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Controversial Ducielle Cardema of Duterte Youth joins House session

Ducielle Cardema, the controversial nominee of the group Duterte Youth, joined a House session on Tuesday, October 13, and took her oath as lawmaker even as the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has not made her certificate of proclamation public.

Cardema took her oath at the House of Representatives around 6:15 pm on Tuesday.

Her name was also flashed on-screen during the House session, signifying she was part of the lower chamber's roll call. For a representative to be recognized in the roll call, however, he or she must first take their oath as House member. 

Cardema joined the House proceedings on the same day when Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco was formally elected speaker of the House, replacing Alan Peter Cayetano.

Cardema's husband, Ronald, was among those seen at Celebrity Sports Plaza on Monday, October 12, in a session that sought to install Velasco as House speaker. Ronald Cardema is not a lawmaker.

On Tuesday, Ducielle Cardema was one of 301 lawmakers who were deemed present during the plenary session, though only 299 lawmakers are officially listed as members on the House of Representatives' website.

The other new lawmaker who took his oath Tuesday was Rodolfo Ordanes, representative of party-list group Senior Citizens. He is replacing the late Francisco Datol Jr, who died after getting infected with COVID-19.

While the Comelec has not publicly released Cardema's certification of proclamation, however, Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said on Tuesday, "Yes, a proclamation was issued."

Comelec Chair Sheriff Abas earlier said the en banc had already voted on the matter and was only waiting for a signed resolution before proclaiming Cardema as representative in Congress. 

Rappler requested for a copy of the resolution on Monday, October 13, and again on Tuesday. It has yet to be released to media.

Election lawyer Emilio Marañon III, who was former chief of staff of Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr, questioned Cardema's inclusion in the House’s roll call. 

"Ducielle Cardema has just been called in the roll call of the House of Representatives when Comelec has yet to make public its decision regarding her proclamation. Has the Comelec en banc convened as the NBOC [National Board of Canvassers] to proclaim her? Why everything has to be surreptitious?" Marañon said. 

Along with other election lawyers and experts, Marañon fiercely opposed Duterte Youth's congressional bid that continued to face petitions filed against it at the poll body. 

Marañon had also backed youth leaders who filed petitions with the Comelec seeking to disqualify Cardema, and another one seeking to cancel the group’s registration as a party-list in the 2019 elections.

The petition to cancel or declare as void its registration is rooted in the group's failure to comply with publication requirements mandated by the Constitution, Party-List Act, and the poll body’s own rules. 

Election lawyers earlier warned proclaiming Cardema as representative for the group would be "grossly illegal" and "patently unconstitutional," as Duterte Youth did not meet hearing and publication requirements to be considered a registered party.

Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon dissented from the poll body's decision to grant Duterte Youth's Cardema a certificate of proclamation despite pending legal challenges that remained unresolved. 

In her dissenting opinion, Guanzon also had this to say of her colleagues' decision: "A vote to grant a Certificate of Proclamation is a betrayal of the Constitution and the duty imposed upon us as constitutional commissioners."

"Neither the Commission nor the ballots cast by the electorate can overrun the supremacy of the Constitution and prevail over the constitutional requirement of publication as a prerequisite to a valid registration," she added. 

Duterte Youth won one seat during the 2019 elections but was unable to assume it as the 18th Congress opened since it faced a wave of petitions. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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