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Calamba mayor faces backlash after praising Cardema’s NYC comeback

Mayor Chipeco says that the city is ‘very proud’ of Cardema’s appointment.

Calamba City Mayor Justin Marc Chipeco has received backlash from his constituents after a social media post congratulating the comeback of Duterte Youth’s Ronald Cardema in the National Youth Commission (NYC).

In a Facebook post, Mayor Chipeco shared on August 3 that Cardema, who hails from Calamba, has been appointed as the NYC assistant secretary, under the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). The post also includes a photo of Cardema and the mayor, standing side by side along with other city officials, which appears to be taken after an oath-taking ceremony held at the Calamba City Hall.

It also has a caption saying, “Calamba City is very proud of you [Cardema]!”

However, this is a misleading post.

Cardema was appointed — once again — to the NYC as commissioner, and not as the assistant secretary. This is a lower post compared to his former designation until 2019 as chairperson.

This was also fact-checked by a Rappler report, quoting DILG Undersecretary and spokesman Jonathan Malaya, who clarified in a text message that “he [Cardema] is back as a commissioner of the NYC, not as assistant secretary of the DILG.” Cardema is also not affiliated with DILG.

As of this writing, Mayor Chipeco’s office has not issued any clarification nor an erratum to correct the false information they posted online.

Calamba pride?

Several netizens have slammed the mayor for his congratulatory post. It has been shared by more than 800 Facebook users, mostly showing disapproval of Cardema’s reappointment.

In the comments section, netizen Reb Arce questioned the move saying, “Why are we celebrating this guy? Apart from being from Calamba, what exactly is his notable contribution? Also is he really part of the YOUTH sector? Alam ko he’s older than me. And I am 32 already.”

Another Facebook user, Mark Leuden criticized the mayor saying: “Seriously? Mr. Chipeco kaunting delikadesa naman. Ikinatuwa mo pa pagkakabalik sa pamahalaan niyan? Kahihiyan sa buong Laguna. Jusko!”

Meanwhile, netizen Kent Salazar thinks that the 34-year-old commissioner is ineligible to be one of the country’s top youth official: “Gagawa talaga ng paraan para magkaroon ng kapangyarihan. Mahiya ka naman Cardema, wala ng senyales nang pagka-youth sa katawan mo,” he wrote.

Cardema’s rise to power

Cardema first made headlines in November 2016 when his right-leaning youth organization Duterte Youth — where he is the group’s chairman — launched a rally supporting President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial move to allow the burial of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani.

His ‘loyalty’ to the Duterte administration has also gained him the highest position in the NYC, serving as chairperson from 2018-2019.

But Cardema once again made it to the headlines during the course of the 2019 National Elections, where his party-list secured a seat in the House of Representatives. Cardema filed a substitution bid to represent Duterte Youth in the lower Congress and all of the five nominees who were supposed to take the seat withdrew, including his spouse Elizabeth Anne Cardema.

Six out of the seven Commission on Elections (COMELEC) En Banc members voted to give due course to the bid, with the exemption of Rowena Guanzon — who expressed her dissent and voted to cancel Cardema’s seat.

Cardema later accused Guanzon of receiving P2 million from him, which the latter already dismissed.

Guanzon fired back with a libel case, with a warning: “You can speak all you like but if you libel me I will sue you and I have more money than you! I have more lawyers than you and you will go bankrupt Cardema cause I’m going to sue you until you’re very old….”

NYC as state propaganda machine

The NYC under incumbent chairperson Ryan Enriquez has also been marred with several controversies, as youth groups decry misrepresentation of the Filipino youth under him. Along with its constituents who launched an #EnriquezResign campaign, NYC employees also want him out of office, citing cases of abuse of authority and harassment, among others, implicating the top official.

The supposedly ‘pro-youth’ government agency is also notorious for its pro-administration stances, including its support for the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which critics say will be weaponized to stifle dissent; and the Bayanihan To Heal As One Act, which gave Duterte additional powers for COVID-19 response, among others.

However, these are issues that the youth sector — including progressive youth organizations and student councils in the country — has passionately condemned.

In fact, the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP), in a June 17 open letter to Enriquez, has accused the NYC of being Duterte’s ‘propaganda machine,’ and said that “it has failed to become a genuine representation of the youth,” for lack of consultation with its stakeholders.

“The Filipino youth will not stand idly by as the office claiming to be the ‘voice and advocate of the youth’ continuously desecrate our democracy to cater to the interest of a few. We are living in a time where a pandemic is not the only threat to our lives. Now more than ever, we need genuine and competent leadership for the youth to be at the forefront of the struggle,” SCAP wrote. [P]

Photo from Atty. Justin Marc SB. Chipeco Facebook page

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