A look at some of the important dates for this General Elections (GE) season.
The filing of Certificates of Candidacy (COC) is the first official step taken by candidates in the General Elections. Those aspiring for seats in the University Student Government (USG) submit all their requirements to the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) in what is a major moment for the political parties and the candidates themselves. Mark Tionson (III, CHE), who participated in the 2013 Freshman Elections (FE) and 2014 GE, describes it as a “life-changing experience… sort of like a coming of age for me, simply because it signified my growth as a person and how I was ready to take on more responsibilities.”
The color spectrum of the University shifts during this critical week, as the green and white halls blend with the familiar shades of yellow, blue, orange, and black, sometimes mixed in with the rare streak of pink or purple. This is the period for candidates to make their case to the voting population, as both political parties, as well as the independent candidates, distribute brochures and perform room-to-room campaigns in attempts to explain their platforms to the student body. The busiest week throughout the General Elections season, months of training and discussion are put to the test in what is a physically and emotionally taxing span of days for candidates. Relian Soriente (III, BS-AEI) participated in the 2013 FE and 2014 GE, and emphasizes how challenging the week was for him. “We start our day at 7 am to campaign, then asses our performance and practice for the next day, [which] would usually end at around 10 pm,” he explains. “I had to balance everything, acads and campaigning. Physically, it was very tiring.”
A debate that has become a regular fixture of every GE season, Harapan is jointly organized by the La Salle Debate Society, the Judiciary, and Ang Pahayagang Plaridel. Narelle Domingo, project head of Harapan, explains that the topics, questions, and the entire program flow of the debate is handled by the Debate Society, while the participants are determined by the parties themselves. The adjudicators come from both the Judiciary and the Debate Society. Domingo shares that this year, they hope to bring a total of five representatives. “Para mas maging open ang discussion, and mas maraming maka-voice out ng opinions about the candidates,” she explains. The debate is open to all students, as Domingo strongly encourages students to attend both the debate and the Miting de Avance held afterwards, sharing that it allows students to see a different side of the candidates, which is sure to help the electorate decide on their vote.
Set to occur in the afternoon right after the Harapan debate, the Miting de Avance is the exclamation point at the end of the campaign period. It is the candidates’ biggest opportunity to explain their platforms in their attempt to convince the student body to elect them as part of next year’s University Student Government. Here, the candidates vying for positions in the Executive Committee (EXECOM) are given a few minutes to make impassioned speeches in front of crowds of supporters, cheering and chanting along with them. Soriente refers to it as the “highlight of the campaign,” while Jeff Yu (III, BS-AEI), who took part in the 2013 FE and 2015 Special Elections (SE), shares that it was very emotional. “All the emotions and feelings from the whole [campaign period] were piled up in that day.”
All the effort put in by the candidates come to fruition during this span of days, as the students of DLSU make their choice. Students vote in different locations, depending on their college, filling in ballots for their batch officers, college president, and all five positions in the Executive Board. The entire process is overseen by COMELEC, who hopes to avoid a failure of elections, which is what occurs when the voter turnout does not reach the necessary minimum of 50 percent plus one vote. For this precise reason, they sometimes extend the voting period for a maximum of two days. Soriente recalls feeling both relieved and scared—relieved because there was no longer much to do, but scared because “one week of campaigning where we gave everything all boils down to three days of seeing people enter and exit polling precincts not knowing who they shaded for.” On the other hand, Tionson felt at ease, saying, “No matter the outcome, the students will get the leader that they feel they deserve, and what better way to practice democracy than through this.”
Once all the votes are in, the lockdown or lock-in occurs. This is when the votes are counted, although the official announcement is made a week later. “All cellphones are confiscated, everyone (candidates and officers) is inside one classroom, and we watch movies and just talk to each other,” Soriente describes. The counting takes place in Br. Andrew Gonzalez Hall, where the officers are not allowed to leave until after the announcement of winners. The different candidates agree that it’s an incredibly tense atmosphere as everyone awaits the results. “After announcing, the room is filled with different emotions, tears all over people’s faces and hugs across the room,” Soriente explains. Tionson adds, “What’s amazing in the lock-in is people are not crying for themselves, but for fear that their fellow leaders might lose, and that [shows] a lot of the trust and bond formed throughout this journey.”