Philippine politicians

[OPINION] When Gordon lawyered for the Dutertes

Antonio J. Montalvan II
[OPINION] When Gordon lawyered for the Dutertes

Alejandro Edoria

The absolvers have become rats abandoning a sinking ship

Today he may typify what the Senate should be: a co-equal branch of government that scrutinizes the executive if need be. In many times since 2016, however, Senator Dick Gordon did not do his integral work as a lawmaker, to check and balance government. He did the unthinkably unparliamentarian: he lawyered for the Dutertes and their interests.

The first time he did this was as a vociferous enabler for Leila de Lima’s crucifixion before the public that echoed how she was being pilloried then by Duterte’s troll armies.

Only less than two months into the Duterte presidency in August 2016, one Abelardo de Jesus filed an ethics complaint against De Lima in the Senate ethics committee. Take note: De Jesus said he only heard of Duterte’s allegations against De Lima that she was involved in drugs operations and that he had no personal knowledge of the allegations. Despite that, then-majority floor leader Tito Sotto accepted the complaint and moved to investigate.

Less than a month later, De Lima was ousted as chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights and replaced by Gordon. A few days into his chairmanship, Gordon chastised de Lima, accusing her of concealing information on ex-hitman Edgar Matobato, when actually the transcript of Matobato’s confession showed he did not conceal the information.

Gordon insisted otherwise and threatened he would file another ethics complaint against De Lima. He later admitted that he forgot that part of the Matobato transcript, then changed his tact to say Matobato was inconsistent.  Senator Antonio Trillanes IV challenged Gordon to “be a man and apologize to De Lima for his false accusation” but Gordon would have none of it.

Gordon acted as Duterte had wished: De Lima’s crucifixion before the public’s eyes succeeded, leading to her eventual imprisonment. But that was not enough. Just a few days after Gordon’s umbrage against De Lima for nothing, and after only six hearings of his justice committee on the spate of extrajudicial killings under Duterte, Gordon made the most fantastic pronouncement of his political career in only two words: “Definitely not.” He meant that the extrajudicial killings were not state-sponsored, and said that De Lima had personal differences with Duterte.

That was the second time he lawyered for Duterte and he did so effectively.

In March 2017, with De Lima locked up behind bars, Gordon had a heyday demolishing the Davao Death Squad narrative. The Davao city police assassin Arturo Lascañas had finally turned witness against Duterte. What did Gordon say? He said Lascañas was a mercenary out to make money. Gordon had also called Matobato a liar. Yet in the same breath, Gordon said “he did not dismiss the existence of extrajudicial killings.” Notice the two-timing.

When the Senate voted to reopen the DDS investigations on the basis of the Lascañas’ testimony, Gordon was one of seven senators who voted no. (The other enablers were Koko Pimentel, Manny Pacquiao, Sherwin Gatchalian, Gregorio Honasan II, Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Cynthia Villar). Notice some of those names – under today’s lame duck Duterte presidency, they would not have voted in his favor. But 10 senators voted to reopen: Trillanes, De Lima, Risa Hontiveros, Francis Escudero, Ralph Recto, Joel Villanueva, Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, Francis Pangilinan, Franklin Drilon, and Sonny Angara. Five senators had comfortably abstained: Tito Sotto, Panfilo Lacson, Nancy Binay, Loren Legarda, and JV Ejercito.

The third time he lawyered for Duterte’s interests, Dick Gordon comported himself before the public as though he was an accomplice to the crime being investigated.

Sometime May 2017, the Bureau of Customs seized 604 kilos of shabu valued at P6.4 billion in two warehouses in Valenzuela City. The Senate initiated hearings on how the shipment had passed through Customs. That August, private broker Mark Ruben Taguba testified that aside from paying Customs personnel with grease money, he had also been told that container vans can also be speedily released through the help of presidential son Paolo Duterte and his Davao group.

In fact, Taguba would later meet with Paolo Duterte’s alleged cohorts in Davao City (Councilor Small Abellera and a certain Jack) and hand over P5 million to allegedly facilitate Taguba’s cargo. In fact, Abellera admitted meeting Taguba in Davao City.

How did Gordon treat Taguba? By mid-August 2017, Gordon exonerated Paolo Duterte and the Davao Group. Sotto aped Gordon: Paolo will no longer be summoned to the Senate. In the end, it was Mark Taguba and the warehouse utility man who were jailed, among others.

Dick Gordon sealed his fate as the quintessential Duterte barrister of the Senate.

Today, Gordon’s Comité de Absuelto has stopped absolving. The absolvers have become rats abandoning a sinking ship. Do rats tell the truth? Yes, they do, but out of survival; they fear drowning with the sinking ship. The key is we don’t forget that they were once enablers of why the ship had sunk. And so we take them in our lifeboats but once we reach port we don’t let them get off the hook. 

He can begin by telling the truth on the double standards by which he conducted investigations. It might even save him from prosecution. –

Antonio J. Montalvan Il is a long-time public writer who views Filipino society and politics from the lens of Mindanao social anthropology.

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