Comelec to proclaim Duterte Youth’s Ducielle Cardema

Over a year since the 2019 midterm polls, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said it would proclaim a representative for the embattled Duterte Youth group, whose congressional bid had been fiercely opposed by youth leaders and election lawyers.

During a hearing on the poll body’s proposed 2021 budget at the House of Representatives, Comelec Chair Sheriff Abas said the en banc had already voted on the matter and was only waiting for a signed resolution before proclaiming Duterte Youth nominee Ducielle Cardema as the representative in Congress. 

“Just two weeks ago, we already granted…the issuance of a certificate of proclamation to the party list of Duterte Youth with the name of Ducielle Cardema as representative. Finally,” Abas told lawmakers in a mix of English and Filipino on Thursday, September 24. 

Abas said the Comelec hoped to release the resolution this week. 

Northern Samar 1st District Representative Paul Daza had asked the poll chair for a status of Duterte Youth’s proclamation, describing the delay in its issuance as “very unfair and very unjust.”

Abas defended the poll body, saying the delay was not the Comelec’s fault but stemmed from legal proceedings that arose from Duterte Youth’s winding attempts to enter Congress.

Seeking a definite timeline for the resolution, Daza had gone as far as threatening to defer the Comelec’s budget if it did not release the proclamation soon. Abas said the poll body would release the document as soon as it was signed. 

“The answer to my question is non-responsive. I asked for an assurance that this week it would come out. If there is no assurance Mr Chair, I have been asked by many members and even by myself to exercise our right to defer the budget of Comelec,” Daza said. 

Lawmakers then suspended the session before agreeing to allow the Comelec time to resolve the matter. 

Dangerous precedent

The Comelec’s decision to proclaim Ducielle Cardema as the group’s representative comes after election lawyers and youth leaders warned the poll body that  proclaiming Cardema would be “grossly illegal” and “patently unconstitutional.” 

In a letter-opposition filed with the Comelec last September 21, election lawyers and youth leaders reminded the poll body Duterte Youth did not meet hearing and publication requirements to be considered a registered party list. 

Ducielle was originally the group's first nominee before her husband, former youth commissioner Ronald Cardema filed a last-minute substitution bid on May 12, 2019, the eve of election day. His substitution had been critcized across the political spectrum and set off multiple legal challenges to the group's congressional bid.

Ducielle again became the group's first nominee after her husband canceled and then withdrew his nomination. The poll body eventually affirmed in February that Ronald Cardema was too old to be a youth sector representative, being above 30, and thus ineligible to sit in Congress

Duterte Youth had garnered enough votes during the 2019 midterm polls to take one seat in the 18th Congress. Despite this, the group has not been able to assume a seat in the House of Representatives as petitions were filed against it before the poll body. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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