Gordon’s unethical complaint
Senator Richard Gordon is a man of many accomplishments, and it is no secret that he has an outsized ego. Many politicians are just like him.
The ambition that propels a man or a woman to make politics a lifetime career is fueled not only by notions of public service or considerations of family or party or class interests but also by healthy, indeed robust, egos.
Gordon is no different. His self-image is that of a person of intelligence and importance; he wants the public to take him seriously; he craves appreciation for the hard work that he puts into his dual responsibilities as senator of the Republic and chairman of the Red Cross.
But his skin is as thin as his pride is high. In his first term as senator, he once showed up at the Senate in his uniform as a newly promoted rear admiral of the (civilian) Coast Guard — and his colleagues ribbed him for it. He didn’t take it well, and speechified against what was certainly, obviously, an ordinary case of teasing.
Among his colleagues, in both his terms at the Senate, he is known for being a trigger-happy committee chair, always ready to cite a recalcitrant witness or resource person with contempt. Indeed, in his first term he was instrumental in convincing the Senate to draft new rules that allowed the more liberal use of the contempt power.
In his second turn, emboldened by his political alliance with President Duterte, he has taken to threatening even opposition senators with the self-same power.
Last year, he had the temerity to accuse Sen. Leila de Lima of “material misrepresentation” when he had only forgotten the relevant testimony of confessed killer Edgar Matobato, made twice in two committee hearings. When De Lima demanded that he apologize, he made a gender-demeaning quip: “Don’t melt down, you’re melting down.”
As we had written then: “In his view, it was perfectly all right for him to perorate endlessly on his views on peace and order, and become emotional at the recollection of his father’s assassination, but it was unseemly of De Lima to express spluttering outrage at an unfair accusation.
This is sexism, in all its rawness. He reacted to the rise in De Lima’s voice, perfectly oblivious of the times that, in the two hearings he has himself chaired, his own voice becomes shrill when he becomes impassioned. This is sexism, in all its unthinking male privilege.”
Now, after an exchange of heated words with Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, in which he chastised the former coup plotter for plotting coups and Trillanes in turn mocked him for barricading himself in Subic Bay when the Estrada administration removed him from office, Gordon has decided to file an elaborate complaint against Trillanes with the Senate’s ethics committee.
In his complaint, which ran a remarkable 23 pages, Gordon accused Trillanes of engaging in “unparliamentary acts and uttered unparliamentary language and exhibited disorderly behavior” during the Aug. 31 hearing of the Blue Ribbon committee, misconduct which, in Gordon’s view, has caused “damage to the Senate and to the people and, therefore, is of primordial importance.”
This is nonsense. We’ve heard much more terrible insults exchanged in legislative debate before, and President Duterte is certainly no choir boy when it comes to the use of language that may be called unparliamentary. If anything, Gordon’s transparent lawyering for the President’s son and son-in-law was what damaged the Senate’s reputation. After all, it is supposed to be independent of the incumbent Malacañang occupant, is it not?
What happened on Aug. 31 was that Trillanes stood up to Gordon. Having lost that particular skirmish, Gordon has now resorted to an institution-damaging remedy.
He himself showed that his ethics complaint was actually unethical when he trumpeted to reporters that he had “the support of more than 10, more than 12, more than 14 senators.”
This peculiar phrasing means that he does not in fact have more than 14 senators supporting his complaint. (And a senator supporting his right to file a complaint is different from a senator supporting the complaint itself.)
Worse, it also means that he misunderstands the nature of an ethical complaint. It is not numbers that define what is or is not ethical.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.