Seares: Unlike Larry Gadon, this Cebu lawyer was not disbarred. Dionisio Canete, an ex-IBP chapter president, petitioned in 2017 for SC to delete his name from roll of attorneys. Not for misconduct but to protest against ‘corruption among some fiscals and judges.

TUESDAY this week, on June 27, 2023, the Supreme Court (SC) disbarred Lorenzo “Larry” Gadon for “scandalous” conduct when in December last year he went into a rant, spewing out curses and insults, which he himself video-recorded and circulated on social media, against journalist Raissa Robles.

He will lose his law practice and the right to pre-fix “Atty.” to his name.

More than six years ago, in a resolution dated January 31, 2017, the SC also removed the name of Cebu lawyer Dionisio Cañete, then 78, from the list of members of the Philippine bar. (Cañete died of Covid-19 on August 23, 2021; he was 83.)

DIFFERENCES IN TWO CASES. Atty. Cañete’s loss of his law practice and title was different from Atty. Gadon’s case because:

[] “Diony” Cañete himself requested that he be no longer listed as a lawyer. Gadon’s disbarment was initiated by the SC, acting “motu propio” (on its own), whose decision Gadon has resisted and will ask the high court to reconsider, arguing that the penalty is “harsh.”

[] Cañete was not accused of any misconduct: no individual complaint filed with, or initiated by, the SC or the IBP (Integrated Bar of the Philippines). No allegation of misconduct unfit of a lawyer. In contrast, Gadon was facing a number of other complaints for disbarment with the SC. He was suspended shortly after his “abusive” attack on Robles. And the disbarment resolution included a finding of contempt for his remarks against two justices whom he had asked to inhibit for bias against him.

The similarity is in the loss of the license to practice law. But Cañete’s case was a “Petition for Voluntary Delisting Attorneys” filed by Cañete himself. Gadon’s case arose from the action by the high court itself against Gadon.

Different motives stand out though from each case: Gadon didn’t and doesn’t want to be disbarred, calling the penalty “harsh,” implying that it is disproportionate to the offense. The action came from the high court, which didn’t want numerous complaints the justices received against Gadon “to fall on deaf ears.” Cañete, on the other hand, wanted to make his removal from the roll of attorneys as a protest against what he then believed was corruption among some prosecutors or “fiscals” and judges.

He was making a statement about what he suspected was going on in the prosecution and judiciary services.

WHO WAS DIONY CAÑETE? A passer in the 1960 bar exams, Cañete was elected in 1981 as vice president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Cebu province chapter. In the following year assumed the No. 1 post when the president resigned to run for an elective government office. In 1983, Cañete was elected president. serving his own full term until 1985.

Atty. Cañete was also known for his skill in arnis or stick-fighting, a sport taught by his father Eulogio Cañete and his uncle Ciriaco “Cacoy” Cañete. Ciriaco Cañete was the Filipino legendary and internationally known martial artist (grandmaster and 12th-degree black belter) of the Doce Pares Association in Cebu, which Cacoy founded in 1932. Diony himself was chairman emeritus of the World Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation or WEKAF, through which he continued the work of the older Cañetes in popularizing arnis. He was considered “father of arnis” when he died in 2021.

‘DISILLUSIONED’ LAWYER. Cañete had his own rant circa 2016-2017, not against a journalist or some justices of the high court — as Gadon did, over the alleged lies of the woman reporter during the 2022 election campaign for the Marcos Jr. presidency — but against some prosecutors and judges.

Cañete complained of “unspeakable justice” and “pain and humiliation” from prosecutors who dismissed nine out of 10 complaints he filed against a businesswoman in 2015 who sued him for unlawful detainer, when he allegedly refused to leave the premises of a property leased from her. A judge had ordered Cañete’s WEKAF to vacate the property and Cañete fired back with the 10 complaints against the businesswoman.

Cañete suspected graft and corruption then, even as Gadon six years later would accuse the SC of politicking and two associate justices of bias.

Cañete admitted to being disillusioned and utterly disappointed, according to a SunStory of February 25, 2017. When the SC resolution was released, he said he was elated that he was no longer a lawyer.” He told SunStar then he had no regrets but just hoped “my case will open a can of worms about corruption in the legal profession.” It did not; if it did, there was no published report about it.

LIBEL AS ‘CONSEQUENCE’ Cañete was arrested for libel on December 10, 2019, two years after he was delisted from the roll of attorneys on the basis of a Regional Trial Court warrant issued more than two weeks earlier.

Was it about his public condemnation of corruption “among brothers in the profession” when he petitioned the SC for delisting? He accused three prosecutors of corruption in his Facebook account. He told reporters he posted about “corruption of the fiscals,” the City Prosecutor’s Office, “unya tolo sila ka prosecutor nikiha.”

As to Gadon, for his video attack on Raissa Robles, the journalist sued him last February 4 (2023) for libel and violation of the Safety Spaces Act, saying that while she supports decriminalization of libel, Gadon’s “verbal attack” against her was “so egregious or outstandingly and appallingly shocking and horrific.” The assault, Robles said in her complaint “could inspire a new wave of vicious sexual, particularly directed against women who want to engage in political discussions online…”

Cañete, like Gadon now, had to face libel complaint as “consequence” of published commentary.

While Cañete didn’t engage in virulent attack, his FB post against prosecutors was to be assessed on the basis of libel. So would Gadon’s comments against Robles: libel law would govern this time, not the

Lawyers’ Code of Conduct and Accountability, which the SC used in having him disbarred.

WOULD GADON DO A CAÑETE? In his 2019 arrest at his house in Sto. Nino Village, Banilad, Mandaue City, Cañete made another statement of protest: he refused to post the P60,000 bail. He said he didn’t care when he lost his lawyer’s license; he wouldn’t care if he’d lose his liberty. He wouldn’t post bail, he said, “because I want to go to jail. I want to dramatize.”

The public didn’t know if he made good his threat as no follow-up story on the arrest came out, or how long he stayed in jail after he told media, “Barugan gyud nako.” Still, he had already shown grit in voluntarily giving up his title and practice of law.

You might not bet — if Robles’s libel lawsuit would result in an arrest warrant — on Gadon doing a Cañete.