Lilia seeks probe on fake SAROs PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 06 December 2013 11:12

Zamboanga City District 2 Congresswoman Lilia Macrohon-Nuno yesterday clarified that she and her office are in no way involved in the so-called fake SARO controversy despite reports linking one of her legislative staff to the newly discovered scam in the House of Representatives.

In a news conference at her Guiwan residence, Rep. Nuño admitted that Emmanuel Raza, who is implicated in the issuance of SARO (Special Allotment Release Order), is in her congressional staff, but emphasized she does not know his other activities in Congress,

Nuño said she observed Raza as efficient and prompt in his job, but she was clueless he was involved in something illegal as fake SAROs.

Raza was endorsed to Nuño by the outgoing District 2 congressman (Erbie A. Fabian) when she assumed office five months ago.

In fact, Nuño said the fake SAROs in question have been discovered as not from any allotment in her congressional office.

Nuño stressed she is eager to find and know about this mystery as she believes there is a syndicate in Congress behind the scam.   The congresswoman revealed that House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte has vowed to investigate the issuance of fake SAROs supposedly and uncover the truth.

Nuño said she and Fabian talked yesterday and the latter promised to support and defend her against any criticism regarding Raza.

In a separate press statement, Fabian said he was shocked to read about Raza’s involvement in the fake SAROs.

Fabian said he did not know Raza into other activities.

“He was with me and I was not aware or informed of what he was doing after office hours,” Fabian said.

Fabian said Raza was a member of his staff in his three terms as lawmaker an was a holdover staff of another lawmaker from Cagayan Valley.

SAROs are budgetary documents indicating the release of government funds for a  particular disbursement. A SARO is needed before money can be released from government coffers for an approved project.

She said she was surprised that Raza’s name has come up. “We’re not aware na meron siyang connection. That’s why he is under investigation,” she said.

Raza was not in Nuno’s congressional office and is supposedly scheduled to give a statement to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

Asked if the controversy has affected her, Nuño said she is unperturmed because she is innocent.

“I am definitely innocent. I am not involved and certainly I will never get involved in such a scam,” she said.

In a statement late Monday night, Speaker Sonny Belmonte said: “Upon further inquiry, we have found out that the photocopy of the fake Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) came from the staff of Congresswoman Lilia Nuño of Zamboanga City, Emmanuel Raza, who requested Appropriations Committee staff Jose Badong if he knew someone from the Office of Congresswoman Baby Aline Vargas-Alfonso, because he (Raza) has a copy of the SARO for Region 2. Badong, who knew Bong Pelonio, Vargas-Alfonso’s Chief of Staff, gave the alleged SARO to Mr. Pelonio.”

Belmonte further said: “The Committee on Appropriations has no knowledge or hand in the issuance of said fake SARO. The Appropriations Committee does not issue or receive any SARO. SAROs are sent directly by DBM to the implementing agencies. The Office of the Speaker supports the investigation being undertaken by the NBI.”

Nuño described Raza as a regular guy, who is the first to arrive and last to leave in her office during work days.

It is not uncommon for congressional staff members to transfer from one legislator to another especially if the incumbent congressman is already on his or her last term of office. Some are even endorsed by the outgoing congressman to the new congressman.

Nuno believes Raza is not alone. “There should be an investigation since this is involving millions of pesos. You said there are fake SAROs. How can there be? There are other people involved.”

The so-called fake SAROs scam involves some P879 million in funds under the agriculture department for various farm-to-market road projects.

Belmonte already said he prefers to let the NBI finish its own investigation first before he considers a congressional investigation of the matter.