One nuisance out
For those who have kept faith in the party list system despite its flaws, the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) decision to deny the nomination of former National Youth Commission (NYC) chair Ronald Cardema as Duterte Youth party list representative because of “material misrepresentation” was both unexpected vindication and answered prayer.
Created under the 1987 Constitution as a mechanism to give marginalized sectors proportionate representation in Congress, the well-intentioned party list system has been gamed by wily politicians and opportunists who, despite their pedigree, have been suddenly billing themselves as representatives of security guards, “probinsyanos,” seafarers, farmers, LPG dealers and sundry other sectors.
Among these reinvented personalities is Cardema, who first gained attention (or notoriety) as the leader of Duterte Youth, a ragtag rah-rah group of seven that sought to steal the thunder from opposition rallies in the early months of the Duterte administration.
For his sycophantic efforts, Cardema was appointed chair of the NYC in August 2018. Early this year, he called on government to remove the scholarships of “rebellious students.”
His next claim to infamy came shortly after the May elections, when he described himself with presumptive conceit as “incoming congressman” in his Facebook page. Turns out he had injected himself into the Duterte Youth party list as its first nominee after its previous five nominees withdrew their names at the last minute.
The former NYC chair also skirted election rules and used his position to campaign for Duterte Youth. Which explains his belated filing of substitute nomination: By not nominating himself early on, he could ignore Malacañang’s directive for Cabinet members running for elective posts to resign in time for the campaign period.
And yet, despite the objections raised against his nomination, Cardema had no qualms showing up in meetings and gatherings of newly elected party list representatives, as if he were already one of them. Talk about positive visualization.
Good thing the Comelec resolution shot down Cardema’s bid for good. Signed by presiding commissioner Al Parreño and commissioners Rowena Guanzon and Marlon Casquejo, the ruling granted the petition of several youth groups to have Cardema’s nomination bid thrown out, and detailed the machinations Cardema had resorted to in service to his overweening ambition to get into the House.
“The Commission finds Respondent to have committed material misrepresentation on his qualifications,” it said, citing Republic Act No. 7941 or the Party-List System Act that says anyone running for youth sector representative should be between 25 and 30 years old. Cardema is 34, while the three other substitute nominees are aged 31 to 36. The ruling also cited Section 1, Rule 5 of Comelec Resolution No. 9366, where material misrepresentation is considered a ground for the cancellation of a nomination.
While Cardema’s lawyer amended her client’s aspiration to represent “young professionals” instead, Guanzon’s grilling elicited the information that Cardema has neither a college degree nor a profession. His party is multisectoral, the lawyer argued, to which the Comelec countered that it could find “no reason why the age qualification provided by law for nominees of the youth sector should not be applied to the Respondent.”
The ruling also noted that Cardema filed for the substitution at the last minute — after office hours on a weekend the day before the May 13 elections. Although a Comelec official in a previous ruling had shrugged that “people do it all the time,” the late filing seems to have been a calculated maneuver, “undoubtedly with the clear intent of depriving the electorate the opportunity to be informed and to examine the qualifications and credentials of the nominees,” said the Comelec.
Cardema can still file a motion for reconsideration with the Comelec en banc. Thankfully, without a Certificate of Proclamation, he is still not considered a member of the House of Representatives despite the guy having shamelessly taken his oath of office in advance — secure, no doubt, in the thought that the official connections he’d managed to accrue from all that career brownnosing would eventually tip the Comelec’s hand in his favor.
Well, it appears they didn’t work this time, with Comelec rightly giving him the boot. That’s one nuisance out — a small but welcome break for the party list system, for Congress and for a public now spared of having to waste their tax money on an inveterate interloper.
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