Gadon as anti-poverty czar: What is his actual job? How much will he be paid?

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.'s appointment of suspended lawyer Larry Gardon as anti-poverty adviser on Monday quickly drew public criticism, with several policymakers and groups citing his previous unbecoming behavior and seeming lack of expertise for the job.

Gadon’s new post "reflects the government's commitment to address one of the most pressing challenges faced by our nation," according to a release by the Presidential Communications Office announcing the appointment of the new presidential adviser. 

The appointment of Gadon — who was indefinitely suspended by the Supreme Court last year for flinging profanities at a female journalist — comes nearly a year after Marcos pledged to slash the country’s poverty rate to single digits by 2028.

What does Gadon’s new gig entail, and how much power does the post hold?

Anti-poverty adviser to the president 

The country's presidential adviser system allows the president to appoint individuals with specific expertise who can advise them on policy matters. 

While the specific roles and responsibilities of advisers may vary, these supposed experts are expected to bring specialized knowledge and experience to the table, their main role being to assist the president in policy decisions and in governance strategies.

Gadon is expected to advise the president on "combating poverty and improving the lives of the most vulnerable sectors of society," the PCO said on Monday.

Presidential adviser positions are created based on the sitting president’s prerogative and administrative priorities. For instance, there was no presidential adviser on poverty alleviation during the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte. 

Along with Gadon, Marcos on Monday also appointed former Defense officer-in-charge Carlito Galvez Jr. as Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity.

All presidential advisers under Marcos report to Lucas Bersamin, who is Malacañang’s executive secretary. 

How much is Gadon getting paid?

Gadon’s new gig lands him on the payroll of the Office of the President.  

The government follows the compensation system prescribed by Republic Act No. 11466 or the Salary Standardization Law, which gives the highest compensation to those with salary grades 30 to 33.

Presidential advisers are assigned Salary Grade 31, which, in the latest tranche of the SSL, would give them a base monthly salary of P278,434.

According to the Commission on Audit's latest Report on Salaries and Allowances in 2021, with allowances factored in, presidential advisers can earn between P206,500 to P4.9 million annually.

Some presidential advisers can be assigned a rank equivalent to that of a secretary or an undersecretary, based on the COA report.

Anti-poverty role is ‘tokenistic’

In an interview with ANC, Sonny Africa of think tank Ibon Foundation said that Gadon’s appointment is a "peculiar" choice and that the controversial lawyer is "imminently unqualified" given his background and "antagonism" to groups who have pushed for anti-poverty initiatives.

Africa added that "some kind of empathy for the poor" and technical skills, including awareness of how the economy works, is needed to help alleviate the country's impoverished communities. He said that Gadon does not have these.

"It doesn’t speak well of the administration’s genuine sincerity in actually addressing poverty in the country," he added. 

Africa said that the position is a mere "crumb" thrown to Gadon for his support for the administration. It is also a "tokenistic" position, given that anti-poverty advisers have less power than the president’s economic team, he added.

Gadon said in a "Laging Handa" briefing on Tuesday that one of his first moves as anti-poverty adviser is to push for a nutrition program called "BBM: Batang Busog, Malusog." 

Gadon did not elaborate on his plans and how this nutrition program will fit in the Marcos administration’s newly launched Philippine Multisectoral Nutrition Project. It is also unclear how Gadon's work will integrate with that of the National Anti-Poverty Commission and the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor.

Sectors long steeped in poverty say Gadon is not the man for the job

Both the fishers' group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas and the farmers’ group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas said that Gadon's appointment also shows Marcos' "insincerity" in curbing poverty among the poorest sectors of the country.

The fisherfolk sector appeared to have the highest poverty rate at 30.5%, according to 2021 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority. Farmers were the second poorest sector with a 30% poverty rate.

"People like Gadon should not be given position in government, especially in crucial positions that are related to poverty. We see no other reason to give Gadon the position other than as a political prize," PAMALAKAYA Vice Chairperson Ronnel Arambulo said in Filipino.

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