The University Student Government (USG) Commission on Elections (COMELEC) is the deciding body on all electoral exercises within the University. From the very beginning, COMELEC has been the key background player of the USG General Elections (GE). From screening volunteers to planning campaign and election proceedings, COMELEC regulates the Election Code.
Backbone of elections
With the responsibility of officiating all electoral practices in the University comes the responsibility of building up a network of volunteers to help COMELEC officers make sure that elections run smoothly and fairly. “Actually, COMELEC is open to anyone,” Nel Aguilar, COMELEC chairperson, explains. As membership is renewed every election period, COMELEC already has a handful of loyal volunteers attending to the various events during the election period. “However, as much as possible di kami nag-aallow ng mga students na naging active member ng political parties, mga naging core officer nila, yung mga naging candidates din.” (As much as possible, we do not allow those students who have been active members of political parties, those who were core officers, also those who have been candidates, to join.)
Alongside reinforcing rules and guidelines during the elections, COMELEC must take into account the rights and needs of the political parties for the whole duration of the election period.
Aguilar explains, “We make sure na open yung communications namin palagi so kung may concern [yung parties], sabihin nila agad sa amin and we try to address it as soon as possible and sinisigurado namin na lahat ng gusto nila maririnig namin.”
(We make sure that our lines of communication are open and we try to address problems as soon as possible. We also make sure that all their concerns are heard.)
Ensuring election legitimacy
As the sole administrator of the elections, COMELEC is given various tasks necessary to ensure a fair and organized process of elections. One of which is to strictly regulate the election code in accordance with the USG constitution. In doing so, the commission is able to ensure that the set of qualifications for individuals filing for candidacy are religiously adhered to.
Educating the student body with regards to the voting process is another monumental task that COMELEC needs to accomplish. Although, as they are pressed with time for the upcoming GE, Aguilar states, “Yung election calendar kasi sobrang higpit this time, siksik siya within three weeks, walang enough time para makagawa ng voter’s education seminar.”
(The election calendar was strict this time, it was limited to three weeks. There was not enough time to uphold a voter’s education seminar.)
Despite this, the chairperson affirms that they will still utilize all available resources in the University for ample publicity measures. This time around, COMELEC also plans on collaborating with the University’s student media organizations to be able to reach more students.
More importantly, one of the major roles of COMELEC during the GE is to ensure the success of the voting process along with the tallying of results. To achieve this, COMELEC spends a huge amount of the budget for the ballots, spending roughly P60,000 on the ballots alone. The body intends to target 100 per cent of the student population come the election period. Additional ballots are also made in the event of unforeseen circumstances.
Ultimately, COMELEC sees to it that ballots are counted completely and accordingly to ensure the authenticity of the results. In counting ballots, those present in every room are only a representative from each political party, volunteers for counting, and COMELEC officers themselves.
The COMELEC ensures that the colleges each have their own rooms during the counting period, which is unofficially called the “lockdown”. When checking, a commissioner is present to read ballots, while at his side stands a representative to check the correctness of the tallying. Also present are two tally keepers, one who writes at the blackboard while the other on a tally sheet.
As Aguilar breaks down the commission’s lockdown procedures, he explains, “With the type of counting dito sa DLSU, I think medyo maliit ang possibility ng pagkakaroon ng miscount.”
(With the type of counting here in DLSU, I really think that having a miscount remains to be a very small possibility.)
The ultimate goal
For something this big and important to truly work, COMELEC has to put its best foot forward. Aguilar explains it best by saying, “Our ultimate goal altogether with the political parties and the candidates is to serve the student body.”
Ensuring that the needs and education of the voters and the candidates are met with their rights and responsibilities in tow is a big role to play in shaping the collective experience of the student body. At the end of the day, how the election period will run is held in the hands of those who draft the rules, oversee the ballots, and ensure that the whole student body gets what they want and deserve.