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Youth groups ask Comelec to junk Cardema's bid for substitution

GMA News Online logo GMA News Online 5/20/2019 Kaufman, Karl
a person posing for the camera: screenshot from National Youth Commission (NYC) video screenshot from National Youth Commission (NYC) video

Five youth groups and an anti-poll fraud organization on Monday asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to reject the last-minute bid of National Youth Commission (NYC) chairperson Ronald Cardema to replace a nominee of Duterte Youth party-list.

At the same time, the petitioners also asked the poll body to junk the  11th hour withdrawal of Duterte Youth party-list's three nominees for alleged violation of election and Comelec rules.

The petition was filed before the Comelec's law department by the following:

  • The National Union of Students of the Philippines,
  • College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines,
  • Youth Act Now Against Tyranny,
  • UP System,
  • Tindig - University of Santo Tomas Senior High School and
  • Kontra Daya

The petitioners argued that Cardema’s substitution bid, as well as the attempt of the three nominees of Duterte Youth party-list on May 12, or one day before the midterm elections, is a blatant mockery of law and regulation and the mandate of the Comelec because Cardema—at 33—is unqualified to be a party-list representative for the youth since the party-list requires that a youth sector representative must be aged 25 to 30 years old.

The petitioners also said of the Duterte Youth’s three nominees, only first nominee and Cardema’s wife Ducielle Suarez, 27, falls within the age limit set by the law.

Duterte Youth’s second nominee Joseph de Guzman is 39 years old while third nominee Benilda de Guzman is 44 years old, the petitioners said.

“Cardema and his cohorts in Duterte Youth Party-List sought to game the party-list elections from the beginning. A review of relevant laws on the qualifications of party-list nominees representing the youth sector would show that substitute nominee Cardema has no qualification to be a nominee, particularly by reason of his age,” the petitioners said.

“Wherefore, premises considered, it is most respectfully prayed of this Honorable Commission that the withdrawal of the original nominees of Duterte Youth Party-list and the substitution by the new nominees be disapproved or disallowed for being patently violative of existing election laws and Comelec rules and regulations,” they added.

Aside from the party-list law, the groups also cited a Supreme Court ruling in the Amores v. HRET and Villanueva case where the high court ruled that since the party-list law is unequivocal in providing that a nominee of the youth sector must not be more than 30 years old on election day, “a cardinal rule in statutory construction is that when the law is clear and free from any doubt or ambiguity, there is no room for construction or interpretation.”

“As the law states in unequivocal terms that a nominee of the youth sector must at least be 25 but not more than 30 years of age on the day of the election, it must be that a candidate who is more than 30 on election day is not qualified to be a youth sector nominee,” the groups said.

The groups also scored Cardema for allegedly using his position in government by placing his relatives as nominees of the Duterte Youth party-list, making the withdrawal of the three nominees easier.

“It is no coincidence that the first and last nominees of Duterte Youth are related to Cardema. The first nominee is his wife and the last nominee is a relative. By design, the first list of nominees allowed Ronald Cardema to campaign using his public post, without having to resign, and then benefit from this by substituting as party-list nominee,” the groups said.

“It is a classic case of wanting to have your cake and eat it too. This is not a message that one imparts on the youth of the country,” they added.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said that the Comelec en banc will decide on Cardema’s substitution bid and withdrawal of the existing Duterte Youth nominees before the expected proclamation of winners in the May 2019 Senate and party-list races on Tuesday. —KBK, GMA News

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