Groups ask Comelec to junk Duterte Youth Cardema’s substitution bid

Sofia Tomacruz
Election watchdog Kontra Daya and leaders of youth groups argue Duterte Youth Chairman Ronald Cardema does not meet the age requirement

COMELEC EN BANC. In this photo, 4 of the 7 Comelec commissioners observe the canvassing of the certificates of canvass in the 2019 elections. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Youth groups and election watchdog Kontra Daya filed a petition with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday, May 20, asking the poll body to dismiss Duterte Youth Chairman Ronald Cardema’s petition for substitution.

Along with Kontra Daya, leaders from the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), Youth Act Now Against Tyranny, Tindig-University of Santo Tomas, and the University of the Philippines (UP) Student Regent Ivy Taroma also asked the Comelec to junk the petition for withdrawal filed by Duterte Youth’s 5 nominees.

The move comes as the Comelec en banc is currently tackling Cardema’s petition for substitution after the poll body’s law department said he had filed the petition on May 12, beating the deadline. Petitions for substitution could be filed before the closing of polls on election day. (READ: On Duterte Youth Cardema’s bid for substitution: Questions for Comelec)

Age requirement

The groups’ petition is, however, anchored on the argument that Cardema does not meet the qualification needed to become a party-list nominee for the youth sector. The Party-List Act mandates that representatives of the youth sector must be at least 25 years old, but not more than 30 years old on election day.

Cardema lists his birthday as April 13, 1986 on his official Facebook page. This makes him 33 years old, or 3 years over the age limit required to be a representative of the youth sector.

According to the groups, Duterte Youth’s application for registration as a party-list group in the 2019 elections “declared its representation as one for the youth sector, particularly the youth and young professionals based in Region IV-A.”

“A review of relevant laws on the qualifications of party-list nominees representing the youth sector would show that substitute nominee Cardema has no qualification to be a nominee, particularly by reason of his age,” the groups’ petition read.

To back up their argument, the groups cited a Supreme Court (SC) decision from Amores vs. HRET and Villanueva, wherein the High Court ruled the Party-List System Act was “unequivocal in providing that a nominee of the youth sector must not be more than 30 years old on election day.”

The SC decision read, “As the law states in unequivocal terms that a nominee of the youth sector must at least be 25 but not more than 30 years of age on the day of the election, so it must be that a candidate who is more than 30 on election day is not qualified to be a youth sector nominee.”

‘Mockery’ of laws

The groups also argued that Cardema and Duterte Youth’s moves made a “mockery” of the law and the functions of the poll body.

“It is our submission that in blatant mockery of law and regulation and the mandate of the Commission on Elections En Banc, Mr Cardema and his cohorts in Duterte Youth Party-List sought to ‘game’ the party-list elections from the beginning,” they said.

During the campaign period, Kontra Daya earlier called on Cardema to resign or file a leave of absence as National Youth Commission chair, to avoid conflict of interest since he is also the chairman of Duterte Youth. (READ: Party-list bid means Cardema resigned as youth chair – Malacañang)

“By design, the first list of nominees allowed Ronald Cardema to campaign using his public post, without having to resign, and then benefit from this by substituting as party-list nominee. It is a classic case of wanting to have your cake and eat it too,” the groups said.

Aside from this, the groups also argued that Cardema’s last minute bid to become a party-list nominee robbed voters of the right to be informed. They argued that Comelec rules were in place to ensure voters were aware of the identity of party-list nominees, whose qualifications and platforms could be scrutinized.

The Comelec en banc sitting as the National Board of Canvassers has canvassed 162 out of 167 certificates of canvass as of Sunday, May 19. The poll body is eyeing to proclaim winning senators and party-list organizations in the 2019 elections Tuesday, May 21. – 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.