Belmonte defends Haresco over SARO scam tag

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 12 2014 09:03 PM | Updated as of Feb 13 2014 05:03 AM

MANILA -- House Speaker Sonny Belmonte has taken up the cudgels for Aklan Rep. Teodorico Haresco Jr., who has been recommended for criminal prosecution in connection with the fake Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) scam.

In an ambush interview on Wednesday, Belmonte said, "I come to the defense of Cong. Haresco na I didn't see any direct thing by him. Kaya sabi ko, I would like to get a copy of the charge sheet of the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation). And I'm also very concerned by the fact they didn't invite him to give his statement. That's where it stands. Siya pala pinupuntirya, hindi siya iniimbita to get his statement."

Belmonte said he wants to study the basis for the recommendation.

"Anyway, I'm proposing to write a letter to ask for a copy of the information that they have filed against him. Pag-aaralan ko naman. If to me, the guy was given less than the opportunity to defend himself, I'd ask them to get his statement," he said.

Haresco was the lone congressman among the five people recommended for criminal prosecution.

The NBI Anti-Graft Division on Tuesday said it is recommending the filing of charges of falsification of public documents against Haresco; Elvie Rafael, driver of Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos; Bhernie C. Beltran from the Department of Budget and Management; and Emmanuel Raza, a staff member of Zamboanga City Rep. Lilia Macrohon-Nuño.

Authorities said it discovered a "well entrenched syndicate in the Department of Budget and Management and the operation of the syndicate extends to the whole of Congress."

A SARO is a document from DBM that paves the way for the release of lump sum funds, which was also the case in the release of lawmakers' pork barrel funds.

Haresco, however, wants the NBI to reinvestigate the case.

"I'm flabbergasted… We were the ones who complained to the NBI. Amongst other congressmen I don't know why I'm the one being singled out. The function of SAROs is an executive function. The SARO doesn't give anything to legislators. I don't even know the full name of the SARO. I'm the victim here. A SARO is just a notice," Haresco earlier said.