Every third term of the academic year welcomes the onset of the University Student Government (USG) General Elections (GE) season in DLSU. During GE, all positions in the USG are opened, including five positions in the Executive Board (EB), eight positions in the college governments, 57 positions in the batch governments, and four slots allocated to DLSU Science and Technology Complex representatives. Overall, there are 74 elected positions in the USG.
Over the span of one week, candidates are given the opportunity to campaign and advertise their platforms to the student body. This traditionally includes room-to-room campaigns, person-to-person conversations, debates, and Miting de Avance. Following the campaign period, students are usually given three days to cast in their votes for their preferred candidates.
2017 GE preparations
This year, Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (Tapat) President Justine Millete says that students can expect something “unconventional” from Tapat. “We took a step back and revisited the current situation of the party and its relevance to today’s politics of the University and [more] importantly, its students. We live in different generations and today, we see that our generation must redefine the essence of student leadership,” he explains.
Although Tapat has continued certain practices, Millete expresses that they have also prepared something “unusual” which will be revealed during GE. “For preparations related to the general elections, we have been doing everything usual and unusual,” Millete claims. “The usual is on observing intensified training for our candidates and our platform making. What the unusual is, I leave it for everyone to wait for this upcoming campaign season.”
Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon) President Abe Lozada, on the other hand, mentions that they have also done a few things differently this year since he expects elections to occur earlier than usual, which will be around midterms week. He also mentions that they tried to add training for their core group even if it was difficult. “Training and relationship-building [are] important preparations for this year’s elections to ground the very machinery of the party with specific skills and values expected of a Santugon leader,” he explains.
Among one of the new things, however, is that Santugon aims to establish a better relationship with Tapat. “The two parties’ leaderships have both recognized their major role in DLSU’s political landscape and the student perception towards politics. In response to this, we have strengthened amiable and constructive communications between each other and have equally agreed to prioritize the things that matter for the students. [We have also agreed] to deviate the focus of elections from electoral maneuvers to platforms and values,” Lozada elucidates.
Past voter turnout
Over the past years, voter turnout during the USG GE has significantly decreased. Last 2016 GE, only 56.31 percent of the student body voted. Moreover, the voting period was also extended by one day for the 2016 GE to prevent another failure of elections akin to that of the 2015 GE where a voter turnout of 35.9 percent was recorded. This year, the DLSU Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and the two political parties are collaborating to ensure that the USG GE will not result in another failure of elections.
A similar event occurred in November 2014, wherein the USG plebiscite was only able to garner 8.49 percent of votes, or around 1,400 students, among the student body. The plebiscite was supposedly an avenue to jumpstart revisions on the USG constitution, but was met by controversies on being unconstitutional. At that time, student apathy was also a primary concern and one of the biggest barriers between the USG and the student body. Due to the lack of votes in the plebiscite, the 2009 USG constitution is the one still in use today.
Millete traces the disappointing results of the past election-related events to student apathy. “I believe for the longest time, both parties [Tapat and Santugon] and even including the USG have been trying to impart political awareness and relevance to the student body, but the issues remain the same and apathy grows,” he expounds.
In response to this, Tapat plans to address the “real needs and issues” of the students. While Millete refrains from giving specific methods tahat his party plans on using, he assures that they are addressing the needs of the students and are building the USG. “We [will] refocus and concentrate on two important aspects of the USG: providing excellent student services and intensified student representation,” he reveals.
On the other hand, Lozada differs and believes that the low turnout originates from a lack of trust in the system. “I believe [the] low voter turnout would be directly related [to the] current voting population’s experience with elections. Majority of the current voting population were the same people that experienced the chaos of a failed election and the very unusual special elections,” he narrates.
The successful 2016 GE marked the beginning of bringing back the students’ trust on the current system. In a survey conducted by the USG Office of the President (OPRES) during the first term, the USG received generally positive results, but several areas for improvement were also cited for the EB, college governments, and batch governments.
Lozada hopes to capitalize on the momentum of returning the students’ trust, and mentions that an initiative from both the COMELEC and the OPRES aim to promote election participation and intelligent voting. “Should an initiative of that nature push through, we would be more than willing to help out and bring back the relevance and importance of the elections,” he shares.
As the current term pushes onward, all concerned bodies, COMELEC, Tapat, and Santugon have been preparing for the 2017 GE. Both political parties have promised to present something different to the students and focus on further reinstating the student body’s trust towards the current political system in DLSU.