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Manila Standard : Shooting the messenger

News & Interviews
29 November 2021

By Charlie V. Manalo | Manila Standard

"Who, then, is peddling fake news?"

Last week, the second disqualification case against Partido Federal ng Pilipinas standard bearer Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. was filed by 1Sambayan spokesperson lawyer Howard Calleja. As in the first disqualification case filed earlier by members of left-leaning groups, the second case is founded on the supposed Marcos conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude - tax evasion.

Of course this could be farthest from the truth as the tax evasion case against Marcos was dismissed by the Court of Appeals and upheld by the Supreme Court. Marcos was only found guilty of failure to file an income tax return and was meted a fine of P30,000.

This piece however is not about the legal merits of the disqualification case against Marcos as this is for the Commission on Elections to decide. We only cited what was already decided by the court. Further, this writer is not a legal expert, thus, is not in a position to do so. This piece is about the credibility of the complainant Calleja as exposed by senatorial bet, lawyer Larry Gadon.

Before we accused Gadon of shooting the messenger instead of addressing the issues raised in the complaint and confront the respondent, we have to take into consideration that in the wake of the proliferation of fake news today, shooting the messenger, which is to unfairly blame a person who has aired a bad news or information, when the one to blame should instead be the people who are really responsible for the situation, has become a worn-out argument used by these peddlers of fake news to shield themselves.

In fact, the essence of not shooting the messenger today, has become the complete antithesis to the clean hands doctrine, which is if, if someone is to accuse someone, especially in court, he or she has to be sure that he or she comes with clean hands.

Let’s take into account what Gadon has to say about Calleja. According to the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan’s senatorial bet, Calleja has no credibility to speak of as he was suspended by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for running away with the money of his client in the amount of P6.635 million,” Gadon said.

Calleja, Gadon says, had been suspended for two years by the IBP and the Supreme Court for absconding with the money of one of his clients in 2013. To validate his allegation, Gadon posted in social media a copy of the decision of the IBP involving Calleja and complainant, Myrna Torres, docketed under Administrative Case 1851.

The document disclosed that last February 10, 2009, Torres filed a complaint against Calleja before the Supreme Court “for failure to discharge his obligations as a lawyer of the complainants” involving the settlement of tax obligation and settlement of properties left behind by Torres’ late husband, Jaime.

The complaint further stated that in exchange for his services, Calleja received a total of P18 million from the Torres family.

But instead of faithfully discharging his obligations, the IBP, in its investigation, found out that Calleja decided to “loan” some of the money to someone else, a relative of the complainant.

In the IBP recommendation dated October 4, 2012, Calleja was found guilty of violating Canon 16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility of those in the legal profession and called for his suspension from law practice until Calleja can properly account for the missing money totaling P6,635,867.57.

Under Resolution XX-2013-487 dated April 16, 2013, the IBP not only ordered Calleja to return the money but also suspended him from law practice for the next 2 years as a disciplinary measure.

Calleja shot back at Gadon saying the senatorial bet “is acting like your garden-variety internet troll and is spewing fake news here and there in a desperate attempt to misdirect the public from the fact that Marcos Jr. is facing several credible disqualification cases before the Comelec.”

Again, using the worn-out “Don’t shoot the messenger” adage as a shield. If Calleja would really want us to focus on the case (which, as I have stated before and horde of legal experts before me, had already been decided by the courts), he should have asked someone “with clean hands” to file the case instead of him.

But apparently, he wants a share of the limelight.

Calleja adds Gadon and his group’s “weapon is fake news.”

But didn’t Gadon present a copy of the IBP resolution approving his suspension? Who then, is peddling fake news? I read his statement and nowhere could I find even a phrase attributed to him refuting Gadon’s allegation.