MANILA – A youth group has urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to deny the withdrawal of the original nominees of the Duterte Youth party-list group and reject the substitution pushed by former National Youth Commission (NYC) Chair Ronald Cardema.
In a 7-page petition filed on Tuesday, hours before the proclamation of winning party-list groups, Millennials PH told Comelec the withdrawal of nominees and the submission of a new set of nominees were intended to circumvent election laws and give Cardema an express ticket to Congress.
“[I]t is very apparent and most obvious that this perfectly-timed maneuvers by Duterte Youth and Mr. Cardema were systematically, deliberately and knowingly designed to circumvent election rules,” the group said in their petition, citing several election laws and rules Cardema supposedly violated.
Millennials PH claims to represent more than 5,000 youth leaders and young professionals around the country.
Among those Cardema allegedly circumvented is the rule declaring appointive officials deemed resigned upon filing of a certificate of candidacy (COC). Instead of resigning from the NYC and filing his COC, Cardema continued serving in the NYC for 7 months and 7 days, until he filed his petition for substitution on May 12, the day before the midterm polls.
“Mr. Cardema actively and purposefully used his official position and NYC’s machinery, resources and manpower to promote himself and Duterte Youth, to which he is publicly known to be affiliated,” read the petition. Cardema’s wife, Ducielle Marie Suarez was the group’s first nominee.
Millennials PH claimed that Cardema intended his last-minute substitution to prevent any suits questioning his eligibility, pointing out that Cardema is 33 years old, well beyond the definition of “youth” under Republic Act No. 7941 or the Party-List System Act limiting nominees of the youth sector to those between 25 to 30 years old.
The group further alleged that the mass withdrawal of Duterte Youth nominees violated section 8 of RA 7941 because it altered the order of the nominees.
Under the said section, a substitute must be placed last in the list of nominees. In Cardema’s case, since all the nominees withdrew, he is set to take a seat in the House of Representatives should Comelec approve the substitution.
Cardema had earlier indicated in his Facebook profile that he is an incoming member of the House of Representatives despite the fact that Comelec has yet to act on his substitution.
“Si Mr. Cardema po ay parang isang boyfriend na two-timer. May girlfriend pero nagkagusto sa iba pero hindi ho niya binreak ang girlfriend niya hangga’t hindi siya sinasagot ng nililigawan niya…Sa tingin po namin, si Mr. Cardema ay isang salawahan at hindi niya dapat i-represent ang kabataan at young professionals,” Millennials PH spokesperson AR Angcos said in a press conference after the filing of their petition.
Millennials PH also pointed out that Duterte Youth’s withdrawal and substitution was filed on a Sunday and long after the November 29, 2018 deadline for substitution set by Comelec.
Citing these violations, the group asked Comelec to cancel the registration of Duterte Youth and investigate Cardema and past and present nominees of the party-list group.
“Kami nanawagan kay President Duterte, sampolan niyo po si Cardema para ipakita na kayo ay talagang galit sa corrupt,” Angcos said.
“Kahit hindi naman na legal. Delicadeza na lamang siguro pinag-uusapan dito. Representante ka ng youth tapos ganyan ka scheming ang gagawin mong strategy para makapasok sa Kongreso,” the group's lawyer, Ernelson Trojillo, added.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo earlier said Cardema was no longer NYC chair and has asked the Department of Justice to look into the possibility of filing charges against him, amid claims he still presided an NYC meeting on May 15 despite filing his petition for substitution on May 12.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Tuesday “the DOJ will start by gathering the relevant facts.”
Election lawyer and senatorial candidate Romulo Macalintal, meanwhile, warned Duterte Youth nominees who resigned to allegedly give way to Cardema that they may face a criminal case under Art. 234 of the Revised Penal Code
“These nominees are not only making a mockery of our electoral processes and when they resigned, they have practically abandoned their office entrusted to them by the electorate,” he said in a statement.