by Juan Batalla & Hedda Damasco
Come election time, students in DLSU are not afraid to wear their colors. Devout party members from Iisang Tugon Sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon) and Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (TAPAT), clad in yellow and orange and, rush through corridors, troop up stairs and patrol the classrooms in the hopes of securing votes for their party’s candidates.
Student politics is an intrinsic aspect of campus life in DLSU. Student politics, in this case, is defined as the way students relate to each other within the context of political parties.
Participation and membership, however, do not guarantee that students are actually driven or influenced by their respective parties’ ideologies. This begs the question of what kind of political engagement in DLSU can actually instill the kind of change its two major parties advocate.
The Real Deal
Jet Luga, Vice President for Internal Affairs of TAPAT, agrees that ideology may not be the prime reason for which many members of his party choose to join. “In my 4 years of experience, seldom have I come across students who joined TAPAT at the get-go solely due to his or her interest in the TAPAT political philosophy,” he notes. “A member’s reason for joining is usually driven by the personal bond between him or her and the people who are affiliated with the party. But nonetheless, a member’s reason for staying in a party is what is important.”
Mic Gutierrez, President of Santugon, has a similar opinion, but affirms that they integrate Santugon’s philosophy in their simple interactions with each other. “What we make our members feel when they join, which is belongingness, is not separately abstracted from what we believe in.”
Luga, however, believes that even with the active presence of the said parties, politics in DLSU is far too constrained. Both political parties may not be sufficient to clearly and effectively represent student interests in DLSU.
“The depository of political ideals both TAPAT and Santugon provide is not enough to accommodate the vastness of the political landscape in DLSU,” shares Luga.
Louie Montemar, from the Political Science department shares similar sentiments.
“It is about so many kinds of interests, and interests cannot be often boxed in terms of only two choices. And you have problems especially if your choices aren’t so different in between and they’re not so different really. If the difference is only in terms of color and style of campaigning, what choice do you have?” he explains.
Nilleth Pontino (I, BSA) opines that students may need more parties as options to represent their interests. “[The two-party system] gives students very limited choices. Students have varied opinions, ideas, and mindsets [and thus different needs arise as a result of this],” she shares.
Consequently, some believe that in spite of the two parties’ constant advocacy programs, many remain apathetic to the issues plaguing the University.
Myka Licup (III, ISJ) suggests, “Majority think that being involved in politics, or attending open forums and such are a waste of time and annoying. However, what irks me is how much [students] complain about it, and yet when an opportunity arises for them to stand up and say [their ideas], they pass it up without any second thoughts.”
In Other Universities
The University of the Philippines (UP), in comparison to DLSU, understandably has a more complex political dynamic in student politics, with much of it stemming from the entire UP system, which includes all UP’s campuses from UP Baguio to UP Mindanao.
In each individual campus, however, the existence of more than two parties is not only encouraged, but rampant. The UP Diliman Campus, for instance, has parties common to the entire university student council and parties within the individual colleges of the university. These parties carry varied political ideologies or beliefs.
UP’s university-wide parties, UP ALYANSA, KAISA and STAND UP, have philosophies ranging from Social Democrat to Neo-Marxist. There are also a good score of independent candidates who hold to their own ideals in student representation and governance.
Students in UP are active in voting. The Philippine Collegian reports that for certain, at least 8 out of 10 students in most colleges vote.
Another university that is not implementing a two party system, but with relatively similar functions of government to DLSU is the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU). ADMU operates through its Sanggunian ng mga Mag-Aaral ng Loyola (Sanggu), and has three political parties: the Alliance of Student Leaders, IGNITE and Crusada, the last being the most radical.
Despite the presence of these parties, student turnout and involvement in election season is less aggressive as in DLSU and UP. According to Ateneo’s publication The GUIDON, some colleges have failed elections because of limited voter turnout, and lack of candidates. Particularly, 2010 saw ADMU’s School of Humanities declaring a failure of student elections due to the failure to meet a quota of 50% + 1 voters, lacking around 400 more votes.
According to an informal statement from Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Kenneth Sy, election season in DLSU has relatively high voter turnout.
Approximately 60% of the student population vote.