MANILA, Philippines – While embattled Duterte Youth chair Ronald Cardema backed out as nominee of the party list group, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rowena Guanzon vowed this would not stop her from holding Cardema accountable for his allegations against her.
“He stated under oath (a public document) that I am corrupt. That is libelous. I will not allow him to destroy my good reputation and family name,” Guanzon said. (READ: Guanzon on speaking out vs Cardema: 'It's my duty to defend Comelec')
Cardema had earlier filed a notice of withdrawal as Duterte Youth’s nominee after saying he was “bullied” by Guanzon, whom he accused of showing "clear bias" and using her office to "harass... slander and destroy" the party's reputation in public. This came after Cardema earlier asked the Comelec en banc to reconsider the cancellation of his nomination as the party's first nominee.
But Guanzon refuted this, saying Cardema should have just withdrawn his bid because he was unqualified to sit as youth representative in the Lower House. At 34 years old, Cardema breaches the age limit to sit in Congress as representative of the youth sector, who must be at least 25 to 30 years old. (READ: Stretching the rules: Duterte Youth's bid for Congress)
“His ground for withdrawing as nominee is because I harassed him and demanded money and favors. That is not verifiable. Instead he should have stated the truth that he is over 30 years old and therefore disqualified,” Guanzon said.
Since the Comelec 1st Division's cancellation of his nomination, Cardema has accused Guanzon, who had voted against his party-list nomination, of corruption and extortion.
Guanzon denied these claims, saying Cardema had lodged them against her to distract the public from the fact that he was not qualified to sit as youth representative in Congress.
An independent voice in the poll body, Guanzon has been consistent in her position against Cardema's Congress bid. She was the lone dissenter in the en banc's decision to give due course to Cardema's substitution bid and later voted to cancel his nomination. (READ: Comelec's fiery commissioner: Who is Rowena Guanzon)
With Cardema’s latest move to withdraw his nomination and pin the blame on the poll commissioner, Guanzon reiterated she would file separate suits for libel and damages against him in her hometown of Negros Occidental.
Guanzon also reminded Cardema that his notice of withdrawal did not put him and Duterte Youth in the clear yet. The poll body’s 7-memebr en banc, she said, has yet to rule on it.
“We are not a stamping pad of an overaged, disqualified pretender,” Guanzon said.
Meanwhile, Duterte Youth's seat in the House of Representatives remains vacant as severeal cases against the party and its nominees remained pending with the Comelec. (READ: Election lawyers, youth leaders seek to block Duterte Youth's new nominees) – Rappler.com