Labor lawyer Luke Espiritu stands ground vs Larry Gadon, Harry Roque during SMNI debate

March 3, 2022 - 5:48 PM
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Photo of labor lawyer and senatorial candidate Luke Espiritu at the SMNI debate on Wednesday evening, March 2, 2022 (Twitter/Luke Espiritu)

A labor lawyer turned some heads on local social media for his conduct during a senatorial debate organized by the network of Pastor Apollo Quiboloy.

Eleven senatorial candidates participated at the event on Wednesday evening, March 2 at the Okada Manila in Pasay City.

After the debate, the name of one of the senatorial candidate attendees, Luke Espiritu, trended on Twitter Philippines.

As of writing, it gained more than 37,200 tweets.

During the debate, Espiritu figured in heated arguments with fellow senatorial hopefuls suspended lawyer Larry Gadon and former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque. 

Video clips of their word wars also circulated online.

Argument with Gadon

The participants were asked the following question: “How will you address the problem of children being used as scapegoats in the commission of grave crimes?”

During his turn, Gadon accused the priests of the Catholic Church of teaching children how to develop views against the Marcos family and Martial Law instead of “good values.”

Espiritu initially expressed his position against lowering the age of criminal responsibility.

He also agreed with Gadon’s comment about teaching children “values.” However, he went on to enumerate the values or lessons that children should learn.

“Dapat tinuturo sa school na masama ang extra-judicial killings, masama ang red-tagging, masama si Marcos (Ferdinand Marcos Sr.), marami siyang human rights violations,” Espiritu said.

Gadon then tried to interrupt Espiritu several times.

Espiritu repeatedly said, “It’s still my time.”

During his interpellation, the suspended lawyer stated that the platform should not be used for “propaganda against the Marcoses.”

To counter Gadon, Espiritu cited figures from Amnesty International that recorded thousands of Filipinos killed and tortured during the Martial Law.

“I go by the record,” he said.

Espiritu was not yet done talking when Gadon interrupted him again.

The labor lawyer called him out.

“It’s my time. Huwag kang bastos,” Espiritu said.

Argument with Roque

Roque, former human rights lawyer, also joined Gadon and raised his hand to counter Espiritu.

He defended presidential bet Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and claimed that he checked the records of courts. He also claimed that there were no human rights violations recorded in the United States.

Espiritu subsequently questioned Roque’s current political stance, citing his background as a human rights lawyer.

“With all due respect to Atty. Harry Roque, I know your history. You were anti-Marcos before. You were for human rights before. You spent your life against the Marcoses. You worked for human rights. And now that you were given a Senate spot under the party of Bongbong Marcos, now you cry hallelujah and praise Marcos,” he said.

Roque, however, stood his ground and continued to defend the presidential bet.

How social media reacted

Labor group Laban ng Masa later released a compilation video of these tense moments online.

Some online users lauded the labor lawyer for standing up against Gadon and Roque.

“The way Atty. Luke Espiritu roasted Larry Gadon and exposed Harry Roque was extremely satisfying,” one Twitter user said.

“NO CHILL TO ROQUE AND GADON. THIS IS LUKE ESPIRITU. LABOR LEADER AND LAWYER,” another online user said.

Others were impressed by Espiritu when he called out Gadon for interrupting his interpellation.

“The way Luke Espiritu said ‘Wag kang bastos!’ and every molecule of Larry Gadon got called out. It’s like the whole world stopped turning, and every living being turned their head to look at SMNI, at the podiums, then at Gadon, and in disgust, nodded,” historian Kristoffer Pasion said.

Some online users shared GIFs in response to Espiritu’s rebuttal on Roque.