Ronald Cardema may be out of the picture but the bigger frame needs to be seen: The struggle for party-list reform is far from over.

The resolution of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) last February 11 regarding the ineligibility of Cardema as nominee of the Duterte Youth party-list shows that circumvention of the law is patently unacceptable.

With its decision, the COMELEC averted a dangerous precedent where a youth sector party-list nominee above the maximum allowable age of 30 can claim a seat in the House of Representatives (HOR).

The COMELEC also sends a strong message to those who want to circumvent the law, including the powers-that-be, will be met with a fate similar to Cardema’s.

Now that the nation is free from the underhanded tactics of Cardema, the challenge remains for the COMELEC and the other appropriate courts to act on the pending complaints directed against the Duterte Youth party-list.

Aside from circumvention of the party-list law regarding youth sector representation, Duterte Youth has been accused of misusing government funds during the 2019 election campaign. In utter disregard of HOR rules, it even had the temerity to use the HOR logo in its tarpaulins as if it has already won. Cardema himself even used his position as the then chair of the National Youth Commission (NYC) to campaign for his party-list group as he engages in red-baiting the Makabayan bloc, particularly the Kabataan Partylist.

There is reason therefore to call for the outright cancellation of the registration of Duterte Youth as a party-list group and consequently deny it a seat in the HOR. The members of the HOR should not welcome a party-list group whose only specialization is circumvention.

Both the HOR and COMELEC should also work together, in consultation with election watchdogs, to seriously review the party-list law so that the likes of the Duterte Youth would be put in their proper place.

Based on past studies by Kontra Daya on the party-list system, reforms need to be made to ensure that: (1) incumbent officials and their relatives would be disqualified as nominees; (2) members of political clans and big business would not coopt party-list groups either as financiers or as nominees themselves; (3) losing party-list nominees would be included in the one-year ban in being appointed to government positions; (4) nominees truly come from the marginalized and underrepresented, not from the rich and powerful.

Amid various issues plaguing the country right now, party-list representation also needs to be addressed to ensure that the voice of the voiceless would be heard in Congress and beyond.

Reference: Assoc. Prof. Danilo Arao, convenor, Kontra Daya

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