National Youth Commission

After failed House bid, Ronald Cardema back as youth commissioner

Rambo Talabong
The controversial Ronald Cardema is back in government after the Commission on Elections blocked him from taking a party-list seat

After being rejected as nominee of the Duterte Youth party-list group in the House of Representatives, Ronald Cardema makes a comeback as a commissioner in the National Youth Commission (NYC).

“He is back as a commissioner of the NYC, not as assistant secretary of the DILG,” Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary and spokesman Jonathan Malaya told Rappler in a text message.

Malaya made the clarification after a post on social media by Calamba Mayor Justin Marc Chipeco, wherein he congratulated Cardema as a new DILG assistant secretary for the NYC. Cardema is not with the DILG.

Cardema is back in a post lower than his original position as chairperson of the NYC, which is now occupied by Ryan Enriquez.

The appointment of Cardema comes after a failed bid to occupy a seat at the House of Representatives with the party-list group Duterte Youth. The party-list group won one seat in the 2019 elections.

Cardema makes his comeback to the youth commission even as an earlier ruling from the Comelec en banc determined he was no longer eligible to represent the youth in the party list.

The party-list 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.

“It is clear as day that the respondent is overage and ineligible,” the en banc said in its February ruling.

Recycled?

In August 2019, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) canceled his nomination over substitution and age requirement issues. The decision was reaffirmed in February 2020.

Cardema was not on the list of nominees originally submitted to the Comelec by Duterte Youth. A day before Election Day, he filed a petition to substitute the first nominee of the group, who was his wife. In accordance with party-list rules, which require the next nominees on the list to move up ranks when somebody withdraws, all other Duterte Youth nominees had to withdraw so Cardema could be listed as top nominee.

Representatives of the youth sector must also be at least 25 years old, but not more than 30 years old on Election Day. Cardema is 34 years old.

Before his bid for public office, Cardema was known to be one of the most vocal and staunch supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte, seen frequently in pro-Duterte rallies organized to counter dissent demonstrations.

Appointment questioned

Cardema’s new appointment drew criticism online.

In a statement posted on Twitter on Monday afternoon, lawyer Emil Marañon, one of the complainants against Cardema’s House bid, said that his return to the government “entails that he accepted (and so admitted) that he deliberately and maliciously lied and misrepresented his qualifications just to sit in Congress.”

He added: “It be must emphasised that under Sec. 7 of RA No. 8044 (Youth in Nation-Building Act), a Commissioner of NYC must be ‘of good moral character.’ Having previously been found guilty of deliberately and maliciously lying under oath, Ronald Cardema falls short of this qualification.”

Marañon stressed that there are many other eligible candidates who could stand as a commissioner at the NYC, concluding that his appointment is “not only anathemic to good governance, but sets a terrible precedent.” – with reports from Sofia Tomacruz/Rappler.com

Editor’s Note: The NYC commissioner is Ryan Enriquez, not Paul Pangilinan as an earlier version of the story stated. We apologize for the error.

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.