MANILA, Philippines – Flanked by grim-faced lads in crew haircuts, the 34-year-old Ronald Cardema lobbying to represent the youth in Congress gave a media conference on Saturday, August 17, where he accused a poll body commissioner of holding his party-list nomination hostage in exchange for political favors he had no official capacity to grant.
Cardema presented mobile phone screen grabs of what he said were an exchange of messages between him and a purported member of Congress whom he claimed was an “emissary” of Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rowena Guanzon.
The images with many obscured names and lines showed the “emissary” supposedly relaying requests from Guanzon to appoint certain people to positions in a regional trial court and the public works department, said Cardema, who appeared to have eagerly agreed to the requests in exchange for an assurance that his legally challenged bid for a congressional seat would pass Comelec scrutiny.
But the requested favors were too much for him and his Duterte Youth party to secure, Cardema said, and now Guanzon has resorted to publicly harassing them, he claimed.
"Akala ng lahat, siya ‘yung pinakamatinong Comelec Commissioner pero siya ‘yung maraming hinihingi…. Hirap na hirap na kami, hindi namin maibigay. At ’tong nanalo kami at hindi namin naibigay, hanggang proclamation day hinahabol,” Cardema said during the media conference.
(Everyone thinks she is the most upright Comelec Commissioner but she’s the one with so many requests…. We are having such a difficult time, we could not grant them. And now that we’ve won and we could not grant them, we were hounded until proclamation day.)
Guanzon is a member of the Comelec division that canceled Cardema’s nomination as representative of the Duterte Youth Party-list, which won a single seat in the 18th Congress.
The poll body division ruled that Cardema was ineligible as a youth representative, who must be 25 to 30 years old on the day of the elections on May 13.
Guanzon released a separate concurring opinion in which she scored Cardema’s “clear attempt” at circumventing election laws and the Comelec’s rules by claiming he was an eligible candidate, and by filing his substitution as the party-list’s nominee only on the eve of the elections.
After Cardema’s disqualification earlier this month, Guanzon pushed for an investigation to determine whether he committed “material misrepresentation” when he filed for candidacy, which would amount to an election offense with criminal liability.
Guanzon then said she and members of her family had received death threats, and challenged Cardema to prove he and his group were not behind them.
During Saturday’s media conference, Cardema said he and his group could not have threatened Guanzon, whom he said “holds them by the neck.” He said he and his group offered to help track down the sources of the threats but they received no response from Guanzon.
"Makikita ‘nyo na pinapalabas niya, siya ang biktima. Kami sa Duterte Youth ang biktima (You see her playing the victim. We at Duterte Youth are the victims),” Cardema said.
Cardema has filed an appeal before the Comelec en banc to reconsider its cancellation of his nomination as the party's first nominee.
Guanzon shot back at Cardema on Twitter on Saturday, saying she would not be intimidated into inhibiting in the case. – Rappler.com
JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.