Benhur testimony pins down Bong Revilla staff in plunder trial

MANILA, Philippines – Whistleblower Benhur Luy returned to the witness stand on Tuesday, August 7, for the last stretch of Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr’s pork barrel scam plunder trial where he explained in detail how their transactions with the former senator revolved around lawyer Richard Cambe.

Cambe was one of Revilla’s staff in the Senate, and who, Luy said, facilitated all pork barrel transactions and collected the kickbacks on behalf of his boss.

Luy said he prepared the draft of memoranda of agreement (MOA) which he emailed to Cambe. Cambe would then return to him personally and deliver to the JLN Corporation office the finalized memoranda, as well as endorsement letters.

“Everytime the MOA is brought to us by Cambe, it is accompanied by endorsement letters saying he is authorized by Revilla,” Luy said.

Luy said the endorsement letters, which contain Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) numbers and project cost, would bear either the signature of Revilla, a dry seal, and sometimes even a bar code.

Endorsement letters would give the Janet Napoles-owned non-governmental organizations (NGOs) the go-signal to use Revilla’s pork barrel or discretionary funds to implement projects, which turned out to be ghost or non-existent projects.

“Attorney Cambe gets 5% commission, nagpapa-merienda pa nga ‘yan sa amin kung makakakuha siya ng commission (he even treats us to snacks when he gets a commission),” Luy said, adding that he personally hands Cambe his cut and the kickbacks for Revilla.

Rebuttals

Luy was put on the stand by the prosecution to rebut the testimonies and evidence offered by the defense, especially fellow whistleblower Marina Sula’s statements that she was coached by both Luy and Ombudsman prosecutors to pin down Revilla.

Luy denied coaching Sula, and said he merely called her to suggest that she goes back to transcripts and affidavits so she can recall their testimonies from 2014, in order to be accurate.

Ombudsman prosecutors had said that Sula’s sudden turnaround was detrimental to their case, although they said they had heard that Sula would recant some statements.

Most implicated?

From Luy’s testimony, it would appear that Cambe is the most implicated in the alleged crime of plundering P224.5 million in discretionary funds. Revilla had denied ever authorizing anyone to transact using his discretionary funds.

‘Segurista si Madame, hindi siya magbibigay ng pera kay Attorney Cambe kung wala silang agreement ni Revilla (Madame Janet does not take chances, she would not give money to Attorney Cambe if there's no agreement with Revilla),” Luy said.

Luy added he first met Cambe when introductions among them, the Napoles couple, and Revilla happened inside the former senator’s own office inside the Senate.

Since then, Luy said he had spent many times with Cambe, and shared that the lawyer was even a principal sponsor in the wedding of one of the children of Napoles' employee Evelyn de Leon.

Revilla's hand 

During a recess, Revilla went to reporters to say of Luy: “Isa lang ang masasabi ko, mas magaling siyang artista kaysa sa akin.” (I can only say one thing, he's a better actor than I am.)

Revilla said he is also a victim in the complex corruption scheme, which allegedly just used his name using forged signatures.

But Luy said: “Paulit-ulit itong nangyari mula 2006 hanggang 2012, at wala kaming natanggap na complaint mula kay Revilla (This happened repeatedly from 2006 to 2012, and we never received any complaint from Revilla).”

The trial was once again extended to more hearing days in August and possibly September to accommodate more prosecution witnesses to rebut the evidence of the defense. Former prosecutor, now Judge Joefferson Toribio had been summoned to answer Sula’s allegation that he coached her in her testimonies.

During the hearing, Revilla’s lead counsel Estelito Mendoza repeatedly objected to Luy’s testimony but anti-graft court Sandiganbayan First Division chairman Associate Justice Efren dela Cruz overruled him and allowed it.

“Apologies to the court, but these proceedings are now irregular,” Mendoza said.

Dela Cruz noted Mendoza’s objections and allowed the testimony to continue beyond office hours on Tuesday. Dela Cruz finally adjourned past 5 pm and said Luy will continue on the stand on Thursday, August 9.

Deputy Special Prosecutor Manuel Soriano gave reminders once again that they have an Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) report which would prove the money trail of kickbacks going to the Revilla bank accounts. 

After the clarificatory hearings, the case will be submitted for resolution. This is the first-ever pork barrel scam case that will be completed. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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