Ex-poll chief Brillantes, Macalintal back calls to junk Cardema's Congress bid

MANILA, Philippines – Former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr and veteran election lawyer Romulo Macalintal on Monday, June 17, backed calls for the poll body to reject Duterte Youth chairman Ronald Cardema's bid for a party-list seat.

The two election experts filed before the poll body on Monday, a manifestation seeking to deny due course or cancel Cardema's nomination as the party's first nominee and suspend or withhold his certificate of proclamation. 

The petition, filed along with election lawyer Emilio Marañon III, pointed out Cardema's "material misrepresentation" over his qualifications to become a youth sector representative in Congress. 

Among the issues highlighted in Cardema's case is the age limit required of youth sector representatives in Congress based on Republic Act No. 7941 or the Party-List System Act. The law 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 is 34 years old. 

Three other substitute nominees, aged 31 to 36, also "failed to comply with the age requirement."

Found to breach the age limit for the sector's congressional representative, Cardema changed his tune during a Comelec hearing last June 11, claiming that he now represents professionals instead of the youth. (READ: Too old to be youth official, Cardema now says he represents ‘professionals’)

Considering there was "very strong" evidence of Cardema's guilt, the petitioners moved for the "suspension of his (Cardema's) proclamation and/or withholding of his certificate of proclamation" as the case on his qualifications was not yet resolved.

The petitioners argued this followed Section 7 of Republic Act No. 6646 or the Electoral Reforms Law of 1987, which laid out procedues to deny due course or cancel a certificate of candidacy. 

Duterte Youth gained enough votes to take one seat in the incoming 18th Congress.

Up in the air

Brillantes and Macalintal's opposition to Cardema's bid comes as the poll body tackles petitions challenging the Duterte Youth chairman's qualifications to serve as youth representative in Congress.

The hearing takes place after a majority of the 7-member Comelec en banc on June 4 decided to give Cardema's substitution bid due course, saying the party met the deadline for filing substitutes – on a weekend, a day before Election Day.

The new petition also comes after Marañon, election lawyer Ernelson Trojillo, along with representatives from Millennials PH and Aksyon Kabataan, filed an earlier petition asking the Comelec to deny Cardema and his party's 4 other nominees' last-minute substitution bid.

The petition, which was filed before the poll body on May 22, sought the cancellation of Duterte Youth's registration and an investigation into Cardema for possible violations of the Omnibus Election Code.

The petitioners argued that the simultaneous last-minute withdrawal of all 5 Duterte Youth nominees and the organization's submission of new nominees were "a chicanery, intended to circumvent laws, rules or regulations relating to elections."

It also called out Cardema's attempt to skirt the law that deems appointive officials as "resigned" upon filing of their certificate of candidacy.

Cardema, who served as National Youth Commission chairman, was accused of using his position and government resources to campaign for Duterte Youth, in violation of the Omnibus Election Code.

The election lawyers and youth groups had earlier warned that approving Duterte Youth's actions despite the glaring legal challenges would open a "floodgate of abuses to the prejudice of the public policy of electoral transparency." – 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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