MANILA — Investigative journalist and award-winning book author Raissa Robles has filed multiple complaints against suspended lawyer and senatorial candidate Lorenzo “Larry” Gadon over a viral video that surfaced in December where the senatoriable cursed her.
In an 11-page complaint affidavit filed before the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office on February 4, Robles accused Gadon of violating the Safe Spaces Act (Republic Act 11313) and of committing libel and cyber libel.
The twenty-second video clip began with Gadon mentioning Robles by her full name, cursing her and calling her out for supposedly spreading information that presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. did not pay taxes.
“Anong pinagsasabi mong hindi nagbayad si BBM ng taxes? May certification yan galing sa BIR,” Gadon angrily said, before again hurling profanities at the journalist.
Robles said Gadon used “brutal, dehumanizing, misogynistic and sexist” language in the video.
“Mr. Gadon was obscenely gesturing with this middle finger and directing the contemptuous hand gesture to the person to whom he was addressing his profane words; in other words, to me,” she said.
“I am certain that the words used by Mr. Gadon in the video constitute terrorizing, unwanted sexual misogynistic, and sexist statements made online, whether publicly or through direct and private messages, which are defined as the criminal offense of gender-based online sexual harassment under Republic Act No. 11313, otherwise known as the Safe Spaces Act…,” she added.
The Safe Spaces Act or Bawal Bastos Law, signed into law in 2019, punishes gender-based sexual harassment in public areas and online.
Gadon could face anywhere from 2 years and 4 months to 4 years and 2 months imprisonment aside from up to P500,000-fine, if found guilty.
The law imposes a higher penalty if the offended party is a senior citizen like Robles.
“The debasing, crude and leering words in the Filipino language are directed to me personally, not as a mere expression, but as a degrading personal attack on my dignity as a woman and in blatant disregard of the fact that I am already a senior citizen,” she added.
Robles cited the Supreme Court-initiated directive in January this year placing Gadon on preventive suspension and ordering him to explain why he should not be disbarred, as proof of how “appalling and deplorable” the video is.
“Mr. Gadon degraded me to a point that I fear for my personal safety and security both in the real worlds and in the online world, which is basically my workplace as an online freelance journalist,” she said.
Robles works as a senior Manila correspondent for the Hongkong-based South China Morning Post and maintains an investigative and news blog on Philippine politics.
“I strongly believe that what Mr. Gadon did was a form of sexual abuse, delivered visually and orally online, and used primarily in this case as a political weapon. It was intended to shred my dignity as a woman, reduce my credibility as a journalist and make me a laughing stock, so that people would not believe what I write and say,” she said, claiming Gadon’s verbal attack could be politically motivated.
Robles also accused Gadon of committing libel and cyber libel when, in a Facebook video supposedly meant as an apology over the viral video, Gadon only apologized to women in general and instead accused her of spreading “fake news.”
The penalty imposed for traditional libel under the Revised Penal Code is up to 4 years while under the Cybercrime Prevention Act (RA 10175), the jail term for cyber libel could be up to 8 years.
“I am, in principle, for decriminalizing libel and cyberlibel. But in this case, because Mr. Gadon’s verbal attack against me was so egregious or oustandingly and appallingly so shocking and horrific — that it eerily reminded me of the verbal sexual attacks that female victims of the late Marcos’ Martial Law dictatorship had underwent in the hands of their torturers — according to my one-on-one interviews with them,” Robles said.
“…and furthermore, because Mr. Gadon’s attack against me could inspire a whole new wave of vicious verbal sexual attacks particularly directed against women who want to engage in political discussions online…,” she added.
Gadon became notorious for filing an impeachment complaint against ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and for calling the then top magistrates’ supporters "mga bobo" (stupid) and flashing the middle finger at them outside the high court compound in Baguio City.
He also represented Peter Joemel Advincula alias Bikoy, the hooded figure in the "Ang Totoong Narcolist" videos who initially linked the President and his family to illegal drugs, only to turn around and accuse opposition figures of organizing a plot to oust the President.
Gadon is facing 4 disbarment complaints.
These include one filed in 2016 after he allegedly said Muslims should be killed to attain peace in Mindanao.
Another was filed by Wilfredo Garrido Jr. over his supposed arrogance at the House of Representatives during a committee hearing on the impeachment complaint he filed against Sereno.
Two other cases were filed against him for his "bobo" antics in Baguio City at the height of quo warranto proceedings against the then chief magistrate in April 2018.
He has brushed aside the allegations as baseless.
ABS-CBN also reported in October 2019 that Gadon had not been attending mandatory seminars for lawyers over the past 10 years.