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'Most unconstitutional act': Election lawyers blast Comelec's Duterte Youth proclamation

Election lawyers blasted the Commission on Election's (Comelec) decision to proclaim a representative for the embattled Duterte Youth group, calling it as "easily the most unconstitutional act" ever to be carried out in the poll body's 80-year history. 

Calling it a "patently wrong" and "brazen" act, the election lawyers said they are prepared to challenge the poll body's decision before both the Supreme Court and the House electoral tribunal. 

"This act by the Comelec en banc is contrary to all its existing rules and regulations, and in utter disregard of all applicable legal provisions. This is easily the most unconstitutional act ever done by Comelec in its 80-year history," election lawyers Emilio Marañon, Ernelson Trojillo, and Rod Ryan Suaco said in a statement on Thursday, September 24. 

Earlier in the day, Comelec chairman Sheriff Abas said the poll body's en banc was set to proclaim nominee Ducielle Cardema of Duterte Youth, whose congressional bid had been fiercely challenged for over a year since the 2019 midterm elections. 

The Comelec en banc had voted 4-1 in favor of proclaiming Cardema despite what election experts said was a series of legally questionable acts the group carried out that should have disqualified it from the elections. 

Duterte Youth won one seat in the 18th Congress but has not been able to assume its post in the House of Representatives as petitions were filed against it before the poll body.

No less than former poll chair and election expert Sixto Brillantes Jr sought to block Duterte Youth's congressional bid, backing petitions that challenged the legality of its party-list registration. 

Brillantes and Marañon, who was the late poll chair's former chief of staff, also sought to cancel or declare void ab initio Duterte Youth's registration. They pointed out it was the only organization since the institution of the party list to have been granted registration without completing publication and hearing requirements.

"An act as patently wrong and as brazen as this simply cannot go uncontested," Marañon, Trojillo, and Suaco said on Thursday. 

"Thus, we are ready to contest this illegality before the Supreme Court as soon as the Comelec releases its decision. We will also simultaneously file a quo warranto case before the HRET to unseat Cardema who will occupy a party-list seat despite not representing any registered party-list organization," they added. 

Cardema was the group's original 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 criticized 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

The elections lawyers said "if the law were just to be followed," they are "very confident" Duterte Youth's proclamation can be reversed. 

In an earlier Rappler Talk, Marañon appealed to the Comelec to "rectify" errors made when accepting Duterte Youth's registration and subsequently approving the party's series of withdrawals and substitution of its nominees.

Marañon said: "The more you make exceptions to the rules, the more the law gets diluted. It will come to a point when it won't mean anything. Why even have a law?" – 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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