Gadon’s losing gambit

Lawyer Lorenzo “Larry Gadon” wants Supreme Court Associate Justice Mario Victor “Marvic” Leonen removed for alleged wrongdoings, based mainly on newspaper reports. He wants the House justice committee, using its subpoena powers, to gather the evidence for him against Leonen.

Gadon appeared at the House secretary general’s office on December 7, assisting a certain Edwin Cordevilla in filing an impeachment complaint against Leonen, whom he described as lazy and incompetent.

In media interviews, Gadon has assailed Leonen’s alleged “lack of integrity” and incompetence for not filing his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) during the years that he was teaching at the University of the Philippines, and that he has been sitting on 82 cases, including the electoral protest of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

The mention of the Marcos case has compounded the issue behind the impeachment complaint against Leonen, leading to suspicions that it is yet another ploy by the Marcos camp to get the 57-year-old magistrate out of the Supreme Court and, as a consequence, out of the former senator’s electoral protest against Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo.

Gadon and the Office of the Solicitor General earlier sought Leonen’s inhibition from the electoral protest case in the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET). They failed in this attempt.

They also tried to remove Leonen through a quo warranto case, the same legal maneuver they used in successfully ousting Lourdes Sereno as chief justice in 2018, but failed again after the Supreme Court rejected the request for á copy of Leonen’s SALN.

Interviewed on television, Gadon said the House justice committee could easily issue a subpoena to the SC Clerk of Court to secure Leonen’s SALN. Wise move, or sheer laziness?

No amount of denial from Gadon that the impeachment complaint was part of an elaborate conspiracy to get Leonen out of Marcos’ way will be convincing enough when the major players can easily be identified with them.

Cordevilla runs a website in which he is described as a co-publisher of alternative news outlet www.Maharlika.TV and a regular columnist of Pilipino Mirror. When he filed the complaint, he presented himself as the secretary general of Flag-Maharlika, or the Filipino League of Advocates for Good Governance, which claims to be “the source of power of our government and public officials.” The word “maharlika” has long been associated with the Marcoses.

A resident of Ilocos Norte, Cordevilla’s website also describes him as a “veteran political PR and strategist” and served as a “media consultant for various Philippine government agencies as well as the successful national campaigns of former president Gloria Arroyo, vice president Noli de Castro, former senator Loren Legarda, and numerous local candidates.” He is as well the president of party-list group A-Tambay (Ang Tao Muna at ang Bayan). Interestingly, he was also listed as “principal author of Duterte Chronicles: The Storm From Davao (2016), a book that recounted the rise of President Rodrigo Duterte from obscurity to the Philippine presidency, covering the years 2014 to 2016.”

Rep. Angelo Marcos Barba of Ilocos Norte endorsed Cordevilla’s complaint. Barba is a first cousin of Bongbong Marcos. Gadon said Barba did so because Cordevilla is a constituent in Ilocos Norte’s second district.

Gadon himself has been lawyering for Marcos. In an interview with Christian Esguerra on the ABS-CBN news channel a few days ago, Gadon nearly lost his temper when he was asked about the hand of the Marcoses in the impeachment complaint, as it was noted that their “imprints are all over the place,” including his lawyering for them.

“I deny that the Marcos fingerprint is all over the place. I am a lawyer. I respect myself; I respect my profession and I expect the Supreme Court justices to be true to their oath,” Gadon said.

Solicitor General Jose Calida has been a known Marcos loyalist, too.

Gadon insisted, however, that Marcos had no hand in the impeachment complaint against Leonen. “He has nothing to do with this. Whatever I do is my own decision. I’ve seen the protest of Bongbong Marcos being delayed purposely by Leonen,” he said in the interview with Esguerra.

Of course, Leonen has to explain the delay in the cases instead of simply dismissing the issues raised in the complaint as “false” but it is difficult to believe that Marcos has no hand in its filing.

It’s quite disturbing though for Gadon to say that he is “more qualified than Leonen in terms of experience in litigation, in terms of knowledge of law.” His insults against Leonen denigrate not just the associate justice but also the members of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) that rigorously deliberated on his qualifications to be appointed to the High Tribunal.

Claiming to have long experience in litigation and a deep knowledge of the law, Gadon should know that mere newspaper reports cannot be admitted as evidence to remove someone occupying such a high position in the judiciary.

Gadon has a serious credibility problem. He has been facing disbarment complaints and was, in fact, suspended for three months already in June 2019 for uttering “abusive and intemperate language” towards a doctor and a fellow lawyer, words which “lessen the confidence of the public in the Philippine judicial system.”

How can we take him seriously when he could not even say Leonen’s name accurately? He repeatedly referred to the justice as “Marivic” instead of Marvic even after he was corrected. If Gadon considers Leonen to be incompetent, what would he be then?

Gadon’s failed senatorial campaign in the 2016 elections focused on his “anti-bobo” advocacy. In 2018, he called supporters of then Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno as “mga bobo” as he raised his middle finger at them outside the tribunal’s compound in Baguio City. Gadon also sought to impeach Sereno.

Wouldn’t it be stupidity on the part of House members to agree with Gadon that Leonen should be impeached on the basis of newspaper reports and that it is up to the justice committee to gather the evidence against him through its subpoena power?

But then, many representatives have proven in their previous voting record that they don’t really decide based on merits and propriety.

Yet, I would still like to believe that we have enough discerning members of Congress who would not waste time and public money to take a nuisance seriously, especially now that the country is still struggling to recover from the adverse impact of the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and the devastation of the string of typhoons that recently struck most parts of Luzon.


The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.
This column also appeared in The Manila Times.

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