Every year, the student body is presented with a number of candidates who are vying for a position as their representatives in the University Student Government (USG). As the date of the general elections (GE) draws near, the different sectors of the University involved share the preparations they are undergoing for this event.
Laying the groundwork
According to Aaron Quidilla, chair of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), preparations for the GE have been ongoing since last term, beginning with the task of coordinating with the different political parties in the University regarding the election schedule this year. “Currently, we have been mobilizing and orienting our fellow volunteers about the things they need to know for the elections,” he shares.
In light of the recent plebiscite failure due to a lack of votes from the student body, Quidilla states that COMELEC is taking measures to ensure that sufficient votes will be made. “We plan to use other forms of media to get the students’ attention to vote,” he explains. COMELEC has also taken preemptive steps in case of insufficient votes from the student body. “We have at least one week leeway just in case this kind of [problem] happens,” Quidilla says.
Preparations of the political parties
Both parties have been preparing extensively for the coming GE. Robbie Arcadio, president of Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (Tapat), narrates, “We’re preparing by creating our collective vision for next school year, doing a lot of research, as well as undergoing our training sessions. These include topics on leadership, capacity building, political ideology, and issue discussion, among others.”
Arcadio further states that aside from methods that Tapat has used in the past years, his party concretely plans to bring to light issues experienced not only by the student body in general, but also those faced by the University and the country. Tapat plans to look at and discuss these issues in order “to see how Tapat can enter the picture and offer its brand of leadership.”
On the other hand, Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon) President Pam Ramos shares, “Santugon makes sure that every elections, we deliver the same quality of value-driven and result-oriented leaders that it has produced over the years.” She furthers by saying that they are gearing up for the general elections through “rigorous modules that would produce competent and proactive leaders as well as a vision that the Lasallian community deserves.”
Ramos explains that they plan their political party’s platform by “identifying all the issues that are present inside the University, as well as future issues that may arise.” Every year, Santugon does this in order to look into the root causes of these problems and better understand why they arise.
Candidates running in this year’s general elections have also been busy in their preparations. One such candidate from Tapat shares that a big part of the preparations is getting to know his batchmates in order to discover how he can better serve them as a student leader.
Likewise, a candidate from Santugon shares that they believe that consultation with fellow students is of utmost importance. “That’s why one of our major preparations in consulting the people about what they want to see in case we are elected.”
Another candidate from Tapat explains, “Like every other candidate, I prepare for this elections by attending trainings with my political party in order to become a better person for the position I am running for.” Like his/her colleague, this candidate is getting involved with students from his college to better learn how to be a good leader. Aside from this, the candidate shares, “I am consulting alumni who made a change in my college and will consult professors from different department and officers from professional organizations.”
This candidate believes that RTRs should not be the main focus of the preparations for getting students to understand what Tapat aims for as a political party. “I want the students to listen, and not just to hear us. Once students of my college listen to the programs and accept [them], it would be easier for us to make a difference.”
As of press time, both parties have decided to keep their specific plans and programs confidential. However, one candidate from Tapat shares, “We are going to be doing something different. However, some might call it unconventional, but we’re going against the norms and doing things the way they should have been done a long time ago.”
While maintaining that Santugon can not disclose specific plans for the general elections, Ramos states that “every year, Santugon works for ‘Empowered Lasallians, Progressive Citizenry.’”
On issues, old and new
One of the events from the past year that might have had an effect on the preparations for this year’s general elections is the failure of the plebiscite regarding the USG constitutional revisions.
“As Santugon, we answer to the call of the times, which means that we are ready to any change that would happen in our environment.” Ramos explains, when asked about the issue. “In this effect, the failure of the plebiscite may not have been expected on our part, but we have prepared plans and strategies to anticipate the situation.”
A candidate from Tapat, on the other hand, shares that the failure of the plebiscite has not affected them much, and that pushing through with the constitutional revisions is still under discussion.
A recurring issue every elections season is the mudslinging between parties. A candidate from Tapat shares that their party deals with mudslinging by reminding one another that it is “contrary to the mature electorate we are trying to nurture.” Furthermore, the candidate states, “Based on experience, keeping open lines of communication with the other party helps a lot, as infractions can be easily reported and dealt with swiftly.”
However, a candidate from Santugon states, “We just don’t mind it. It’s competition.” The candidate adds that mudslinging is not something personal, and should be expected. “We’re mature, so we don’t take it personally,” he shares.
Expectations for the coming year
Carlo Inocencio, current president of the USG, believes that whoever will be elected for next year should be ready to respond to changes. “They should expect a lot of changes to happen in the University, from the ASEAN Calendar Shift, to the soon to be implemented Student Handbook for 2015 – 2018, and the New Lasallian Core Curriculum to name a few,” he says.
Ramos comments, “The implementation of the student handbook revisions must be addressed well and thoroughly. Students must be aware of all the things that will be happening… since they will be the ones who will be greatly affected by the process.” One such handbook revision, according to a candidate from Tapat, is the mandatory wearing of the ID. He says, “The coming year can present threats
to student representation, rights, and welfare.”
“We see that the USG has not been living up to its true potential, and this is one of the issues that we feel should be addressed, among others like the La Salle student body being silent amidst pressing national issues,” Arcadio expresses.
In a survey conducted by The LaSallian, the students voiced out their opinions on the candidates who run for office. When asked what makes them vote for a candidate, most students gave traits such as approachability, trustworthiness, sense of accountability, genuineness, dedication to serve, and the like.
Two-thirds of the survey respondents prefer candidates who are endorsed by either Santugon or Tapat. Some of the reasons behind this preference are the fact that they have more experience and have undergone training, a higher possibility of implementing projects proposed during their campaign, and the ease of executing their platform, especially if majority of the candidates will be elected. However, the remaining number of students who prefer independent candidates say that choosing to run independently shows courage and confidence in their platform, as well as their ability to be
more open to changes.
Most of the respondents said that the platform of a candidate should be judged based on how it would create a positive effect, if it
caters to the needs of students, and if it is feasible. Several others also mentioned that confidence, preparedness, and effort exerted also add to a platform’s attractiveness. One respondent commented that platforms don’t matter, since they mean nothing unless the candidate himself/herself is competent.
“Usually, what I noticed is that the candidate who looks more prepared [in] the eyes of the students has a higher chance of winning than the others,” Quidilla shares.
Arcadio offers a similar reason. “There are a lot of things that make a student vote for a particular candidate,” he explains. “But we think that chief among those reasons is the platform that
the candidate offers, because it represents the promise that the candidate is making to the voting population.”
In the last three years, Santugon has had a larger base membership in the USG than Tapat. According to Inocencio, in 2012, there were 48 Santugon members and 21 Tapat members elected in the USG; in 2013, there were 61 Santugon members and 14 Tapat members; in 2014, there were 64 Santugon members and 11 Tapat members. An independent candidate managed to get a seat in the
executive board of the USG in the
years 2013 and 2014.
Based on the results of the past elections, there is a high possibility that more candidates from Santugon will be elected in the USG compared to those from Tapat. Because of its higher base membership, Santugon has generally been more visible online and around school throughout the past three years. Nonetheless, Tapat has also been very active in school affairs.
Campaign season will run from March 6 to March 16. Elections will start on March 17 and end on March 19.