The University Student Government (USG) was established as the new form of government in 2010 following the plebiscite which revamped the Student Council (SC). Accompanying this shift from SC to USG was the ratification of the 2009 USG constitution containing the rights of students, as well as the different guidelines and frameworks by which the USG would operate. Since then, the 2009 USG constitution has been used, but USG officers have cited outdated provisions that are no longer able to adapt to the changing times.
Ever since its ratification, many revisions have been proposed on the 2009 USG constitution. In 2014, the USG proposed to implement these revisions under Project Refocus. Key revisions that were proposed included a streamlining of the efforts of the USG, a single executive board office, the removal of numerous units and positions in government such as the executive secretary and batch vice presidents, and the reinstatement of the ombudsman.
However, the revisions did not push through. In a plebiscite held in 2014, the USG attempted to garner the vote of the students on these changes, only to fail to reach the minimum votes of 50 percent plus one of the student population. Prior to the dismal voter turnout, the plebiscite encountered some delays after a temporary restraining order against it was issued. It was eventually held in the last week of November 2014. Even after extending the voting period for an additional two days, only 8.49 percent of the student population came to vote.
As times continue to change, the constitution remains unrevised, and the student body’s majority opinion on the matter remains unknown. Recently, the 2017 USG General Elections have also begun, and it is high time that the 2009 USG constitution is revisited by the upcoming officers to ensure a revamp of the entire structure of the USG.
Outdated, due for revisions
USG Chief Magistrate Frances Lim reveals that many of the provisions in the constitution are “outdated,” and that many positions in the USG structure remain redundant. She cites the need to include the DLSU Manila – Laguna Campus, formerly DLSU Science and Technology Complex (STC), as well as the ombudsman’s office in the constitution’s provisions. Both of these can only be included through plebiscite. The former, however, has been resolved through a resolution passed on the Legislative Assembly (LA) floor instead.
Lim suggests the possibility of restructuring the USG. “Perhaps we can revamp our structure into something more efficient where there is [not] a specific unit per activity, because based on what I see, a lot of units churn out unnecessary projects, which is fine, I guess, but the substance is lacking at times. I think with a more centralized structure, we [will] be able to close in on less people and have more accountability and quality work,” she states.
Furthermore, Lim explains that most of the revisions needed would require modifying the bylaws of the Constitution. She states that some examples include considering the Department of Activity Approval and Monitoring as its own entity without the appointment of the Office of the Vice President of Internal Affairs, increasing the number of magistrates from five to eight, letting the Judiciary recall cases independently at the absence of an ombudsman, and editing the time constraints placed on the election or confirmation of unit members.
One example of such time constraint is found in Article 18, Section 8 of the Constitution, which states that the Chief Magistrate is elected at most one week after the appointment of magistrates. In practice, magistrates are elected at the end of the term, while the Chief Magistrate is elected at the start of the next term, which normally happens more than just a week after.
Laguna Campus President Kristian Sisayan also stresses the need to include STC in the Constitution. “The Science and Technology Complex Government (STCG) is not yet included in the structure of the USG. With that, we would want it to be established that the STCG is the campus government of the Laguna Campus. Other than that, I think that the whole structure of the USG must be revisited to check whether there would be adjustments that can make student representation more intensive and efficient,” he asserts.
Furthermore, Sisayan suggests the need for more autonomy in the Laguna Campus. “I am leaned towards having an autonomous USG in STC where we have our own Executive Board and College Presidents. Currently, the college representatives of STC are considered as batch-level officials and the campus president is considered as a college-level official of the USG. This should not be the case because it does not maximize student representation. We, the STC students, have our own set of problems that can only be addressed by our own student body,” he highlights.
USG Vice President for Internal Affairs Karl Ong shares his belief that revision is necessary due to the changes brought by time. “I believe that the USG Constitution should be reviewed for revision. Over the USG’s seven years of existence, a lot has changed in the University and the roles of USG officers increased. If we can improve the Constitution, then we can ensure the next USG would be able to [do] their jobs better,” he says.
Ong explains that issues such as safety and security, mental health, and national and international issues need to be addressed in the Constitution, as well as the increase in meetings that the USG sits on. He also states that more projects and programs need to be institutionalized.
On the other hand, USG Secretary Monica Otayza believes that the USG Constitution need not be revised yet, but instead must be implemented more strictly. “The USG can still further push what its executive and legislative committees can do, and come up with sustainable initiatives that the students may take part in,” she claims. “At the same time, I believe that it is every officer’s role to properly review the USG Constitution before and after they are elected, as well as during their term as an officer to ensure that everything that they do is aligned with it.”
Otayza stresses the need to emphasize to students that they play a major role in the USG despite not holding elected positions. Furthermore, she asserts that the USG should work on regaining the trust of the students, rather than on restructuring.
Students voice concerns
Some of the older students in the University remember the occurrence of the 2014 plebiscite; however, they cannot recall the proposed revisions. Michel Alonso (IV, BS-CHE), who voted in the last plebiscite, says that the Constitution should be reviewed again. He comments, “There should be things that can be improved that over time people have come to realize.”
Raimond Dasalla (III, AB-POM) echoes the same sentiments. “It should [be changed] in order to further deliver to the students of the University. Perhaps streamline the bureaucracy. I can’t see any purpose on why there’s a need for other non-elective positions in each batch government,” he shares.
Meanwhile, others are not aware that the USG even has a Constitution. RJ Ruiz (II, BS-FIN) was unaware about the Constitution but says, “If there are many prevalent and chaotic problems within the USG which affect the well-being of its students, then I think there is a necessity for it [the Constitution] to be changed. For me, I think it would be a good idea to reevaluate the contents of the Constitution to continuously improve the system.”
As the school year draws to a close, it will be up to the next batch of LA representatives to review the Constitution. Three years have passed since Project Refocus, so the next year’s LA representatives can once again propose changes to the Constitution.