The outrageous case of Duterte diehard Ronald Cardema illustrates perfectly how the Philippines has become a political backwater. So cocksure is Cardema of making it into Congress that he has affixed “incoming congressman” at the top of a list of his particulars on Facebook, alongside the declaration, “started new job at House of Representatives of the Philippines,” below the seal of the chamber.
Did the tough Rowena Guanzon overlook this when she huffed on Monday that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) had yet to approve his petition to stand as official nominee of the party list group Duterte Youth?
What does the man know that she and the other election commissioners are ignorant about?
Cardema, whose ardent support of President Duterte he constantly displays in word and deed, was chair of the National Youth Commission (NYC) when he was revealed to have filed a petition seeking to substitute for his wife as first nominee of Duterte Youth.
The issue of deadline having been ironed out — he was found to have made the filing within time limits, contrary to Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez’s claim that the period for substitution had lapsed — the poll body was reported to be in the thick of discussing the “substantive issues” of his petition.
But why are the commissioners engaged in hemming and hawing over what, on its face, is an open-and-shut case? There’s the matter of Cardema’s age: 33, when the limit for youth-sector representatives is 30.
There’s his prolonged use of the NYC chairmanship as platform to campaign for Duterte Youth as well as his failure to resign his post before filing his petition.
And there’s the suspicious wholesale withdrawal of the five nominees — the first his wife, Ducielle Cardema, and the fifth a relative bearing the same surname — obviously to pave the way for his entry.
“People do it all the time,” Jimenez had said of Cardema’s supposedly late petition, as though to say that this case was nothing extraordinary, and the Comelec had constantly thrown out these attempts at getting around the law.
To be sure, many Filipino politicians are an inconsiderate, presumptuous lot. Shameless, too: Plunderers bob in and out of the scene, galvanized by the money to be had, and public memory be damned.
But Cardema’s behavior — to game the party list system, having apparently sized it up as laughably vulnerable, and bend it according to his scheme; to proclaim himself an “incoming congressman” with no compunction; to flout rules; to ignore, even to mock, public disdain — is remarkable.
Siga, the streetwise could describe him. Bara-bara. (One could say he’s a man after the President’s own heart.) Brazen—that is to say, harboring no fear that he would be rejected, chastised or otherwise penalized. (One could conclude that his backers are very important people.)
And unflappable. To Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago’s exposure of his “last-minute” petition for substitution — “such a flagrant [traditional-politician] move,” she said, adding that “this is all the more reason we should go out and protest” — Cardema employed his invariable method of expressing rabid support for the Duterte administration by tarring dissenters such as Kabataan with red paint, and added that lawmakers should focus their energies on blocking the supposed efforts of activist groups to bring down the government.
In February, he drew widespread backlash by publicly urging the President to issue an executive order removing the subsidy of “all rebellious antigovernment scholars.”
He also called on the Sangguniang Kabataan, Reserve Officers Training Corps and Citizens Army Training to report “rebellious antigovernment scholars” to the NYC. Thankfully, his call bore no fruit.
But is this any way for the government’s supposed youth representative to behave? No way, said the entertainment personality Dingdong Dantes, who once served as NYC commissioner.
If the Comelec grants Cardema’s petition, Dantes said, correctly, then the democratic process of choosing a youth representative would have been “railroaded.”
And as though to blunt the perception that Malacañang’s “hands-off stance” is in itself a way of backing its man, Mr. Duterte’s spokesperson Salvador Panelo directed the Department of Justice to look into Cardema’s presiding over a meeting at the NYC three days after he sought to be named Duterte Youth nominee, and was therefore deemed resigned.
But this is the Comelec’s moment. How will it decide?
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