Cardema accuses COMELEC commissioner of extortion

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Former National Youth Commission chair Ronald Cardema (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 17) — Ronald Cardema, chairperson of the Duterte Youth party-list, on Saturday accused a poll commissioner of extortion over the group’s accreditation.

In a press briefing, Cardema claimed the camp of Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Commissioner Rowena Guanzon attempted to extort ₱2-million from Duterte Youth in exchange for the party-list group's accreditation in the 2019 polls.

Cardema, who presented an exchange of text messages between him and Guanzon’s alleged representative, said the commissioner’s camp also demanded the appointment of a regional trial court judge in Iloilo.

Pinaliwanag niya sakin yung hiling ni Commissioner Guanzon kung ano kapalit para aprubahan — pinapakinggan ko lang emisaryo ni Atty Guanzon— appointment ng isang attorney para maging RTC judge ng Iloilo,” Cardema said.

[Translation: The person explained what Commissioner Guanzon wanted in exchange for approval -- I just listened to Atty. Guanzon’s emissary—the appointment of a lawyer as an RTC judge in Iloilo.]

Guanzon, however, refuted Cardema’s allegations. She said all members of the COMELEC First Division voted in favor of Duterte Youth’s registration.

“I voted in favor of the registration during the MR (motion for reconsideration). All of us in the (first division) did. So where is the exchange of favors? Where is the bribery?” Guanzon told CNN Philippines.

No hand in death threats

On the other hand, Cardema also denied any involvement in the death threats received by the commissioner. He said he even offered to help in finding the culprit.

"Kahit na ang initiative to find out kung sinong nangha-harass sa kanya nasatin na nanggagaling... every day sinasabi niyang tayo ang nangha-harass sa kanya," Cardema said in a press briefing at the Duterte Youth's general assembly.

[Translation: Even if the initiative to find out who is harassing her comes from us... every day we are being accused of harrassment.]

He turned emotional as he decried how the Duterte Youth has been been portrayed as "bad" because of Guanzon's allegations.

"Makikita niyo na pinapalabas niya na siya ang biktima; kami sa Duterte Youth ang biktima," Cardema said, crying. "Tapos ang lalabas sa media kami yung ano, kami yung masama."

[Translation: As you can see, she's playing victim; but we, the Duterte Youth, are the victims. But media reports put us in a bad light.]

Guanzon has repeatedly blamed Cardema for the death threats she and her family had received, usually just hours after key COMELEC decisions came out.

The COMELEC First Division earlier this month ruled in favor of a petition to cancel Cardema’s plea to replace his wife, Ducielle Marie Suarez Cardema, Duterte Youth's first nominee. He has filed an appeal.

Guanzon said she has asked the COMELEC's law department to probe Cardema's possible criminal liability for misrepresentation. The law states that a nominee of the youth sector, which the Duterte Youth party-list represents, must not be more than 30 years old. Cardema is 34. This was among the reasons his substitution bid was rejected, preventing the Duterte Youth from assuming its seat in the House of Representatives.

CNN Philippines' Crissy Dimatulac contributed to this report.