Perhaps the Commission on Elections missed the memo.
“No allies, no friends, no supporters—if they have committed any wrong—will be tolerated by this government,” a Palace spokesman said last month in relation to possible wrongdoing by the former chairman of the National Youth Commission.
But in its treatment so far of the very same former official, Duterte Youth chairman Ronald Cardema, the Comelec seems bent on doing the exact opposite of the official administration line.
Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, the lone dissenting vote when the Comelec gave due course to Cardema’s bid to become the representative of the Duterte-Youth Party-list group, got it right when she said the application should have been thrown out immediately, because Cardema, 34, was too old by law to be eligible to be a youth representative in Congress.
The law is very clear on this point, and it is remarkable that Guanzon was the only one among seven commissioners who seemed to understand this.
"The Commission cannot sit idly by and allow this unabashed mockery and assault to our democratic processes and institutions to go unchastised,” she said as her colleagues voted in favor of Cardema’s bid. “To do so would be tantamount to an abnegation of its Constitutional duty.”
The Comelec still has an opportunity to redeem itself, however, by settling several petitions seeking to cancel Cardema’s bid for a party-list seat and withholding his certificate of proclamation.
Just this week, a youth group, Millennials PH, filed a petition against Cardema, supported by a former Comelec chairman and a veteran election lawyer.
The group's petition is the second to be filed before the Comelec and comes as the poll body tackles petitions challenging Cardema’s qualifications to serve as youth representative in the incoming 18th Congress.
Cardema’s qualifications, in fact, have been questioned by past leaders of the NYC that he also headed.
Finally conceding that he is too old to legally represent the youth in Congress, Cardema now claims to be representing “young professionals”—a rationalization after the fact that is not supported by the Duterte Youth’s profile, track record, or campaign history.
When the law is so clear and the violation so blatant, we are compelled to ask: What is taking the Comelec so long to decide? To those with a suspicious bent, the delay could be seen as a tactic to lay low and wait for the heat to pass—before allowing a mockery of democracy to quietly proceed.