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

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 22) — The Commission on Elections on Wednesday approved former National Youth Commission Chairperson Ronald Cardema’s plea to be a substitute nominee for the Duterte Youth party-list, but clarified his eligibility and age were not discussed by the en banc.

“Nakahabol naman siya, ang issue lang doon is whether or not nakahabol ang substitution niya,” COMELEC Chairperson Sheriff Abas told CNN Philippines after the proclamation of winning party-list groups.

[Translation: He was able to catch up. The only issue there was whether or not his substitution made the deadline.]

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."

Cardema filed the petition a day before the midterm elections. He will replace his wife Ducielle Marie Suarez Cardema as first nominee of the Duterte Youth, one of the winning party-lists.

Cardema turned heads when he attended the proclamation prior to the release of his plea approval. The former Duterte Youth chairperson stood up when the poll body announced the party-list’s victory in the elections.

Some netizens and detractors have criticized Cardema's move, saying it will "abuse" and "railroad" the democratic process as well as the election law.

Cardema is also facing an issue rgarding his age. On his Facebook page where he regularly posts updates, he listed his birthday as April 13, 1986. This makes him 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.

The COMELEC chair, however, stressed the issues on Cardema’s eligibility were not tackled when authorities reviewed the petition. He added the concern can be addressed through the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal.

“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,” Abas said.

[Translation: It was approved because under our rules, withdrawal and substitution can be done before election day. Whether or not he’s eligible is a different story.]

He added, "Hindi namin nadiscuss 'yun because part 'yun ng eligibility niya so pwede siyang file-an pa rin like pwedeng quo warranto."

CNN Philippines correspondent Triciah Terada contributed to this story.