Nov 292013
A representative from the office of a Cagayan Valley lawmaker faced government investigators on Friday in connection with the fake Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) received by a regional office of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

A report on GMA News’ “24 Oras” said Enrico Arao went to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) office in Manila after he was summoned to the inquiry and asked to submit the supposedly fake SARO.

The Commission on Audit defines a SARO as a “specific authority issued to one or more identified agencies to incur obligations not exceeding a given amount during a specified period for the purpose indicated.”

Arao, whose superior wasn’t identified in the report, denied any wrongdoing, although he admitted submitting the SARO to the DA.

“I thought it was a regular SARO,” he said. “I presumed its regularity because I didn’t even think na it would be a fake SARO because it came from the office. That’s why I assumed its regularity. It was in good faith that I gave it to DA.”

The SARO, which was for a P161 million fund, was meant for farm-to-market road projects in the entire Cagayan Valley, the report said.

Arao said he only learned that the SARO was fake when the NBI subpoenaed him for its investigation.

Budget Secretary Butch Abad had earlier said they were alerted on the existence of fake SAROs after a regional unit office of the DA called them on October 22 to inquire about the signed copies of SAROs that it received.

The NBI is investigating the scam upon the request of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, who said the fake SAROs were supposedly for Regions II (Cagayan Valley) and VI (Western Visayas).

The NBI is seeking to unmask those behind the anomalous release of SAROs worth P879 million. The SAROs, released to mayors for farm-to-market road projects, bore bogus signatures as confirmed by regional officials of the DA.— KBK, GMA News

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