COMELEC commissioner finds Cardema substitution bid invalid

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 23) — Elections Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said she will dissent if the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) approves the petition of former National Youth Commission Chairperson Ronald Cardema to be the substitute nominee of the Duterte Youth party-list.

She said Cardema filed his substitution bid on May 12, a Sunday which is not a work day. In a tweet, she stated she will dissent once the resolution is out.

"(The filing) — for me — is not a valid filing because we don't have office hours on Sunday... All he has to get is the majority, there are 7 of us, if he gets 4 votes then his application for substitution is accepted and given due course. In my opinion, he did not file on time," she told CNN Philippines.

Cardema filed the substitution petition a day before the midterm elections. Under COMELEC rules, "the substitute for a candidate who died, withdrew his candidacy, or was disqualified by final judgment, may file a certificate of candidacy up to mid-day of Election Day; provided that, the substitute and the substituted have the same surnames." His wife Ducielle Marie Suarez Cardema and four other nominees held a mass withdrawal due to what they claimed as fear of debating with "leftist party-lists," forcing him to apply as the only remaining nominee of their party-list.

Former COMELEC Commissioner Gregorio "Goyo" Larrazabal agreed with Guanzon that the timing of the filing is contentious.

"Wala namang office ng Sunday. And obviously 5:30 p.m. is beyond regular office hours. That in itself is questionable. That has to be resolved by the en banc kung karapat-dapat ba talaga i-allow 'yung substitution," he said.

Duterte Youth and the hopeful 33-year-old youth sector representative

Aside from the issue of his substitution petition, Cardema is also facing backlash for representing a youth party-list when he is already 33 years old. According to Section 9 of the Party-list System Act, a nominee of the youth sector must not be more than 30 years old.

Cardema said their party-list represents the marginalized youth and professionals, so he doesn't have to adhere to the age limit.

But Larrazabal said that when party-list groups file their accreditation for their organization, they have to pick one specific sector to represent. He also questioned the claim of Cardema that Duterte Youth also represents the professional sector.

"I don't think that nominee is a professional. How can you represent the professional sector when you are a government employee who just resigned before you submitted the motion to substitute? It doesn't make sense," the former poll body official said.

Related: Cardema says Duterte Youth nominees quit for fear of debating ‘leftist party-lists’

He said the COMELEC en banc cannot grant the motion without much discussion since there is a pending petition to block Cardema's bid as party-list first nominee. Even with the proclamation of Duterte Youth as one of the winning party-lists, Larrazabal said the poll body can still disqualify the party-list nominee.

Seeming confusion

COMELEC Chairman Sheriff Abas on Wednesday said the poll body has approved Cardema’s plea to be a substitute nominee for the Duterte Youth party-list because he has met the deadline for the substitution bid. He also clarified Cardema's eligibility and age were not discussed by the en banc.

Related: COMELEC OKs Cardema’s party-list substitution bid, clarifies eligibility issue not tackled

“Pasok siya kasi under our rules naman, pwede ang withdrawal and substitution before election day. Whether or not eligible siya or hindi, ibang usapan 'yun,” he told CNN Philippines.

However, Guanzon said that, to her knowledge, the COMELEC has not released any resolution on Cardema's substitution yet.