After a week of promotions on different social media platforms, room-to-room (RTR) campaigns, and election collateral distribution, Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon) and Alyansang Tapat sa Lasalista (Tapat) have done everything on their end to persuade freshmen to participate in this year’s Freshmen Election (FE).
The freshmen voted last August 5 to 7, with a reelection held last August 11 for the College of Computer Studies Batch Vice President due to a tie.
As the dust settled, Santugon won 14 out of the 21 seats available to freshmen candidates. Tapat, although winning only seven seats, performed better in this year’s FE compared to previous years.
Rundown of events before the election proper
Selected candidates from both political parties participated in a debate and open forum organized to help the electorate decide who to vote for in the election. Representatives from Santugon and Tapat took center stage in this year’s FE debate last August 1. The debate topics delved into university, national and foreign issues.
Candidates Jorge Francisco, Seanne Esguerra, and Carlos Peñas from Santugon were up against Tapat’s Andrea Muhlach, Adi Briones, and Nani Rocha, respectively.
Muhlach and Francisco argued on the topic stating that students with excess absences deserve to fail, siding on the negative and affirmative sides, respectively. “Exams and papers are more viable indicators of a student’s grades, not attendance to a service that we pay for,” argues Muhlach in an interview held after the debate. She also mentioned that academic success is based on motivation and not on attendance alone.
Tackling a national issue, Briones stood for the affirmative side, while Esguerra sided on the negative on the topic of whether President Benigno S. Aquino III (PNoy) should be regarded as a sitting duck in government.
“A president should focus on sustainable development, which is defined as development without compromising the needs of future generations,” says Tapat’s Briones, pointing out that PNoy should focus more on the economic advantages of the Philippines instead of relying on foreign help. On the contrary, Esguerra argued that if criticisms are bases of being a “sitting duck” then all other presidents would be considered as such. “He has shown a steadfast leadership despite the attacks on his everyday actions,” Esguerra says.
“I agree that there is a conflict that must be resolved, but war is by no means the best approach to the problem,” Peñas states in negation to the topic that United States should go to war with Russia over Ukraine. Rocha, for her part, took the affirmative side.
In the end, Muhlach, Briones, and Peñas were hailed winners of their respective debate topics.
“The debate allowed me to speak out and show my batch how I can fight for their rights and welfare,” shares Peñas who was also awarded Best Debater. He adds, “Other parts of the campaign such as RTRs, and question and answer sessions limited me in terms of articulating my ideals and principles.”
Backing up the fight
Santugon president Gregg Tolentino expressed his deep support for his political party’s set of candidates. He acknowledged how the FE could be more time consuming compared to the General Elections.
Tolentino shared that Santugon’s FE slate has carried with them the political party’s consultative brand of leadership, values, and principles throughout the election period. “The slate was composed of credible student representatives who have the vision and specific plans of action that the students may benefit from in both the interim and long term perspective,” Santugon’s president adds.
Robbie Arcadio, Tapat’s president, shared that he was happy with the results of the FE despite Santugon’s majority win. According to him, the party’s successful recruitment, improved marketing strategies, and revised training modules contributed to the improvement of Tapat’s performance this FE.
“This year, even the top-level officers relearned the modules, the political party’s beliefs and ideologies. How the officers went back to our roots translated well with our freshmen candidates and members. In return, our freshmen candidates were able to send the same message across the freshmen batches, especially in the colleges we won seats in,” Arcadio mentions.
As stated in the July issue of The LaSallian, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) has affirmed that this year’s FE will be manually done, dismissing the idea of an automated elections due to lack of time and funds to hold one.
Also, in this year’s FE Memorandum of Agreement between COMELEC and the political parties, freshmen could proceed to either the Br. Andrew Gonzalez Hall or Henry Sy Sr. Hall to vote for their chosen candidates. However, due to the intermittent weather conditions that could lead to a failure of election, COMELEC decided to hold the FE voting at the Br. Andrew Gonzalez Hall only.
Despite the early setbacks, COMELEC Chairperson Aaron Quidilla shared that this year’s FE was generally successful and orderly. On the first day of voting, the School of Economics, Br. Andrew Gonzalez College of Education, and the College of Engineering already received the 50 percent plus one votes needed to make the election valid. Quidilla also observed that the freshmen were eager to participate in the election process and the competition between the two political parties was closer than ever.
This was manifested through the tied votes received by the College of Computer Studies (CCS) Batch Vice President candidates. COMELEC had to schedule a re-election last August 11 to break the tie. The re-election was opened only to CCS freshmen who missed their chance during the specified voting period.
With their voices expected to draw life-changing opportunities for FE aspirants, freshmen students expressed their hopes in the election. Celena Aquino and Aeesha Afable (I, ADV) thought that most of the candidates fielded by the political parties deserved to win, but they initially feared that the election proper could be disorganized because no formal orientation on the election process was conducted by COMELEC.
Quidilla defended that COMELEC held their own RTRs informing freshmen of the voting procedure and other election guidelines, but he also admitted that the commission had difficulties reaching out to all freshmen blocks because of manpower limitations. The COMELEC also prepared online publicity materials to augment the lack in manpower.
“The FE is not popularity contests, meaning it should be taken seriously,” Vivienne Monta (I, HIM-BSA) comments, in hopes that this year’s FE will be successful assuming that her fellow freshman voted wisely.
“They have to make plans that will benefit the students and they should know how to execute those plans well,” adds Aquino and Afable as they admitted that they considered the candidates’ past academic and extracurricular affiliations when they chose the candidates they voted for.
Quidilla also informed that only Tapat received warnings for violating election rules and campaign guidelines. Arcadio confirmed this, but he defended his party by saying that the current election system in place breeds animosity and tension among political parties.
Arcadio furthered that petty things should not be grounds for disqualification. “Small technicalities done in good faith shouldn’t get a candidate disqualified… they [COMELEC] will deny the freshmen the right to choose their officers and this goes against the whole purpose of elections,” Arcadio quips.
Tapat won four batch president seats, two vice president seats, and a Legislative Assembly post. Santugon won the rest of the seats, sweeping all positions in the College of Engineering and in the School of Economics. The blue and yellow party also won the CCS reelection.
With reports from Jessy Go & Ronaldo Manzano