“Once you are elected, you leave your party. You forget partisanship. You work as one,” said Barry Ubara to the 1986 Student Council (SC) officers after bagging the SC Presidency thirty years ago — the first time Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (Tapat) and Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon) had gone head to head in the Student Council elections.
Like many things, this is easier said than done.
Of the many issues that shook the recently concluded Special Elections (SE), one that created buzz among members of the different political and student organizations was the Santugon Open Book, released last October 19 as an effort to better familiarize the DLSU community with Santugon’s candidates and the things they stood for. What had caught the attention of many, however, was the last page, which lists down projects and programs that were supposedly made possible through Santugon efforts, among them the Lasallian Exchange Scholarship Grant (LESG), ASEAN Youth Summit, and DLSU Pride Week.
Perhaps it was the lack of introductory text on the page, as it had just read “All in One Year,” at the top, followed by a list of projects supposedly attributed to the political party. Maybe it was the choice of programs that were listed — the LESG, after all, has been the subject of much controversy, while DLSU Pride Week and the ASEAN Youth Summit are largely recognized as projects of parties outside of Santugon. But Santugon officers have clarified that the projects listed were those headed by Santugon leaders during the last academic year, and the document had no intention whatsoever of taking full credit for spearheading the initiatives. The intent, however, is different from the effect, with DLSU Parada, formerly Queer Archers Alliance and the main organizer of DLSU Pride Week, calling the document “a blatant lie,” and demanding a public apology.
Even so, it is important that we keep in mind that USG officers, both appointed and elected, should gear their actions first and foremost towards the student body they profess to serve. The efforts our officers pour into all these projects and programs should not be for a specific political party, but for the constituents who gave them the mandate to serve and voted them into power in the first place. Moreover, no project or program can be completed by or exclusive to a single person or party, and the groups responsible for making the USG’s many activities possible are often politically mixed — composed of people from either political party or none at all. It is unfair for a party to claim (or appear to claim) credit for any of them.
To Santugon’s credit, they did release an official apology on their Facebook page last November 7, taking full accountability for the confusion that may have arisen from the Open Book and promising to improve their internal process to avoid similar incidents in the future.
In a press conference held last November 10, former Vice President for External Affairs Mae Mae Gonzales had appealed to the student body not to lose trust in the USG. While it is our belief that public trust in any form of government is crucial to its success, this appeal might feel like a monumental overask for many, what with the controversies in the recently concluded SE, the impeachment cases against several USG officers, and Gonzales’ own refusal to recognize the authority of an entire branch of the USG.
While we at The LaSallian do maintain hope that the student body does not lose what little faith it has remaining in the USG — as evidenced by the just-above-the-bare-minimum voters’ turnout this past SE, obtained through a two-day extension and people begging for votes — it is our hope that in the year ahead, the new set of student officers will give students, at the very least, something to have faith in, not as a product of any political party, but as a USG that is truly for the students.