A total of 8,154 students voted in this year’s University Student Government (USG) General Elections (GE), registering a total voter turnout of 56.31 percent. The number is a slight increase from the Special Elections held earlier this academic year, where 55.70 percent of the student body voted.
This year’s GE resulted in a 50:25 seat ratio for political parties Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon) and Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (Tapat). Santugon achieved an Executive Board sweep with all five of their candidates winning the USG’s top positions. All College Assembly Presidents also hailed from Santugon with the exception of Tapat winning the College of Engineering Assembly President seat. The College of Liberal Arts and the College of Science were dominated by Santugon, while the rest were a mix of Tapat and Santugon candidates. The Legislative Assembly is also facing one of its largest Minority Floors in recent years with nine representatives to challenge the 12 members of the Majority Floor.
The campaign week was filled with various avenues for candidates to prove their abilities and explain their platforms. On July 29, some of the candidates went head to head during Harapan 2016, the annual debate competition hosted by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), Ang Pahayagang Plaridel, the Judiciary, and the La Salle Debate Society. The participants discussed the autonomy of student organizations, the drinking culture of Happy Thursday, and the inclusiveness of the USG. Santugon’s Jorge Francisco and Tapat’s Jason Dizon and Kevin Tan were announced as the winners in their respective rounds. Santugon standard bearer Zed Laqui was lauded as the best speaker.
The Miting de Avance was also held last July 29 at the Gokongwei Lobby, where candidates were given the chance to present their platforms. Tapat candidates championed their vision of an undivided Lasallian community where students’ voices will be heard, while Santugon advocated a student-centered University that will focus on unity, diversity, student-empowerment, excellence, and potential.
Voting commenced on August 2. On day 1, 1,759 students voted, resulting to a 12.45 percent voter turnout. On the second day, 2,223 students voted, bringing the turnout to 28.17 percent. On the third day, the minimum requirement of 50%+1 was met, except for FAST2013 and BLAZE2016. Voting hours were extended to 9:30 pm on August 4, followed by a one-day extension until 1:30 pm of August 5 to prevent the failure of elections in some batches.
Additionally, on the first day of the voting period, voting for EXCEL2018 had to be temporarily suspended for over an hour because of a misprint in the ballots. According to COMELEC, the names of the candidates for Batch President and Batch Vice President had been interchanged. In order to remedy the problem, ballots had to be reprinted.
Some students feel like the political parties could have done more to help increase the voter turnout. Sanjeev Parmanand (IV, AB-ECM) explains, “The campaigns could have done a better job of encouraging students to go out and vote.”
Others expressed their frustration at the disruptive room-to-room (RTR) style that both parties still use in their campaigns. “Personally, I didn’t like the style of campaigning, but if a lot of students didn’t vote or didn’t feel the necessity or responsibility to vote then it might say something about how they’re delivering their platform to the students,” Ramon* comments, noting the low voter turnout.
However, students like Ina* believe that the RTRs are necessary. She says, “I really do hate the RTR formula but there really isn’t any other way to get students’ attention and let the candidates’ platforms be heard without it.”
Despite all the issues and problems experienced during this year’s GE, its success represents a continued support for the USG.
“The USG bridges the gap between students and administrators. Oftentimes, these elected officers are the ones who make sure that select policies implemented by the administration cater to [the] needs of students and the University. Therefore, it is in the interest of everyone that there is an official and functioning student government,” Parmanand posits, explaining why he voted in this year’s GE.
Ina expounds, “I do understand that regardless of whether significant change can be brought about by a student government or not, we still need them to facilitate student activities and represent the student body.” She ends, “I think we’ve grown so accustomed to the benefits of having student leaders that we forget how much they do for us and how crucial their help is.”
*Name changed for anonymity