Cardema’s folly


Clearly, outwitting and gaming a porous electoral procedure was the intention. But the man in the leading role of our most recent tacky political drama couldn’t make a clean getaway.

Such, so far, is the political story of the beefy, crew-cut Ronald Cardema, erstwhile National Youth Commission (NYC) chairman and presumptive partylist congressman, self-proclaimed through a Facebook post.

Expending energies on the rubbish of political lightweights is usually a waste of time as it is as wasteful to spend time on “political con artists who possess the knack of being in the right place at the right time, and of scraping acquaintance with the great.”

But the Cardema affair is worth at least some attention as it sadly shows how the party-scheme has evolved, which some say has been manipulated for the worse.

Meant as a constitutional avenue for the political recognition of the interests of marginal groups, the partylist scheme has been desecrated into servicing the naked self-interests of political clans or shady groups with dubious inordinate designs on the public treasury.

So, for the uninformed, on the eve of Election Day, crew-cut Cardema filed a petition substituting himself as the sole nominee of partylist group Duterte Youth.

Cardema’s substitute attempt was generally lost in the festive hubbub of the elections, until it became clear the group had a clean shot at a partylist seat in the coming Congress. All hell broke loose.

Acerbic Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rowena Guanzon pretty much summed up what was going on the Cardema affair: “Now that the PL (partylist) won a seat, he wants to kick out his wife (Ducielle Marie) as (first) nominee?”

As of midweek, the partial and unofficial tally of the Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting was showing Duterte Youth ranks 21st in the partylist race.

Even as the disturbed Guanzon was twitting, Duterte Youth strangely metamorphosed into something else. While everyone else thought all along was that it was a youth group passionately supportive of Mr. Duterte, its leaders were now coyly insisting on a new acronym.

Duterte Youth now meant an eye-rubbing “Duty to Empower Through Enlightenment of the Youth.” Somewhat uninspiring, and many had dismissed the acronym as mere drivel, the name change at least makes one ask what it can conceivably mean.

Cardema himself provided the answer. He says Duterte youth does not actually represent the youth sector, but is actually a partylist for “youths and professionals.” And, he says, this meant there was no age-limit for its members, an important excuse in making his substitution case.

The double-eyed fantasist change of name, therefore, carried a disturbing subtext of no-age limits. And this was intended to parry questions about Cardema’s qualifications to represent his group.

Under the Partylist System Act, a nominee of the youth sector must not be more than 30 years of age on the day of the election. Cardema is 33.

Under the law, he whose muscled soldier-aura looks make him the perfect poster boy of seedy neighborhood gyms frequented by toughies of uncertain sexual orientation is plainly too old.

Arguably the name change did somewhat look like a smart-ass maneuver, allowing Cardema to skirt questions about his age. It still stank, however. The name change still pointed to a circumvention of the partylist law.

Whether the name change is enough to sway the Comelec or not as it deliberates all, which they have euphemistically termed as, “substantive issues” in the Cardema affair, it was still unclear as I write this.

Cardema’s age, however, is only one of the other “substantive issues” raised. Among the other issues are: Did Cardema meet the deadline for filing a petition for substitution?

Would Cardema be considered the partylist’s first nominee if his petition was approved? What happens to his post as chair of the National Youth Commission?

Of the questions, Malacañang had a mouthful to say about Cardema’s NYC chairmanship. A mouthful which all but signaled the Palace itself was tired of the tacky drama the ersatz mini-Duterte provoked in trying to secure a political future for himself.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo says Cardema was deemed resigned from the NYC primarily because of his last-minute bid for a Congress seat.

Panelo also revealed Cardema did not inform President Duterte about his intentions, with Mr. Duterte learning all about it from news reports.

“The President would have said something,” laments Panelo, which was short of saying Cardema had a tasteless way of treating the power circle — it is a repulsive heresy for a limpet not to have the blessings of the main man.

If the Palace found Cardema’s antics tasteless, other prominent political figures were not so forgiving or charitable.

“Ronald Cardema and the Duterte Youth partylist are just two of many reasons why the partylist system has become a joke,” Lacson pointedly said, adding the charade was doing disservice to other partylist groups.

Actor and former National Youth Commission (NYC) chief Dingdong Dantes said the Cardema maneuver, aside from giving Cardema unfair advantage during the campaign period, was portentously dishonorable.

“Kung may balak siyang maging congressman noong una pa lang, nararapat lang na nag-resign siya bilang NYC chairman. Pwede bang nagising na lang siya isang araw at nag-decide na trip niya? (If he had plans of becoming a congressman, he should have resigned the NYC chairmanship. Did he just wake up one day and decided then and there on a whim?)” Dantes said with sarcastic certainty.