August 20, 2019
President Rodrigo Duterte is not inclined to help former National Youth Commission head Ronald Cardema in his feud with the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Malacañang said on Monday.
Cardema, who has been disqualified as nominee of the Duterte Youth party-list, sought the help of the President in his fight against Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, whom he accused of extortion.
Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte would never interfere in Cardema’s case because he respects the poll body’s independence.
“The case between Mr. Cardema and Commissioner Guanzon is between the two of them,” Panelo said in a news conference.
“We always respect whatever decision of the independent departments or branches of the government. We’ll never go against it. The Office of the President makes sure of that,” he said.
“Moreover, the President respects the independence of any constitutional body. So, the President will never, has not and will not interfere on any function of the commission, as well other constitutional bodies,” the Palace official added.
Panelo, who also serves as Duterte’s top legal counsel, told Cardema that if he “has the goods on anyone, then he should file the appropriate charges.”
“The President will enforce the laws. Now anyone who feels that a law has been violated is free to file appropriate charges against whomsoever and let the law takes it course,” he added.
On Monday, Cardema said he respects the Palace’s decision rejecting his appeal for Duterte’s intervention.
“We respect the pronouncement of Secretary Panelo. Kaya lang, nanawagan lang tayo (We just wanted to ask for help) simply because lahat naman ng Pilipino pwedeng manawagan sa Pangulo ‘pag alam ng mga citizen na ina-agrabyado sila (all Filipinos can call the President if they know that they are being abused),” Cardema said in an interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel.
“Itong nirereklamo namin ay di ordinaryong korte ang pwedeng humarap, siya’y impeachable officer. So, talagang matindi ang level nito at talagang nakiusap lang kami at kung ayaw, okay lang naman po (Our complaint cannot be handled by a simple court because she’s an impeachable officer. It’s a high level case and we just wanted to ask help, and if they don’t want to help, it’s fine),” he added.
Cardema said he would consider filing an impeachment complaint against Guanzon.
“Kung may tutulong sa amin, bakit hindi? Kasi talagang meron kaming ebidensya (If someone will help us, why not? Because we really have evidence),” he said.
“Meron pa ngang mga kumausap sa amin na pati sila dinali nito dati (Others told us they were also victimized),” he added.
Under the law, a member of constitutional commissions, such as the Comelec, may be removed from office for culpable violation of the
Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, and other high crimes or betrayal of public trust.
Cardema said he was also considering filing criminal charges against Guanzon.
“Kakasuhan namin kayo (We will sue you) for extorting from us for accreditation,” he said.
Guanzon, however, dismissed Cardema’s claims as a publicity stunt.
On Monday, the poll commissioner said Cardema was bitter because “he lost his dream of having millions in pork barrel funds.”
“I told you he will file an impeachment complaint. Is it a betrayal of public trust to declare him DQ (disqualified) because he is overaged? All his moves are out of spite because he lost his dream of having millions in ‘pork barrel’ funds,” she said.
Over the weekend, Cardema claimed that an emissary of Guanzon had asked him for political favors in exchange for the approval of the accreditation of his group.
He said the emissary, a member of the House of Representatives, demanded the appointment of a lawyer as Regional Trial Court judge in Iloilo.
Guanzon, who has been critical of the nomination of the 34-year-old Cardema as representative of the youth group, has denied the allegation, dismissing it as an attempt to intimidate her into inhibiting from his case.
“Why will I extort money from him or anyone? I don’t need it. I am richer than Cardema for sure,” she said in a tweet.
The poll official had said she would not recuse herself from Cardema’s case.
Early this month, the Comelec ruled that Cardema is not qualified to be a nominee of the youth party-list because he is too old.
Under the law, youth representatives should be at least 25 years old, but not more than 30 on the day of the election.
Cardema argued that the age limit does not apply to him because he represents young professionals.
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