House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano is better off focusing his energy on the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games and keeping his hands off the Commission on Elections (COMELEC).

As the news media are generally preoccupied with other national issues, House Resolution No. (HRN) 552 was filed last November 25 at the House of Representatives (HOR). Referred to the House Committee on Rules, it essentially urges to COMELEC to issue certificates of proclamation to the first nominees of Duterte Youth and Senior Citizens party-list groups. These are the last two party-list seats in the 18th Congress.

Cayetano conveniently forgets the context in which the certificates of proclamation remain pending. For Senior Citizens, it has to do with having two sets of nominees. For Duterte Youth, it is more complicated because of the legal acrobatics of Duterte supporter Ronald Cardema who substituted himself despite being overaged and unqualified as a “young professional,” a sector he claims to represent.

It may be recalled that Duterte Youth initially had Cardema’s wife Ducielle Marie Suarez as first nominee. A day before the May 13 elections, she, along with the other original nominees, withdrew their nominations to make way for a new set of nominees led by Cardema. When this was questioned before the COMELEC, Cardema and the other new nominees withdrew to make way yet again for a third set of nominees, also with Cardema as first nominee and reverting Suarez as second nominee. The escalation of public uproar over the brazen circumvention of the party-list law resulted in Cardema crying on national television and then withdrawing his nomination as first nominee.

Please note that Cardema was deemed ineligible by the COMELEC to become a party-list representative of Duterte Youth. Much of the COMELEC’s time was taken with his untenable reasoning. His clear circumvention of the law and common sense exposed not just his ineligibility but also the nature of Duterte Youth as a party-list group. How can it claim to represent the youth when many of its original nominees, as well as Cardema, were overaged based on the party-list law? How can it claim to be exempted from the age requirement by just simply adding “young professionals” as a sector it tries to represent?

While Suarez is technically next in line based on the third set of nominees of Duterte Youth, we cannot help but ask: Didn’t she already withdraw as Duterte Youth party-list nominee? Based on Cardema’s media pronouncements, she and the other original set of nominees are said to be afraid of left-leaning groups. For sure Suarez is aware that her husband’s pet peeves will become her colleagues in the 18th Congress. Is she still afraid of them as her husband claims she is?

If Cayetano and the other proponents of HRN 552 want to “champion” Duterte Youth, they should instead encourage the National Youth Commission (NYC) and the Ombudsman to investigate whether or not public funds had been used in the recent elections.

Perhaps Cayetano should also be reminded that Duterte Youth used the HOR logo in its tarpaulins during the election campaign. As House Speaker, shouldn’t he be concerned about misrepresentation of party-list wannabes like Duterte Youth? Is this the kind of party-list group that he thinks is deserving of a seat in the 18th Congress?

For verification, please contact Danilo Arao, convenor of Kontra Daya

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