The University Student Government (USG), patterned after the Philippine government, is composed of the executive, legislative, and judiciary branch to ensure that the welfare of the students are upheld by fulfilling the respective duties tasked to each of the branches.
The judiciary, being the sole branch in the USG with the judicial power to resolve issues involving officers and units under the USG, is committed to become a student-oriented entity in the University.
Of the branch’s primary function, Chief Magistrate Rem Serrano says, “We are more focused on maintaining the order in the USG – maintaining that our USG remains a student-oriented body, and that our officers are doing their job.”
The judiciary furthermore provides services and assistance to the students who may even have concerns on matters outside of the USG.
Structure and functions
After its major organizational renovation last year, it is now composed of the Judiciary Administrative Affairs Office (JAAO), Counsel Officers, Student Advisers, and Office of the Ombudsman, aside from chief magistrates, magistrates of each college, and Judiciary Core (JudCore).
While JAAO and JudCore are concerned with administrative functions of the branch, Counsel Officers and Student Advisers extend case-related helps and services to concerned DLSU students.
Counsel Officers, according to Serrano, are mainly concerned with USG related cases and are expected to be equipped with comprehensive knowledge on the USG Constitution, acting as student lawyers once cases are filed to USG Supreme Court.
On the other hand, Student Advisers are centered on assisting students with the steps of going through due process of disciplinary and grievance cases, acting as advisers to any concerned students. As of press time, however, Judiciary is yet to consult with Student Discipline Formation Office (SDFO) on the extent of the student advisers’ involvement in the disciplinary cases.
Uninformed student right
Along with its external help to the students on grievance and disciplinary cases, the Judiciary tackles USG-related issues revolving around the violation of the Constitution and bylaws, the gross negligence of duty, illegal disbursements of duty, and other misconduct from both elected and non-elected USG officers.
The students do not need to be part of USG to file a case. Any concerned student can file a case against USG officers with reasonable grounds.
Article 20 Section 3 of USG Constitution dictates “Any student or officer of the USG may file a resolution of impeachment against any USG officer. The resolution must be addressed to the Chief Magistrate.”
Serrano adds, “I believe that not all students know of their right to file a case. Any undergraduate student can file a case against any officer if they think or if they believe that he or she is committing something wrong. The misconception is whenever there is a case, it only comes from an elected officer, or the Ombudsman.”
To protect the safety of the complainant from possible harm that may result from filing a case, the Judiciary provides an alternative to file the case in the name of the Ombudsman instead. The Ombudsman will then be in charge of investigating the case and gathering evidence to be presented at the court before the magistrates.
However, although the Ombudsman is tasked to go through the investigation, concerned students may still investigate if they wish to.
Daniel Ang, previous deputy Ombudsman, shares, “Although every Lasallian can investigate [on a case], we have observed that most [of the students] do not exercise this right, and so the USG Judiciary constructed the [Ombudsman] division that will be tasked to do [investigations] to promote more accountability and transparency in the USG.”
The unit’s lack of publicity and the distinction of functions remain to be fundamental concerns for the branch, making it hard for the students to reach the branch.
While the electoral system for the two other branches under USG adds to the publicity of each branch and contributes to students’ understanding of its functions and roles in the USG, the officers of the Judiciary branch practice a different system. While the officers are being recruited, magistrates and chief magistrate have to go through several trainings necessary before they are appointed a position.
Alongside having its own operation to fill the seats, the nature of the branch is not concerned with creating activities and spearheading projects that directly affects the stakeholders within the University.
“One of the main problems of the Judiciary is that Lasallians don’t know about it,” Serrano shares. “When Lasallians hear University Student Government, all they think of is the Executive and Legislative branches because they are the only ones you can see [around the University] while the Judiciary is more of the [one working] behind the scenes of USG.”
However, their prospects for this academic year appear to have changed, as the branch plans to strengthen publicity through various methods such as room-to-room information campaigning and the re-launching of the website.