Too old to be youth official, Cardema now says he represents ‘professionals’

MANILA, Philippines – After claiming to represent the youth, but found breaching the age limit for the sector's congressional representative, Duterte Youth chairman Ronald Cardema changes tunes. He says he now represents professionals.

During the hearing before the first division of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday, June 11, election lawyer George Garcia, who represented Cardema, argued that no misrepresentation took place on the part of Duterte Youth as it represented both the youth and professional sectors.

"As far the respondent is concerned, there is no argument to the age.... [But] even if they will argue the respondent cannot be classified as youth, he can be classified as a representative of the professional sector," Garcia said.

"This party is actually representing two sectors: the youth and professional sectors. The respondent is of the professional sector," he added.

Among the issues highlighted by petitioners National Union of Students of the Philippines, College Editors Guild of the Philippines, and Youth Act Now Against Tyranny was Cardema's failure to meet requirements to become a representative of the youth sector under the Party-List System Act.

The Party-List System 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. Based on his certificates of nomination and acceptance filed with the Comelec, Cardema is 34 years old as he was born on April 12, 1985. Three other substitute nominees, aged 31 to 36, also "failed to comply with the age requirement."

Election lawyer Emil Marañon III, who represented the petitioners, argued the age limit would still apply to Cardema and the party's 4 other nominees even if they claimed to represent two sectors. This is because Duterte Youth's official title – "Duterte Youth and Young Professionals" – subjected it to qualifications listed in the Party-List System Act.

"The registration of Duterte Youth is specifically representing the youths and young professionals – professionals was qualified by the word 'young,'" Marañon said.

Marañon added Cardema only started claiming he represented the professional sector after questions about his age were raised, and that in public interviews Duterte Youth was described as a party representing the youth sector.

"There is a misrepresentation on his part regarding qualifications so his candidacy or nomination should be cancelled," Marañon said.

The hearing comes a week after a majority of the 7-member Comelec en banc on June 4 approved the last-minute substitution bid of Cardema and the party's 4 other nominees 

The Comelec voted 5-1-1 on the matter, ruling to adopt its law department's recommendations to give the substitution bid due course after the party met the deadline for filing.

Despite Comelec's allowing the substitution, Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said Cardema cannot sit as the Duterte Youth representative in Congress until all issues on his qualification are resolved. 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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