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MANILA — If anyone wants to get his Special Allotment and Release Order (SARO) quickly, an insider at the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) confesses, a tiny “fee” of P200,000 has to be paid.

This story has been confirmed by a top executive of a corporation attached to the Department of Agriculture (DA) who admitted that he refused to pay a single centavo to get the SARO and the Notice of Cash Allocation (NCA).

He made this disclosure after confirming that he is leaving the government in the next two months, less than three years after he refused to handle any project funded by pork barrel.

His refusal to fork over a tidy sum for the DBM syndicate is in stark contrast to a story that goes around the department about how a Mindanao lawmaker, now fortunately out of Congress and barred from holding any government post, used to kneel before lowly personnel at the DBM to get his SARO.

This lawmaker is not only controversial but a bad example for any would-be congressman who regularly got his comeuppance at the DBM but netted millions more in regular payoffs from another department.

It is impossible for Budget Secretary Butch Abad not to know the shenanigans of the DBM syndicate since he had been a Cabinet member thrice and elected as congressmen for several terms. 

Abad should also be investigated for not initiating a revamp at the DBM in the light of the SAROs that covered a P900-million water treatment project for the benefit of 15 Laguna towns.

Another scam was the P879-million SARO for the farm-to-market roads (FMRs) in Regions 2, 4-A, 6 and 12, which turned out to be phony.

Strangely, these scandals happened under Abad’s watch. 

In the not-so-distant past, a prominent lawyer from Lanao del Sur, Salic Dumarpa, also charged that DBM released SAROs for the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) under then Secretary Nasser Pangandaman for the benefit of several towns in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) even as the region is not covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP.)

Dumarpa alleged that the funds were not used for farm projects but to buy the loyalty of mayors in the congressional district of Pangandaman.

The SAROs were issued quickly, Dumarpa claimed, and the money distributed by the ARMM during the term of Gov. Zaldy Anpatuan, now detained for his alleged participation in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre.

SAROs have also been released prepatory to the issuance of the Notice of Caash Allocation (NCAs) for no less than P500 million under the current dispensation, with the money ostensibly for local government units (LGUs) in ARMM.

A top ARMM executive also got a cut from the money,

Now that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has gone to town implicating Aklan Rep. Teodoro Haresco to the fake SARO scandal and recommending the filing of criminal charges against him for falsification of public documents, the issue still would not rest.

Haresco has furiously denied any involvement in the mess, saying he has nothing to gain from fake SAROs, and Speaker Sonny Belmonte and Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga stressed that the document is issued only by the DBM and it is the department which should be subjected to the most intense scrutiny.

The Aklan lawmaker has accused the NBI of harassing him, and it is no secret that Haresco had tangled with a senator very close to President Aquino for his role in winning contracts for the construction of steel bridges all over the country.

Haresco used to be a partylist representative before he finally ran as Aklan congressman.

He is being charged by the NBI for the SARO scam along with Emmanuel Razxa, a staffer of Zamboanga Rep. Lilia Macrohon-Nuno, Elvie Rafael, a driver of Budget Underscretary Mario Relampagos, Bhernie Beltran of DBM and Mary Ann Castillo, Haresco’s consultant.