Richard Cambe was a lawyer. He was also an aide to Sen. Bong Revilla, a trusted one it seems, considering how that employment eventually led to his downfall. I am talking about him in the past tense because he is gone. He died last week from a stroke.
Gigi Reyes is also a lawyer. She was the chief of staff of former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. She is currently detained at the Taguig City Jail in Camp Bagong Diwa.
Pauline Therese Mary Labayen also used to work in the Senate. She was the deputy chief of staff and appointments secretary in the office of then Sen. Jinggoy Estrada. She is now living a fugitive’s life in some country that Philippine authorities do not, or have no time to, know.
What did/do Cambe, Reyes and Labayen have in common other than their having worked in the office of a senator? One, their respective bosses were separately charged with plunder and they were indicted along with them and two, their bosses are out of jail while they continue to be deprived of liberty, save for Cambe, who was freed from confinement by his death.
Enrile, Revilla and Estrada were among the many legislators who were accused of having received kickbacks from Janet Napoles in consideration of their funneling their pork barrel or PDAF to her bogus NGOs. Enrile was alleged to have gotten P172 million; Estrada, 55.79 million; and Revilla, P224.5 million.
The cases against Enrile and Estrada are still pending in the Sandiganbayan, but both have been allowed to post bail; Enrile by the Supreme Court on humanitarian ground, considering his old age, and Estrada by the Sandiganbayan because he did not appear to be the “main plunderer,” a finding that Napoles vehemently disputed.
Revilla was even luckier, securing acquittal by the Sandiganbayan Special First Division because, according to the decision, the prosecution failed to establish guilt beyond reasonable doubt, while his co-accused Cambe and Napoles were convicted and sentenced to reclusion perpetua. Cambe was serving his sentence at the Bilibid Prisons when he suffered his fatal stroke last Thursday. Meanwhile, Revilla is back in the Senate.
(Curiously, while Revilla was acquitted, all three of them were ordered to return to the government the amount of P124.5 million. There is no showing until now that payment has been made.)
Labayen fled the country as soon as she got wind of an investigation into the pork barrel anomaly in 2013, beating the hold-departure order that the Sandiganbayan would issue the following year.
Reyes has had her bids for temporary liberty rejected, the last one in May last year when the court dismissed her claim that her life was in danger from Covid-19 while on detention because of her age (57).
Last January, she went to the Supreme Court on a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, claiming that her right to speedy trial has been violated.
One dead, one jailed and another one on the lam. That’s the story of three Senate subordinates.