing,” he said.

“Our objective was to make sure that the investigation being undertaken by the NBI will proceed as effectively as possible, and also, to make sure that those who perpetrated these forgeries, you know, would not be informed very publicly that such an investigation is taking place but it’s all ready out there in the media, nonetheless.”


Xerox gang in DBM bared

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