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Ex-NYC officials: ‘Overage’ Cardema in House would disenfranchise the youth

Former officials of the National Youth Commission (NYC) have called on the Commission on Elections to junk the bid of former NYC chairperson Ronald Cardema to replace his wife as party-list representative for the Duterte Youth party-list, saying that his being overage violates the law and disenfranchises the youth sector in Congress.

The statement, signed by six individuals who served as NYC officials in the Aquino administration and one who served as NYC chairperson during the Duterte administration, argued that Section 9 of Republic Act 7941 or The Party-List Act is explicit about youth representation, singling out the youth among so many other sectors in terms of qualifications: “In case of a nominee of the youth sector, he must at least be 25 but not more than 30 years of age on the day of the election.”

Cardema, in his Facebook account, listed his birthdate as April 13, 1986, making him 33 years old on election day, May 13.

“We, former Chairpersons and Commissioners of the NYC, call for the outright dismissal of the applications of Duterte Youth Chairman Ronald Cardema and four others submitted as substitute nominees for Duterte Youth partylist. Upon their very own admission on their CONAs (Certificate of Nomination and Acceptance), former NYC Chairman Ronald Cardema and the four other nominee-applicants undisputedly fall outside the prescribed age set by law. The name of their partylist is called ‘Duterte Youth’ and they have willingly presented themselves to the public as a youth-championing partylist. As such, the qualifications set forth by law categorically apply,” the statement read.

“Thus, owing to the law’s absolute and unconditional requirement, their application for substitution should not have been given due course at all. This circumvention of electoral laws and the extraordinary accommodations to non-members of the youth sector effectively disenfranchise the very sector they seek to represent,” the added.

The lone former NYC official who served under the Duterte administration and joined the call to junk Cardema's bid is actor and singer Ice Seguerra, who headed the NYC from 2016 to 2018.

Another prominent former NYC Commissioner who signed the statement is actor Dingdong Dantes.

“We are happy that many young citizens and youth groups have taken the cudgels on this issue. For the sake of the Filipino youth who, until now, continues to yearn for and struggle with representation and empowerment at various levels, we implore the Commission on Elections to side with the Filipino youth and declare Cardema et al as unqualified and ineligible substitutes and to immediately reject their CONAs. Doing otherwise would set the wrong precedent, send a confusing message, and pose a clear disservice to the Filipino youth,” they said.

“In our years of service at the NYC, we have consistently toiled and struggled for the well-being and rightful representation of the youth in various institutions and instrumentalities within and outside of government. Genuine representation matters especially in policymaking and is paramount in any democracy that should advance the welfare of the marginalized and the vulnerable,” they added.

Gov't fund use?

Likewise, the former NYC officials called for an investigation into whether Cardema indeed inappropriately used government funds, resources, and his position to advance the interest of Duterte Youth party-list, which he heads.

“A whiff of corruption requires that he be held accountable for his actions,” they added.

In closing, the former NYC officials appealed to the public not to equate Cardema's actions to that of the NYC workforce.

“The NYC is an institution composed of many noble and hardworking civil servants who only wish to serve the Filipino youth regardless of political regime or partisan dispositions. It is lamentable that the actions of its former head of agency have seemingly smeared the name of the NYC and subjected it to unnecessary nitpicking, euphemistic mudslinging, and unfounded accusations,” they said.

“For the sake of fairness, the maneuverings of one person should not be equated to and interpreted as the action of the institution,” they added.

The Comelec is expected to deliberate on the 10 oppositions filed against Cardema's substitution bid—which was filed a day before the May 13 elections, a Sunday—on Tuesday, June 11.

Other former NYC officials who affixed their signature on the statement were Gio Tiongson (NYC Chairperson, 2014 to 2016), Leon Flores III (NYC Chairperson, 2011-2014), Perci Vilar Cendana (NYC Commissioner, 2011-2016), JP Peñol (NYC Commissioner, 2014 to 2016) and Erwin Chua Andaya (NYC Commissioner, 2011 to 2014). — Llanesca T. Panti/BM, GMA News