Fake Saros also involved bogus beneficiaries | Inquirer News

Fake Saros also involved bogus beneficiaries

/ 02:30 AM December 09, 2013

Not only forged signatures but also bogus beneficiary towns.

These were found on the spurious special allotment release orders (Saros) that a syndicate believed to be operating in the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) produced for P879 million worth of farm-to-market road projects.


In an affidavit, Maria Karisma Rea B. Agarao, a special technical assistant handling projects implemented by the Department of Agriculture (DA), said it was “impossible” for the Saro to be released, as the DA had not yet submitted the network plan of the farm-to-market road projects to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

The Inquirer got a copy of the affidavit that Agarao submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation.


Agarao, who works under the office of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, was referring to the fake Saro intended for Cagayan Valley and intercepted by DA Regional Executive Director Lucrecio R. Alviar Jr. on Oct. 22.

The discovery of the fictitious document triggered the NBI probe of the fake Saros that covered other regions—Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon), Western Visayas and Soccsksargen (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City).

At first, the Saros were reported as fake mainly because the signature of Budget Undersecretary Luz Cantor was falsified. But documents received by the NBI showed that the list of projects attached to the papers were also phony based on Agarao’s testimony.

Projects, lawmakers

The Saro for Cagayan Valley had a total of P161.6 million in farm-to-market road projects for funding—P30.6 million for Cagayan’s second district (Rep. Aline Vargas-Alfonso); P30 million for the lone district of Batanes (Rep. Henedina Abad); P23 million for the lone district of Quirino (Rep. Dakila Cua); P20 million for the third district of Cagayan (Rep. Randolph Ting);

A total of P18 million for the first district of Isabela (Rep. Rodolfo Albano III); P15 million for the second district of Isabela (Rep. Ana Cristina Go); P12 million for the third district of Isabela (Rep. Napoleon Dy), and P10 million for the fourth district of Isabela (Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao).

The funds were supposedly for 28 barangays (villages) in 22 municipalities in Cagayan Valley.


Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said his department could not release the Saros because the list of recipients was not final.

“The reason the DBM could not act on the request for allotment for the farm-to-market roads was the absence of an accompanying network plan for the project listings as required by the GAA (General Appropriations Act),” Abad said.

“The network plan ensures that the farm-to-market roads are strategically located, i.e. they connect to a post-harvest facility, or to a national road, or to a market, or to a tourism zone or to a port facility or airport.”

While the GAA earmarked funds for DA projects, it was still up to the agency to identify these projects.

An Inquirer source in the DBM said the syndicate could cause the release of funds even with fake Saros.

The actual cash comes when the notice of cash allocation is issued by the DBM.

Abad, however, has said no government money was lost in the Saro scam that was recently uncovered.

As good as cash

A DBM insider, who refused to be named for lack of authority to speak on the matter, said the Saros were as good as cash, as those with access to these documents could use them to get advances from both mayors or contractors who want to get a first crack at these projects.

The informant claimed the fake Saro scam had been operating for years through several administrations, with the connivance of certain DBM officials who have access to these papers and of accomplices from Congress who were influential on how government funds were spent.

The source claimed the DBM syndicate did not wait for the agency to identify the projects, as they pushed the fake Saros with its choice of projects.

If the mayor or the contractor did not agree to make advances, the DBM insider said the syndicate would just issue another Saro covering another set of projects.

This was the reason some department heads were surprised to get Saros complete with handpicked project beneficiaries, even without any input from their agency.

House personnel

The NBI has already summoned Enrico Arao, an aide to Cagayan Representative Alfonso, who was caught holding the fake Saro for Cagayan Valley.

Arao pointed to Joel Badong, a member of the secretariat staff of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, as the source of the document.

Badong, in turn, claimed he got the fake Saros from Emmanuel Raza, an aide to Zamboanga City Rep. Lilia Macrohon-Nuño, who has yet to appear in the NBI probe.

Badong has been transferred to another office in the House while Raza has filed a one-month leave.

Originally posted: 9:19 pm | Sunday, December 8th, 2013

Related stories

Abad seeks speedy probe into fake SARO scam

Lawmaker’s aide tied to fake Saro in hiding

P879-M fund release by DBM investigated

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