Eulogy for Carlo ‘Caio’ Cardema of the Nat’l Youth Commission

This article was sent by a private citizen to the UPLB Perspective’s email. The author asked to publish the article under an anonymous pen name for confidentiality. Carlo ‘Caio’ Cardema is the Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of the National Youth Commission.

By Jerome S. Perez

It is quite ironic that to hear someone espouse the view that students who support leftist movements should have their government scholarships revoked, especially when he once lost his scholarship in and was expelled from a premier government academy because he was associated with communists.

We are, of course, talking about Caio Cardema, the controversial chairman of the National Youth Commission and a flagrant Duterte sycophant.

We remember Caio from when he was Commander of the Cadet Corps of Maquiling School, Inc in UPLB. He was typically dressed in immaculate military attire, but was rather ill at ease and self-conscious, which diminished his bearing and the prestige of the office he represented.

We remember Caio from when he was Cadet Officer Candidate of the UPLB ROTC and neophyte of the UP Vanguard Fraternity. He was as terrorized as any neophyte is: haggard, scared, alert, and trying to maintain grace under pressure but visibly failing. We cannot blame him though; as a high school corps commander, there were a lot of expectations from him and he had to prove himself.

We also remember him discussing social issues and the struggles of the peasant and working classes. A little bit odd for someone committed to a right-wing institution, though not unheard-of in the patriotic, socially aware tradition of UPLB.

He did not perform well academically in UPLB, but that was not unexpected. It was actually typical of gung-ho college cadet officers who all seemed to be taking BS ROTC. So it was a pleasant surprise when we heard that he got accepted in PMA. That was also typical; several of his contemporaries who were in similar situations also chose the same route.

What was unexpected was when we heard around 2 years later that he was expelled from the Academy. Something about writing letters to communists after an activist uncle was killed. A harrowing experience that in hindsight must be his origins story.

News kept coming in; he enrolled in UP Diliman National College of Public Administration and Governance for his undergraduate degree. He also applied to the ROTC unit of UP Diliman, which was only too happy to take him. The sun of the Corps was at dusk; it was in sunset ever since CWTS was introduced as an alternative to ROTC and the basic Military Science program was cut from two years to one. The impressive parades of around 3000 cadets in Sunken Garden became less eye-catching when the cadet population dwindled to fewer than 1000. The coup de grace came two years later when the largest college in campus, the Corps’ biggest source of cadets, put up its own CWTS program and there were fewer than 100 students who enrolled in ROTC.

So the UP Diliman ROTC were very happy to take him. Someone with a PMA background, albeit checkered, may be just what they needed to keep extinction at bay.

And so it came to pass. Caio became Corps Commander of the UP Diliman ROTC in 2008, the centennial year of the University, an incidental fact that he never forgets to append to his signature block.

He also earned his degree in Public Administration and, like so many other Public Ad and Pol Sci graduates, became a political consultant, a job title that is falling into disrepute. Nowadays, it could mean anything from putting together a policy study to drafting publicity materials to formulating campaign strategies to organizing Facebook trolls.

The rest is a matter of public record. He found his way into the halls of power and over the past decade steadily rose to where he is now, Chairman of the NYC, which holds the rank of Undersecretary.

Whether these were a matter of destiny or a tortuously contrived ruse to eventually vie for an elective position and further entrench himself into the ranks of the politicians and power brokers in the country, only Caio would know. What we know is that he became leader of Duterte Youth, that he was later appointed commissioner of the NYC, and later appointed to be its chairperson after Aiza Seguerra resigned the post. We also know that Sara Duterte-Carpio, Manases Carpio, Bong Go, and Bongbong Marcos are among his wedding godparents. Moreover, we know that Duterte Youth is now a party-list organization. It does not take a degree from a premier state university or a military academy to infer his plans in the next three years.

We cannot help but remember in him the infamous Jovito Palparan. The old man is already locked up, committed to ignominy and paying for the atrocities he committed. So perhaps there is room for another dog in the extreme political right.

But perhaps comparing Caio to Palparan is actually a slight to Palparan. At least Palparan had enough balls to go to the hinterlands and hunt down the rebels he despised so much. I doubt if he would be satisfied being a keyboard warrior who throws a low blow and a sucker punch here and there.

Yet Palparan’s fate could serve as a fair warning to Caio. The general is languishing in jail; old, worn, impotent, and forgotten by the masters he served for so long. The masters are still in as powerful as ever.

When we remember Caio, we can only take a deep breath and sigh. We would still like to think of him as the well-meaning person we used to know. He had self-doubt for sure, but that was actually healthy in reasonable doses. He had ambitions and aspirations, which was good. He passionately believed in ideals, which was also good. But he had neither temperance nor prudence, and he allowed himself to become a pawn in a quest for power that is way over his head.

It seems that his mind is still stuck to his trainee/neophyte/plebe days. He is still very much attracted to grandiose institutions, still indoctrinated to lofty but simplistic ideals, and still looking for masters to serve.

His black sun has not yet reached its zenith; maybe he can still turn around. Or maybe not. Maybe he has embraced the life he leads and thinks of it as his destiny. He could be beyond redemption already, driven too far by his lust for power. Indeed, it is not that power corrupts, but that it attracts the corruptible.

Whatever it might be, we can only remember and weep. [P]

UPLB Perspective is the official student publication of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, established in 1973. It is the first campus publication established under Martial Law in the Philippines.

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