No matter how low he goes to dance around the law, it is high time for him to face the music.

Amid Ronald Cardema’s self-serving hoopla and drama, the people should not lose sight of three important issues. First, the first division of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) has already declared him ineligible to be a nominee of the Duterte Youth party-list. Second, Cardema’s party-list which has the audacity to use the President’s name should be disqualified for the apparent circumvention of existing election rules and wanton deception of the voting public. Third, Cardema should be charged criminally for what he has done just to get a party-list seat in Congress.

He is ineligible because he is overaged and therefore not qualified to represent the youth sector. He is not a “professional” and therefore not qualified to represent the “young professionals,” a sector that Duterte Youth also claims to champion, the nebulous term notwithstanding. As if this is not enough, he has made the nebulous even more incredulous by claiming to fight for the “uniformed young professionals” in reference to his support for the military and the police who allegedly need further representation in the House of Representatives (as if the militarization of the bureaucracy is not enough). Be that as it may, he cannot claim to be an advocate for the so-called young professionals (or any of its iteration) because of the lack of a clear track record as one. And lest we forget, he wants to represent the so-called “men in uniform” even if it is publicly known that he has been kicked out of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).

The people should also never, ever forget that Cardema facilitated the mass withdrawal of all original nominees last May 12, 5:30 p.m. (or a little more than 12 hours before the polls opened) and then substituted himself as his party-list group’s first nominee. When it became clear that the Duterte Youth got enough votes to get a party-list seat in the House of Representatives, he prematurely and shamelessly updated his social media profile to identify himself as an “Incoming Congressman.”

The story does not end there, however, as there is said to be a new set of nominees submitted to the COMELEC recently, with him as the first nominee and his wife as the second nominee. It may be recalled that Cardema’s wife was the first nominee in the original set of nominees who withdrew to give way to Cardema and the rest of the substituted nominees, and now these substituted nominees have been substituted by a new set which includes Cardema’s wife who was originally the first nominee but now wants to be the second nominee. If the substitution acrobatics are confusing, it’s because it is. The Duterte Youth apparently wallows in confusion as it perpetuates widespread deception.

Prior to this, it may be recalled that the COMELEC’s second division initially rejected the registration of Duterte Youth as a party-list group, only to be reversed by the COMELEC en banc. It is now high time to revisit the grounds for the disqualification, particularly the ineligibility to represent the youth sector and the use of “professionals” to shamelessly avoid the stipulated age requirement for youth sector representation in the Party-list System Act of 1995.

But more than a mere revisiting of the recent past, the immediate present cannot be ignored. Cardema’s audacity to accuse COMELEC Commissioner Rowena Guanzon of extortion when he failed to get a favorable decision should be analyzed in the context of timing. The alleged extortion reportedly happened in January 2019 so why did he bring this up only now? Why are there so many inconsistencies in his “story,” particularly the way he handled the alleged extortion attempt? One account states that he simply played along, another says that he actually asked a friend to pay P2 million to Guanzon’s purported intermediary and yet another claims he does not know if Guanzon actually received the money that was sent. Cardema’s inconsistent narration is as appalling as his grammar and is matched only by his cheap attempt at theatrics.

While it is entertaining for people to see Cardema cry (or pretend to cry) in front of the camera as he lamented health problems of his wife and father, it is nevertheless obvious that his visual spectacle does not hide the irregularities of his attempt to become a party-list representative. (He should also know that his “crying” in public cannot be heartfelt if he includes in a slide presentation pictures of his wife and father at the hospital, but we digress.)

As the nation is exposed to his bad acting, let us focus more on the damage that he has done to the country’s election system. After all, Cardema deserves not an office in Batasan but a cell in Muntinlupa.

Contact person: Danilo Arao, convenor, Kontra Daya

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