Majority of the seats in the University Student Government (USG) remain unoccupied following the failure of the General Elections (GE) held in March earlier this year, where only 35.9 percent of the University’s undergraduate population exercised their right to vote.
In April, the USG Legislative Assembly (LA) approved guidelines for the Special Elections, which, at the time, was slated from April 14 to 16. However, this solution to address the failure of the GE was later on declared unconstitutional by the Judiciary in the same month.
The LA, in its session on September 4, passed a resolution concerning the Special Elections Code, which will take the place of the current Election Code that was suspended for the time being. As opposed to regular elections, this term’s Special Elections, set to be on October 20 to 22, will combine both the GE and the Freshman Elections (FE).
Former USG President Carlo Inocencio comments that the bad turnout of the last GE has negatively affected the USG, particularly the planning and preparations of the supposed elected officers’ duties and responsibilities they are about to handle. He reasons that had the GE gone smoothly, the new batch of officers would have already been able to plan and prepare during the Special Term.
Inocencio also points out that the effectivity and efficiency of what has remained of the USG have raised a lot of concerns among members of the student body. For instance, most of the seats are left vacant because a number of former officers have already graduated, like Inocencio himself.
However, the USG filled all the positions it can through the “directives stated in the [USG] constitution,” Inocencio explains. He adds that in case of any vacancies whether in the Executive Committee, college governments, or batch governments, the current officers follow these directives.
For Inocencio, the failure of GE does not mean that the student body has lost its faith in the USG, but rather, that the students are waiting for relevant programs and policies that would make them participate in the elections voluntarily.
Regaining the students’ trust
Last year’s controversial GE saw Iisang Tugon sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon)’s entire slate being disqualified to pursue any elected position and only 36 candidates from Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (Tapat) deemed eligible to run. As a result, only 38 out of 75 seats in the USG had candidates running for the position. In April, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) declared that only six seats in the entire USG were won.
In light of this, many speculate that it will be more difficult to increase participation in the Special Elections given the controversies which surrounded the last GE.
Tapat President Roca Triguero shares that tackling the right issues and talking about matters that are of substance will encourage more students to vote. “With the current state of our campus politics, I think that the general message of [our] campaign will be the driving factor for students to see the relevance of elections,” she emphasizes.
Meanwhile, Santugon President Maia Nazareno mentions that the key to getting more students to vote is to make them feel the importance of the USG. She also highlights that their party has to “provide a set of candidates that the students will trust, [and] these candidates must be capable and passionate in serving the students no matter the call of the times.”
Ready for round two
The period for filing of the Certificate of Candidacy will be from September 18 to October 9. The COMELEC Seminar will be held on October 10. Candidates will be allowed to campaign from October 12 to 19. The Miting De Avance and debate will be held on October 15 in the Science and Technology Complex and October 16 in the Taft campus.
With the month of October drawing near, both parties have been busy preparing their respective slates for the Special Elections.
Triguero mentions that Tapat utilized the four-month break to make the necessary preparations for the Special Elections. According to Triguero, although this may just be a repeat of the GE, the party is treating the upcoming Special Elections as a “renewed opportunity to give De La Salle University the best of Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista.”
Triguero also shares that they have made revisions to their platform. “We think that given the changes and the rise of different issues inside the University during the term break, it is only fitting for Tapat to improve the discussion and benchmark a new discourse inside the University through our platform,” she describes.
Likewise, Nazareno stresses the importance of training Santugon’s candidates for the upcoming Special Elections. “Training the candidates is the big bulk of our preparations as a party because we want to make sure that they are well capable in performing their duties once elected,” she comments, adding that the candidates go through different training modules that are necessary for their development as a student leader.
In ensuring that the student body is able to put their faith in the candidates of Santugon, Nazareno describes, “We consult our fellow students in the things that they want and need, we create projects and plans that we foresee our fellow students will want and need, and we immediately respond to any issue that may arise in the course of the school year.
With reports from Frank Santiago