MANILA, Philippines – He has avoided media interviews on the advice of the legal team of Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla. No, he did not leave the country, contrary to earlier reports. No, he is not his boss’ bagman in the pork barrel scam. No, he did not personally know Janet Lim Napoles or any of the whistleblowers.
The only thing that Revilla’s political staff Richard Cambe would admit to is, the Anti-Money Laundering Council failed to identify his other bank accounts.
Cambe had long wanted to air his side on the controversy but was prevailed upon to keep mum by the senator's lawyers. “I was told we’d rather suffer in the media than with our legal defense,” he said in an exclusive interview.
He was waiting for a cue from Revilla, but the senator, who was charged for plunder before the Ombudsman, was in no mood to clear their name. “Di ko alam kung saan ako lulugar. (I don't know where to put myself).”
Revilla was supposedly scheduled to deliver a privilege speech last week but didn't.
Unlike other Senate employees dragged into the pork barrel scam, Cambe said he never went abroad to escape prosecution. “I can prove my innocence. If they want, I can give them blanket authority to check all my bank accounts.”
Cambe was among those charged with plunder, malversation and direct bribery in connection with the pork barrel exposé by whistleblowers led by Benhur Luy. He supposedly got the kickbacks in Revilla’s behalf, in exchange for his yearly millions of pesos in pork barrel allocations.
According to accounts by whistleblowers, Cambe frequented the Discovery Suites in Ortigas where Napoles’s flagship company, JLN Corporation, held office. If Benhur Luy is to be believed, Cambe got at least 1% of the kickbacks, which represented the share of the conduits.
Out of the P787 million of Revilla’s pork barrel that was funneled to Napoles’ bogus NGOs, the senator got P224.5 million as his alleged share of the loot. This figure does not include commissions that Luy supposedly failed to record.
At 1% minimum, Cambe’s share amounted to between P2.245 million and P7.87 million.
The Court of Appeals has frozen the accounts of 10 people dragged in the scam, including Cambe’s. Unlike the others with multiple accounts, court records show that Cambe has only two accounts frozen – one BDO Unibank Inc and one Philippine National Bank – which he shared with his wife.
But Cambe said he has additional accounts that the Anti-Money Laundering Council failed to monitor. “If they want, they can also check my other accounts, just to prove my innocence.” He said the two accounts in question were opened when they applied for loans.
‘Just an outsider’
Among Revilla’s staff, Cambe considers himself an interloper who’s in but not necessarily part of the senator’s clique. He was formerly employed by former senator Ramon Revilla Sr, and held a Director 4 position. (READ: The wealth of the old man Revilla)
When the Revilla patriarch relinquished the post to his son, Cambe was among the few retained by the younger Revilla, on his father’s behest. “I was closer to the father having worked with him since 1993.”
During the elder Revilla’s time, Cambe said he frequented the Department of Budget and Management office. “I was the one getting the SARO (Special Allotment Release Order).”
With the younger Revilla, Cambe said he was actually demoted to Director 3.
Insisting that he was not the one in charge of the pork barrel funds, Cambe said he only belatedly found that the Commission on Audit asked Revilla’s office to authenticate the signatures in documents that link him and the senator to the pork barrel. “I did not know the COA letter. I was not made aware of such letter.”
Revilla confirmed to the COA however that his and Cambe’s signatures were authentic.
Not the bagman?
Cambe admitted he’s had the opportunity to meet Napoles in several social functions but only because it was part of his job. “I go there because I was asked to go. Para magpakita lang. (Just to be seen.)”
He insisted he does not know Luy or any of the witnesses.
Denying that he was Revilla’s bagman, Cambe said he’s actually in debt as reflected in his 2012 Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth. “We have businesses but I borrowed the investments.” (READ: Was Revilla's Senate staff truthful in SALN?)
He added: “If I got any kickbacks, I would not be in debt. Where’s the money?”
In the filing of the complaint before the Ombudsman, Cambe said the National Bureau of Investigation did not get his side in the controversy. He only got the documents when the Ombudsman sent him two piles of evidence against him.
Examining the signatures, he found that the specimen signatures were not his. “Those are not my signatures. You could see that the signatures vary,” he said, showing to Rappler several documents containing his supposed signatures.
Luy had testified that they forged signatures in most of the pork barrel documents, including making up names of supposed beneficiaries. “They admitted faking signatures and they did the same to me,” Cambe claimed.
This is the same defense that Revilla used in a civil case he filed before a Cavite court. Revilla has asked the court to declare all the documents submitted by the whistleblowers void, since these were tainted with forgeries. The senator also asked the court to order the return to the government of some P500 million of his Priority Development Assistance Funds channeled to Napoles’ fake NGOs.
Cambe said that at the moment his main concern is to clear his name before he is indicted before the Sandiganbayan for plunder, a non-bailable offense. “I am facing jail, and I am not guilty.”
As expected, he said the scandal has affected his family and children. “I told my children, if somebody asks them, to say that their father just got dragged into the controversy. In the first place, they cannot deny I am their father.”
But no matter what happens, Cambe said he knew he’s damaged goods. “Nasira na pangalan ko. Wala na ako career." (My name has been damaged. I no longer have a career.) - Rappler.com