By Rommel F. Lopez

Ronald Cardema during a Malacañang press briefing

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) First Division canceled the nomination of Ronald Cardema as representative of the Duterte Youth party-list due to “material misrepresentation”.

Cardema, who was 34 years old at the time, declared in his submitted his Certificate of Acceptance and Nomination that he was eligible for nomination as the representative of the Duterte Youth party-list. 

The different youth groups who sought his disqualification argued that a representative for the youth sector under the Party-List law should be 25 to 30 years old at the time of his/her nomination.

The Comelec agreed with the petitioners and said in its decision that Cardema is guilty of material representation which is punishable with the cancellation of his nomination under Comelec Resolution 9366.

During the hearing for the disqualification petition, Cardema’s own lawyer, Atty. Rani Angeli Supnet, was forced to admit upon questioning from Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon that Cardema is ineligible because he is beyond the age limit set under the law.

However, Cardema argued that the Duterte Youth party-list is not an exclusively youth party-list as the group allegedly represents young professionals as well.  This, according to Cardema, makes him eligible to be the party-list representative since a youth professional does not have an age limit as set forth by law.

The poll body dismissed Cardema’s argument saying the Duterte Youth itself was not able to define the term young professionals in its constitution and by-laws.  “In fact, Duterte Youth is even hiding behind the cloak of self-serving secrecy by claiming that the definition of the term young professional is a matter internal to the party,” the decision read.

“The party cannot really claim that it is indeed multi-sectoral when the so called professional sector it claims to represent evidently forms part of the main sector—the youth sector—that Duterte Youth clearly stands for. With these in mind, this Commission finds no reason why the age qualification provided by law for nominees of the youth sector should not be applied to the Respondent,” the decision added.

During the same hearing, Supnet admitted that Cardema is not a professional but “an advocate of the professional” and he does not possess any academic degree as he did not finish college.  

The Comelec said that even if the Duterte Youth is a multi-sectoral party, Cardema is still ineligible since he could not represent the professional sector and the youth sector. 

The poll body cited a Supreme Court decision (Amores vs. HRET) that ruled that a representative of the youth sector must meet the age requirements of the party-list law, regardless whether the party-list group was a multi-sectoral one or represented various other sectors other than the youth.

The Comelec also said that Cardema only started to highlight the professionals “only after the filing of a petition against him questioning his eligibility to represent the youth sector.”