Revilla aide convicted in pork barrel scam dies
Richard Cambe, a lawyer who served on the legislative staff of Sen. Ramon “Bong’’ Revilla Jr. and was convicted of plunder in 2018 for the diversion of P224 million from the senator’s pork barrel funds, died on Thursday while serving a 40-year prison sentence.
Revilla, who was acquitted in the same case but has yet to comply with a court order for him to return P124 million to the national treasury, said his aide had a stroke on Wednesday.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Cambe passed away around 6 p.m. on Thursday in a hospital in Muntinlupa City where he was brought from New Bilibid Prison after the stroke.
The justice secretary could not immediately confirm reports that Cambe had contracted COVID-19 or whether he was in an isolation area at the NBP prior to his death.
Cambe and Revilla were co-accused in the one of the plunder cases arising from the pork barrel scam, a racket exposed by the Inquirer in a series of reports published in July 2013. It involved the funneling of the senator’s Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) to bogus nongovernmental organizations in a scheme devised by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.
The Sandiganbayan, however, acquitted Revilla after the prosecution failed to prove the senator’s guilt. The anti-graft court said Cambe, who was accused of receiving “rebates’’ or kickbacks from Napoles on behalf of the senator, was found guilty of misusing public funds.
Serving 2 Revillas
In a statement on Friday, Revilla said he was in mourning over the sudden death of his aide, who had served his father, former Sen. Revilla Sr., for 10 years before working for him for about the same length of time.
Revilla said Cambe had a stroke on Wednesday night but could not immediately admitted to any hospital in Metro Manila, as many were already operating at full capacity. Cambe was eventually admitted into to the Ospital ng Muntinlupa (OM).
“After [their] best efforts, he was taken late afternoon to the OM, but unfortunately, he lost his life in the (emergency room),” Revilla said. “I pray that we extend his family and loved ones their privacy for them to grieve,’’ he said.
Gabriel Chaclag, the spokesperson for the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), said initial investigation showed “no signs of foul play so far.’’
“(Cambe’s family) requested that their privacy be respected. So we can only confirm that he died of stroke,” the BuCor official told reporters.
Despite the conviction of Cambe and Napoles in 2018, the Sandiganbayan decision was met with public uproar for acquitting Revilla.
During the trial, prosecution witnesses said Cambe personally collected and received kickbacks, in behalf of Revilla. from Napoles’ office in an upscale condominium building in Pasig City.
But since they testified that they had given the kickbacks to Cambe but not to Revilla himself, the court said it was possible that Cambe received the money for the senator but actually kept it for himself.
The court said it was also possible that Revilla was not aware of the arrangement between Napoles and Cambe, noting there was no other evidence offered that could prove otherwise.
In his defense, Cambe claimed that his signatures in the PDAF documents were all forgeries and that he did not receive any money from Revilla’s PDAF or connived with any of the alleged co-conspirators.
Cambe also denied ever talking to Benhur Luy, the principal whistleblower in the pork barrel scam, who testified that he personally handed the kickbacks to Cambe.
Like Cambe, Napoles was sentenced to a maximum prison term of 40 years. With Inquirer Research
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