MANILA, Philippines – “These whistleblowers are such liars! For the record, Atty Richard Cambe was never my chief of staff or chief political officer. Get your facts straight,” Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr challenged his critics, when he delivered a privilege speech on Monday, January 20.
Cambe has been tagged as Revilla’s supposed bagman in the pork barrel scandal, collecting the senator’s commissions from alleged pork barrel mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.
But at least one document purportedly sourced from his Senate office shows Revilla may not have been entirely truthful.
The document, obtained by Rappler, shows that Revilla had named Cambe as his OIC (officer-in-charge) chief of staff in connection with the release of a P25-million pork barrel tranche.
In a letter dated April 10, 2007 to Ricardo Regis, the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) OIC regional executive director in Butuan City, Revilla indicated that he was assigning Cambe as his OIC chief of staff, “to represent and act on my behalf” in relation to the implementation of livelihood programs in Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur.
In that letter which bore his office’s letterhead, Revilla told Regis he was endorsing the non-governmental organizations, Philippine Social Development Foundation Inc (PSDFI) and the People’s Organization for Progress Development Foundation (POPDF), to team up with the DA regional office in the Caraga region for the implementation of his P25-million worth of projects financed by his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
These two NGOs have been identified as among the dozen of Napoles fronts used to plunder the pork barrel of lawmakers. A Commission on Audit report showed that PSDFI cornered a total of P121.6 million worth of PDAF from 2007-2009, while POPDF got P50.35 million during the same period.
A source close to the Revilla family confirmed that there was one point where Revilla had no chief of staff.
Revilla’s first chief of staff was his younger brother Strike, followed by Revilla’s friend Jorge del Rosario, who was in turn, replaced by Revilla’s son, Leonard Bryan Bautista, the source said. “As far as I can recall, the senator had no chief of staff for a few months. Could be that during that interim, Cambe was appointed OIC.”
In an earlier interview, Cambe said he was taken by Revilla as one of his staff at the behest of his father, former Senator Ramon Revilla. In that interview, Cambe said that while he was one of the trusted staff of Revilla’s father, he was however not in the loop in the younger Revilla’s circle. From a Director IV position, he was demoted to a Director III post under the younger Revilla. (READ: Revilla Senate staff: I’m ready to open bank accounts)
The letter to the DA contained a bar code as an added security measure that indicates it was really sourced from Revilla’s office. It also helps establish authenticity. The letter likewise bore the signature of Revilla.
The Department of Budget and Management, under then Secretary Rolando Andaya issued the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) for the release of the P25 million on March 23, 2007, the paper trail showed. Advice of sub-allotment from the DBM to the DA Butuan Office was subsequently issued on March 29.
Also on April 10, 2007, Revilla purportedly sent a separate letter to Antonio Ortiz, director-general of the Technology and Livelihood Resource Center, assigning another Napoles-linked NGO, Agri Economic Program for Farmers Foundation Inc, as conduit of his P25 million PDAF for various local government units in Surigao del Norte.
In that letter, however, Revilla only described Cambe as one of his staff.
“I would also like to assign my staff, Atty. Richard A. Cambe, to represent and act in my behalf to pursue this purpose and objective. I would surely appreciate if this could be implemented as soon as possible and allow the said foundation a crucial role for this mission and task,” the letter, signed by Revilla, said.
The letter also contained a bar code to indicate it came from his office.
While the amounts indicated in the two separate letters only indicate P25 million each, the ledger of principal whistleblower Benhur Luy showed that Revilla downloaded P50 million each of his PDAF to the 2 agencies.
Luy’s ledger, if it is to be believed, showed that P25-million worth of commissions from the PDAF coursed through the two agencies were received by Cambe from March to April 2007. The payment was taken from the office vault of Napoles.
Luy was tasked by Napoles to keep a regular recording of commissions paid to senators or their representatives. There were cases, however, when payments were not recorded since these were personally given by Napoles outside the office without having any vouchers signed. (READ: Bong Revilla’s biggest battle)
In the case of Revilla, all supposed commissions were received by Cambe, but Cambe has denied this.
Revilla has refuted allegations and charges against him, saying that all his signatures were forged by Luy who had previously admitted to faking the signatures of lawmakers and their representatives. Revilla’s lawyer, Joel Bodegon, described Luy and his cohorts as a “sophisticated syndicate.”
However, Luy said he only faked signatures pertaining to liquidation reports that were submitted to government agencies. Follow-up letters from the lawmaker’s office were not forged, he insisted.
Revilla’s camp has filed a counter charge of plunder against Luy in relation to the pork barrel scam. – with reports from Reynaldo Santos Jr/Rappler.com