(Updated, Aug. 8; 4:24 p.m.) A youth group criticized the return of Ronald Cardema to public office as a commissioner of the National Youth Commission more than a year after his controversial bid to gain a seat in the House of Representatives through the Duterte Youth party-list.
The Youth Act Now Against Tyranny called the move a “kind of recycling” in a supposed attempt of President Rodrigo Duterte to “consolidate control over all branches of government” while youths critical of his administration reject his “tyrannical rule.”
“The recycling of Ronald Cardema comes at a time when youth groups have been more critical of the NYC under the Duterte administration. Duterte’s NYC has been a tool of government-led red-tagging while it has failed to promote youth interests and welfare,” the group said in a statement.
It also called Cardema a “fake youth leader” and recalled how he “maliciously represented himself” as a leader of a youth-oriented party-list in the 2019 elections despite being overaged for the position.
“He wanted to enjoy the perks of serving as another mouthpiece of Duterte in the rubberstamp Congress,” the group said.
“It’s high time that the youth assert a National Youth Commission that is true to its mandate—serving the youth, not serving those in power,” the group added.
Media StatementReference: Raoul Danniel Abellar Manuel, National ConvenorYouth Act Now Against TyrannyON THE…
The group’s statement was also supported by the Kabataan party-list, which reshared it on its own Facebook page.
Election lawyer Emil Marañon, one of the complainants who filed a petition to cancel the nomination of Cardema, likewise denounced the latter’s NYC re-appointment. He pointed out a provision under Republic Act 8044 or the Youth in Nation-Building Act, specifically Section 7 in his opposition.
“It must be recalled that we filed cases against him. In a decision dated Aug 5, 2019, he was in fact found guilty by Comelec to have misrepresented or lied under oath over his qualification,” he wrote on Twitter.
“It be must emphasised that under Sec. 7 of RA No. 8044 (Youth in Nation-Building Act), a Commissioner of NYC must be ‘of good moral character.’ Having previously been found guilty of deliberately and maliciously lying under oath, Ronald Cardema falls short of this qualification,” Marañon added.
The lawyer described Cardema’s appointment to the youth body as “highly disappointing” and an “anathemic to good governance.”
On Monday, reports noted that Cardema was appointed as an “assistant secretary” at NYC, based on a Facebook post of Calamba Mayor Justin Marc Chipeco.
This appointment was confirmed by Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya to Rappler.
Cardema previously served as the chairperson of the NYC, a post now held by Ryan Enriquez.
A controversial nominee
Cardema in August 2019 was disqualified for running as a representative of the Duterte Youth party-list in the 2019 midterm elections due to substitution and age requirement issues.
Based on a resolution of the Commission on Elections, representatives of a youth sector party-list must be between 25 to 30-years-old on Election Day.
Cardema is 35 years-old.
Comelec said that he mispresented the group as the latter was aware he is overage for the position.
“Respondent (Cardema) is aware that he is already 34 years old and thus committed falsity when he misrepresented that he is eligible for nomination by Duterte Youth despite not possessing the age qualification provided by law for representatives of the youth sector,” the poll body said before.
In May 2019, Cardema also filed for a last-minute substitution appeal to the poll body to replace his wife, who was the first nominee, and four others to represent the party-list before.
The move was questioned due to its timing as his submission came on a non-working day and beyond the regular government office hours.
Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon also said that Cardema may be held accountable for engaging in partisan political activities despite holding a public office as NYC chairperson before.
“May 2, 2019, Cardema was chair of NYC and chairman of Duterte Youth. He engaged in partisan political activity while in office. This is a crime,” Guanzon said in her Twitter account, as quoted by the Philippine News Agency.
Cardema likewise has a record of denouncing student activists and youth groups even if he used to be a youth activist himself.
Cardema: I’m not a fake youth leader
In a message sent to Interaksyon, Cardema said that he is not a “fake youth leader” in response to the statement of Youth Act Now Against Tyranny and cited his past achievements when he undertook leadership positions in his youth.
The newly-appointed NYC commissioner said that he served as a boy scout leader in elementary, became a high school corps commander under Maquiling School’s Citizen Army Training and as corps commander of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps when the University of the Philippines-Diliman celebrated its 100th year.
Cardema also became UP Los Banos’ ROTC class president in the unit.
His record on NYC’S website states that he likewise served as a high school class president, was a member of the University Student Council Volunteer Corps and served as a Supreme Commander (President) of the UP Vanguard Fraternity, a civic-military fraternity in UP.
“I stand in streets to stop moving vehicles during the singing of our national anthem, we organize medical missions and disaster response activities for our countrymen. The youth leadership positions I’ve held are achieved after long periods of youth leadership practice,” Cardema said in an online message.
“Hindi ito nagtaas ka lang ng placard against the government or a government official, mas qualified ka pang matawag na youth leader,” he added.
Cardema also said that he “just turned 35,” making him qualified to be an NYC commissioner appointee.
NYC commissioners must be “no more than forty (40) years of age” while its chairman must “not be more than forty-five (45) years of age,” according to the Youth in Nation-Building Act.
Cardema said that when he was the NYC chairperson at 33, he attended meetings of the Asian Youth Council (Association of NYC Chairmen and Youth Ministers in the Asia Pacific Region) abroad where he was the “youngest” youth minister among all Asian Pacific countries.
He likewise addressed Marañon and said that they previously petitioned for the Duterte Youth to represent both the youth and professional sectors.
CNN Philippines reported that this sought “to resolve one of the main issues regarding Cardema’s substitution bid” last year.
“The sector in our petition for registration is youth and professionals and with that, Comelec approved our original nominees since 2018-2019 with the following ages: 28, 39, 42, 44, 42,” Cardema said.
He said that when he substituted, malicious claims were raised and that the Comelec in August 2019 said their party is now only for the youth sector.
Cardema also said the sudden change of decision cannot be applied to him retroactively because they were “100% informed” that the party-list in their petition for registration is under the youth and professionals.
He stressed that the poll body approved the original set of nominees, with four of them “far older than him.”
Editor’s Note: This updates the article with the response of Cardema and also corrects his age. An earlier version of this indicated that he is 34 years old. It has been corrected.