Guanzon on speaking out vs Cardema: ‘It’s my duty to defend Comelec’

Sofia Tomacruz

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Guanzon on speaking out vs Cardema: ‘It’s my duty to defend Comelec’

LeAnne Jazul

Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon addresses Duterte Youth chair Ronald Cardema' allegations against her, saying he's only trying to distract everyone from the fact that he is unqualified to sit in Congress

MANILA, Philippines – Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rowena Guanzon vowed she will not back down from speaking out against Duterte Youth Chairman Ronald Cardema’s ineligibility to sit in Congress, saying it’s her duty to defend the poll body and its rules.

In a Rappler Talk interview on Friday, August 23, Guanzon said that as the Comelec en banc decides on Cardema’s appeal to reconsider the cancellation of his nomination, there’s no rule prohibiting her from speaking out.

The fierce commissioner, who is part of the seven-member en banc, also explained the need to defend herself against corruption accusations hurdled against her by Cardema. (READ: Comelec’s fiery commissioner: Who is Rowena Guanzon)

“This is not a ground for inhibition. At first I was quiet, if you noticed. But he kept at it. And people were worrying if I did not come out, they might believe him. So there is no rule that requires me to be quiet when I and my reputation is under attack and the integrity of the institution is under attack,” Guanzon said.

She added, “In fact it is my duty to defend the Commission on Elections when we are under attack. Look at who is attacking us – someone who is disqualified. His credibility is negative 100.”

The allegations: Since the Comelec 1st Division’s cancellation of his nomination, Cardema has made corruption and extortion allegations against Guanzon, who had voted against his party-list nomination.

Cardema had earlier presented mobile phone screen grabs which he said was an exchange of messages between him and a purported member of Congress whom he claimed was an “emissary” of Guanzon. Without offering any proof, Cardema also claimed he was made to pay P2 million to the commissioner.

Guanzon denied the claims and said Cardema is simply making up stories to cover the fact that he’s not qualified to sit as a representative in Congress. At 34 years old, Cardema breaches the age limit to sit in Congress as representative for the youth sector, who must be at least 25 to 30 years old. (READ: Stretching the rules: Duterte Youth’s bid for Congress)

“Do not distract us from the issue which is, is he qualified to be representative of a youth sector party list? He is not…. So now that he can’t sit, he’ll just destroy me? I mean, who is this guy?” Guanzon said.

Defending Comelec: Guanzon also slammed Cardema for questioning the integrity of the poll body and its commissioners, saying it’s a “crazy accusation” to claim they’re corrupt.

She said: “That cannot stand because the people must know what kind of Commission on Elections they have, what kind of people run this commission. If people think we can all be bought, what kind of democracy are we going to produce?”

Cardema had threatened to file an impeachment complaint against Guanzon, though he didn’t say on what grounds nor did he offer proof of any impeachable offense committed by the commissioner.

Guanzon challenged him to do so: “Give me a break, Cardema. Just go ahead and file it! I’m richer than you, I have more lawyers than you, I have more friends in Congress than you, so you put up or you shut up!”

The commissioner already called for an investigation to probe Cardema’s “misrepresentation” when he filed for candidacy, which would amount to an election offense with criminal liability. –

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers defense and foreign affairs. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz.