“In other universities, especially abroad, they wouldn’t have a venue where different members of an academic community can openly and freely discuss [national] issues and concerns,” says Migi Moreno, University Student Government (USG) President.
The Committee on National Issues and Concerns (CoNIC) is a university-wide multi-sectoral committee placed under the Office of the President. The committee is composed of various organizations and offices such as the Center for Social Concern and Action (COSCA), Student Media Office (SMO), Lasallian Pastoral Office (LSPO), SLIFE, USG, Council of Student Organizations (CSO), Political Science and Development Studies Society (POLISCY), and student political parties Iisang Tugon sa Tawag ng Panahon (SANTUGON) and Alyansang Tapat sa Lasalista (TAPAT).
Moreno clarifies that CoNIC does not focus on generating or resourcing activity, but it is a discussion where all sectors of the University will collaborate and agree on certain themes, issues and concerns that are prioritized by the Lasallian community. All of the sectors of the University align the initiatives based on the themes that were agreed upon by the committee.
In preparation for the previous 2013 Midterm National Elections, the need for responsible and honest processes led to the implementation of various election-related activities for the Lasallian community as well as its external partner organizations, with the theme, “Boto Lasalyano, Sulong Pilipino: Isang Berdeng Boto.” The set of activities is an institutional project that was first launched in 2004 and is now being launched during the country’s election periods.
Ten Voter’s Education seminars were held, including the Jesse Robredo Institute of Governance implementing I4Juan, a promotion of ideal traits of a political candidate, patterned with that of the late Jesse Robredo’s, who is deemed as a Lasallian model. More than 500 individuals, both from and outside the University, participated in the seminars.
Forty-eight volunteers joined the poll watching which was also held in partnership with USG and the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL). Students from the College of Computer Studies (CCS) also aided in election watch through the Election Eye Project which used a centralized web facility to handle prompt reports from social media and SMS. The project was operated by a team of CCS students led by Ms. Franchezka de Jesus with the supervision of CCS Dean Dr. Rachel Roxas.
Other external partner institutions involved in the activities were the College of Law Paralegal Volunteers, Security and Safety Office (SSO), Office of Personal Management, L.O.V.E. Volunteers and the local government of Lian, Batangas.
An arm of social action
COSCA is a key representation of CoNIC, being its arm of social action that is responsible for issue advocacy. Sectoral and Multi Sectoral Advocacy Engagement Coordinator Arnel Galgo explains that CoNIC was conceptualized by COSCA with the intention of creating a committee that represents all sectors of the University. COSCA functioned as its secretariat and CoNIC was eventually situated under the Office of the President.
Apart from initiating programs that work directly with CoNIC, COSCA also initiates collaborative efforts involving both the internal and external publics of the University.
Galgo claims that the previous election watch was not as effective as it once was when DLSU was in the center of poll watching and election monitoring. On the other hand, he states that the involvement of students is improving, given the increased number of participants in community engagement programs.
Galgo believes that this is caused by the recent PAASCU accreditation and mandate of Br. Ricky Laguda FSC, both emphasizing University and community engagement. All offices and colleges of the University are also encouraged to participate in such. He adds that COSCA, as well as more professors, should further discuss issues with their students to increase consistent and effective awareness, inquiry and engagement.
While the committee raises national affairs and improves awareness among the Lasallian community, CoNIC should not just be supportive, but also more adaptive, says POLISCY president Romeo Lanzarrote.
He adds that if CoNIC would play a bigger role in socio-political awareness especially with national concerns, the committee should be more hands-on and should maximize the existing student organizations and assert their respective roles.
Lanzarrote further elaborates that CoNIC would lessen information barriers through collaboration with student organizations and increased publicity, claiming that DLSU students are not as active socially and politically.
Lanzarrote conducted an informal survey among his fellow ID111 students and results showed 3 out of 20 students claiming that they are aware of CoNIC.
“Your performance should be equal to your purpose. If the purpose is small, then it’s understood that [it is not known]. But CoNIC is big, and it would take effort to justify,” he explains.
He also states certain activities that would be beneficial to DLSU, such as legislative monitoring and status reports inclusive of CoNIC’s analysis of the data. The former would update students on events pertaining to the Philippine Legislature, especially during the proposal and passing of bills. The latter would highlight all significant events of the country including government data and status reports of its economy.
USG Vice President for External Affairs Tracey Liu states that USG wishes to partner with CoNIC for a live streaming and panel discussion thereafter of President Benigno Aquino III’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 22.
Moreno attains that CoNIC has been informed of such project and that the USG is reaching out to other sectors for support to ensure the collaboration of all sectors in the community. He adds that the committee agreed on the theme, “ASEAN Economic Community” to focus on in 2015.
Liu states that the USG plans to strengthen its relationship with CoNIC through regular activities and increased publicity.
Moreno adds, “It’s really about ensuring that all stands, issues and concerns are on a multi-sectoral level. We hope to get out fellow students to be more aware of what’s happening in our country.”