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Guanzon-Cardema row needs facts and stricter media coverage

August 23, 2019

THE noisy row between Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rowena Guanzon and former National Youth Commission chairman Ronald Cardema would not be so unpleasant to behold if the protagonists would at least offer substantiation in the controversy, or shine a light on an important public issue.

Cardema claims that Commissioner Guanzon extorted money from him and the Duterte Youth party-list to accredit the party and secure his nomination to a seat in Congress. He alleges that after shelling out P2 million for accreditation of the party and his nomination, Guanzon failed to deliver.

Moreover, Cardema claims that he coursed the money through an emissary, a congresswoman whom he has so far refused to identify.

Guanzon has flatly denied Cardema’s accusation. She says, first, that Cardema is disqualified from serving as youth party-list representative because the law requires the nominee to be from 25 to 30 years old. Cardema is now 35 years old. Guanzon dismisses him as an “overaged liar.”

Guanzon has challenged Cardema to identify the lawmaker to whom he gave the P2 million bribe allegedly for the poll official.

“He is a lying, overaged, trying-hard pretender,” Guanzon said.

“He said he gave P2 million [through a congresswoman]. So he admits he committed bribery. If he gave P2 million, and I voted to DQ (disqualify) him, then he is an idiot. Naloko siya (He was conned).”

Guanzon said that if Cardema was telling the truth, she would not have voted to disqualify him as nominee of the youth party-list group.

In January this year, the Comelec en banc approved the accreditation of the Duterte Youth, which listed Cardema’s wife Elizabeth Ann as the top nominee to represent the youth sector. But she withdrew her nomination. Cardema filed to substitute for his wife on May 12, or a day before the elections. He was disqualified by the Comelec, however, because he was 35 years old.

Under the party-list law, representatives of the youth sector must be at least 25 years old, but not more than 30 years old on election day.

The Duterte Youth is among the 51 party-list groups that gained enough votes in the May elections to land a seat at the House of Representatives.

Pending the resolution of petitions against Cardema, the Comelec did not issue a certificate of proclamation to the Duterte Youth, which would have allowed Cardema to sit in the House of Representatives.

Commissioner Guanzon has advised Cardema to stop carping about his disqualification.

“He already filed an MR (motion for reconsideration). Ano pa reklamo niya (What is he complaining about)? He doesn’t understand our ruling. Tell him to ask his lawyers and don’t bother me. He is overaged! DQ!”

Cardema now says he no longer cares if he is not allowed to represent the Duterte Youth group in Congress. He just wants to expose Guanzon and her activities at the Comelec.

He tried to get President Duterte to intercede on his behalf, but the Palace refused to be dragged into the issue.

It appears to be Cardema who is mainly fanning this controversy. After being disqualified, he aired charges of extortion on TV, through a long interview on ANC.

While he was reciting his spiel, the ANC interviewer inexplicably failed to ask material questions:

First, whether he (Cardema) is now 35 years old, and is therefore disqualified to serve as youth party-list representative.

Second, whether he can substantiate his claim that Duterte Youth paid extortion money to Guanzon.

He was not pressed on his allegation that he paid the money through a third party, a member of Congress.

This is a very serious claim that should be fully investigated.

Mr. Cardema could do us a service by shedding light on whether the Duterte Youth party-list had to pay extortion money to secure its accreditation last January.

The media can also help in resolving this entire business. It can do so by fully professionalizing its coverage of the affair. ANC can be faulted for lending itself so freely to Cardema’s self-serving accusations, without asking the hard questions.

We in the Times must also bear a share of responsibility for agreeing to reprint statements of Commissioner Guanzon that were only relayed to our reporter via Twitter. We think that for a serious matter like this, personages should write down their thoughts.

A Twitter message should not be enough to cause a storm.

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