MANILA – Former National Youth Commission chairperson Ronald Cardema defended Monday his move to become the substitute nominee for the Duterte Youth party-list group, saying he is not too old to represent the party.
In a statement, Cardema said Duterte Youth Party-list is registered in the Commission on Elections "to advocate for the Youth & Professionals sectors and under the latter category, there is no age limit."
He said the group filed all the proper documents for the substitution “on time” and that he is “qualified to represent the Duterte Youth party-list and the Filipino people who voted for us."
He noted Duterte Youth got more votes than leftist party-list groups like Kabataan, led by Sara Elago, "because Filipinos don’t like NPA-allied congressmen anymore."
"Duterte allies got more votes than opposition members because the nation is confident with President Rodrigo Duterte," he claimed.
Cardema said if he secures a seat in Congress, he will restore the mandatory Reserve Officer Training Corps program, legislate compensation for Sangguniang Kabataan chairmen and officials, and support the restoration of death penalty for convicts of heinous crimes, among others.
"Inside Congress, Duterte Youth is now ready to fight and defend the Government, our Government Troops, and the majority of the Filipino Youth, against all those radical leftist party-lists in Congress whose main goal is to bring down our government,” he said.
Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said the poll body has yet to approve Cardema's bid to become the substitute nominee for the Duterte Youth party-list group.
Jimenez said Cardema's qualification, including his possibly being too old for the position, is something for the commission en banc to consider.
Under the Party-list System Act, a nominee of the youth sector must not be more than 30 years of age on the day of the election. Cardema is 33.
"These are the substantive issues that are still being discussed. First of all, the age...I don't know exactly how old the guy is and 2nd as to the timing there are some overlapping rules that would impact that kaya pinag-aaralan 'yan ng mabuti," Jimenez said.
Duterte Youth’s Original Nominees are Ducielle Marie Suarez, Joseph M. de Guzman and Benilda C. de Guzman along with 2 others. However on May 12, 2019, all 5 nominees of the group filed their notices of withdrawal and simultaneous with Cardema’s substitution as the party-list nominee.
Petitioners have said Cardema's substitution flouts election law and regulation because the identity of the nominees for a party list is also a factor why a voter votes for the said party-list.
"The rules seek to prevent the situation in which a voter is being defrauded in that he/she has voted for a certain party list because of the qualifications and competence of the latter’s nominees only to be replaced after the voter has cast his/her votes."