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Tribunal disbars Marcos Jr.’s anti-poverty czar over profane remarks vs local journalist

By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

THE PHILIPPINE Supreme Court  has disbarred President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s anti-poverty czar for cussing and yelling at a local journalist.

In a statement on Wednesday, the tribunal said it had barred Lorenzo “Larry” G. Gadon from practicing law based on a 2021 viral video that showed him cursing, which the court found “indisputably scandalous that it discredits the legal profession.”

“The privilege to practice law is bestowed only upon individuals who are competent intellectually, academically and, equally important, morally,” it said. Lawyers should “impose a standard of propriety and maintain the appearance of propriety in personal and professional dealings.”

Mr. Gadon, who was appointed presidential adviser for poverty alleviation this week, was also cited in contempt after he accused Senior Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F Leonen and Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa of bias.

The lawyer in a statement on Tuesday night said he had been informed of his disbarment ahead of the court’s statement and would appeal the ruling.

Last year, the High Court suspended him indefinitely over the same incident. It had suspended him for three months for using “malicious and arrogant language” during a 2019 disbarment proceeding.

Mr. Gadon told the ABS-CBN News Channel on Wednesday he does not regret his actions, adding that the ruling would not affect his job as a presidential adviser. “This has nothing to do with how I will do the job.”

“A disgraced former attorney does not inspire confidence in the Cabinet,” opposition Senator Ana Theresia “Risa” N. Hontiveros-Baraquel said in a statement. “Gadon holds neither title nor expertise to justify his appointment. Pushing through with the decision will only demoralize the bureaucracy by incentivizing an official whom the court unanimously does not trust.

She also praised the High Court “for its indignation about misogyny and sexism in our institutions, which is vital to the government’s integrity.”

Political analysts said his appointment undermines the credibility of the government’s anti-poverty drive.

It would be “tainted by association with Mr. Gadon’s past actions,” Ateneo de Manila University School of Government Dean Philip Arnold “Randy” P. Tuaño said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

“He has made irresponsible remarks, as reported in various media outlets, on the COVID-19 pandemic, and on the supporters of various government officials and political candidates, and has made misogynistic, sexist and abusive language,” he said.

“Any pronouncements from him on the government’s poverty alleviation programs will focus, not on the projects and activities, but on his character.”

Executive Secretary Lucas P. Bersamin said the Marcos administration was aware of Mr. Gadon’s cases before the High Court before his appointment.

“But the president felt that his work as presidential adviser will not get affected by his status as a lawyer,” he said in a statement. “This is a matter which he will have to personally attend to.”

Mr. Gadon’s appointment speaks more about Mr. Marcos’ leadership, said Maria Ela L. Atienza, former chairwoman of the University of the Philippines’ Political Science department.

“Mr. Gadon does not inspire confidence,” she said in a Viber message. “He also is not qualified in anti-poverty programs. He is not an economist or a development worker or specialist. Who will listen to him or believe him?”

Mr. Gadon’s appointment is a clear example of political accommodation, policy analyst Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco said via Messenger chat. “It is the unholy product of patronage politics. And sad to say, such an anomaly happens in every administration.”

He urged Mr. Marcos Jr. to bring in nonpartisan political figures in his team.  

“Appointing an obviously rabid political supporter will only cause headaches for the president,” Mr. Yusingco said.

Mr. Gadon, 65, ran for senator under the Marcos slate last year but lost.

Mr. Yusingco said the creation of the poverty alleviation adviser position, which is equivalent to a Cabinet secretary post, goes against the president’s rightsizing push.

“The position itself is a superfluity,” he said. “It is a complete waste of public funds. There are already nonpolitical and technocratic agencies with the primary mandate of poverty alleviation.”

“It doesn’t matter who the appointee is,” he said. “This appointment goes against the very principle of right-sizing the government. The president seems blind to the fact that the bureaucracy is getting even more bloated under his watch with these redundant appointments.”

The National Anti-Poverty Commission has been overseeing the poverty reduction programs of the government.

It has been exercising “oversight functions in the incorporation of anti-poverty strategies and programs in the government’s development plans,” according to the Official Gazette.

The presidential palace has said Mr. Gadon would advise Mr. Marcos Jr. on strategies aimed at combatting poverty and would work closely with various government agencies, nongovernment groups and other sectors in designing anti-poverty programs.

Rodrigo R. Duterte, Mr. Marcos’ predecessor, did not have an anti-poverty czar.

“The president “does not walk the talk” because he has appointed so many consultants and undersecretaries on the basis of patronage and not qualifications,” Ms. Atienza said. “They also overlap in terms of functions, and they are a waste of taxpayers’ money.”

The Marcos government in April said it would evaluate redundant positions and functions that could be merged as the government pursues its rightsizing plan

In March, the House of Representatives passed a bill seeking to debloat the National Government.

Three Senate bills on the rightsizing push are pending at the committee level. — with John Victor D. Ordoñez

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