Comelec accepts Duterte Youth chair Cardema's withdrawal of nomination

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc accepted Duterte Youth chairman Ronald Cardema's bid to withdraw his nomination as the party's 1st nominee.

In a poll resolution obtained by Rappler on Tuesday, November 26, 5 out of 7 commissioners voted to accept Cardema's notice of withdrawal filed last September.

"The commission after due deliberation, resolved as it hereby resolves to accept the withdrawal of Mr Ronald Gian L Cardema as 1st nominee of the Duterte Youth party-list, having been executed in due form as the same ministerial act of the commission," the Comelec said in a minute resolution dated October 23.

Comelec Chairman Sheriff Abas and commissioners Al Parreño, Socorro Inting, Antonio Kho Jr, and Marlon Casquejo voted in favor of approving Cardema's withdrawal. Comelec Commissioner Luie Tito Guia abstained, while Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon "noted" the decision.

Why this matters: The poll body's acceptance of Cardema's withdrawal aids in clearing the way for Duterte Youth's other nominees to assume a seat in the House of Representatives in the 18th Congress.

The Comelec earlier approved the group's 2nd withdrawal and substitution of nominees despite its filing past the deadline, supposed to be before the closing of polls on election day.

Aside from party chair Cardema, his wife Ducielle Suarez Cardema also faced petitions seeking to disqualify her as Duterte Youth's 2nd nominee. But Guanzon said this has not stopped Ducielle Cardema from requesting the House secretary-general to swear her in as a representative.

Since the proclamation of winners in the May 2019 polls, Duterte Youth has been unable to obtain its seat in the House, owing to several resolutions filed at the Comelec challenging the validity of its nominees and party registration. (READ: Stretching the rules: Duterte Youth's bid for Congress)

Setting a precedent. Former poll chair Sixto Brillantes Jr and election lawyer Emil Marañon earlier opposed Cardema's attempt to withdraw his nomination, saying the poll body must first rule on his motion for reconsideration, which asked the Comelec en banc to reconsider the cancellation of his nomination.

Back in August, the Comelec 1st Division had ruled to cancel Cardema's nomination.

"There is already a ruling by the 1st Division...granting our petition to deny due course, in effect declaring his nomination as void ab initio (from the beginning). Technically, Cardema cannot withdraw what did not exist," they said.

Brillantes and Marañon have been the face of opposition versus Cardema and Duterte Youth. Along with youth group MillennialsPH, the poll lawyers earlier filed petitions seeking to cancel Cardema's nomination and block Duterte Youth's new nominees. Aside from these, they also filed a petition seeking to declare Duterte Youth's registration void ab initio or cancel it altogether. (READ: Poll lawyer urges Comelec: Rectify errors with Duterte Youth)

Despite the Comelec's latest decision to accept Cardema's withdrawal as Duterte Youth's 1st nominee, decisions on his motion for reconsideration seeking the reversal of his canceled nomination and his move to withdraw this motion for reconsideration have yet to be released.

What happens next? While the Comelec accepted Cardema's withdrawal of his nomination, Duterte Youth will not yet be able to assume a seat in the House.

Guanzon told Rappler that Comelec has yet to issue the group's certificate of proclamation, which is a requirement for a nominee to assume a House seat.

She said: "Duterte Youth has no certificate of proclamation from Comelec. Not one of them can sit as representative. That is the bottom line." – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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