Having garnered 60.72 percent of the student population votes, Gabbie Perez was elected as the new University Student Government (USG) President last August 6, and officially took office at the start of this academic year. As USG President, Perez is now responsible for leading the USG Executive Board, heading the Office of the President, and representing the whole student body, among others.
Prior to winning the presidency, Perez also held the positions of Vice President for External Affairs in the previous academic year and College President for the College of Liberal Arts in A.Y. 2016-2017.
In an interview with The LaSallian, Perez expounds on her ongoing projects and future plans for both the student government and the University. The USG President also explains her leadership style and shares opinions on national issues, as well as the importance of social awareness, highlighting the upcoming Senatorial Elections.
What plans made by former USG President Mikee de Vega do you want to continue, develop further, or revise during your term?
[First,] she actually turned over to me the Mental Health Act, so we’re working closely with OCCS (Office of Counseling and Career Services) to ensure that students are provided ample support for mental health. [Second,] there’s a website that OCCS and [the] USG [are] working on; testing muna kung kaya. Hindi ba every year meron tayo nung physical exam? Magdadagdag dun ang mental health examination.
([Second,] there’s a website that OCCS and [the] USG are working on; we’re testing it if it’s feasible. We have the annual physical exam right? A mental health examination will be added to that.)
Third would be accreditation of peer support groups, so we’re currently working on that with OCCS. That’s something that Mikee had started, and we want to make sure we strengthen it for the next few years.
All past USG Presidents have their own leadership styles. How would you describe yours? What do you think separates you from the previous generations?
I feel like my leadership style is mostly empowering people. It’s not about delegating tasks; it’s about looking for people with potential, and providing them the right opportunity so they can grow. I like looking at the process rather than the results pagdating sa growth ng USG officers. I’m more of looking at growth rather than output.
What makes me different? Siguro ako yung pinaka-normal na tao. Normal na estudyante, hindi perpekto sa pag-aaral, at nagkakamali rin naman. Siguro mas nararamdaman ko na normal din ako na estudyante, just like everyone else. That’s why it feels parang mas may drive [ako] for student representation kasi nakaka-experience rin [ako] ng problema ng estudyante.
(What makes me different? I suppose I am just a normal person. Normal student, not perfect in terms of academics, and I sometimes make mistakes. I feel like I’m a normal student just like everyone else. That’s why it feels like I have a stronger drive for student representation because I experience the plight and the problems of students, too.)
During your campaign period, you mentioned creating a more sustainable student government and body as part of your primary platforms. Can you elaborate on that? What plans and goals are in line with this?
Sustainable student governance means we have to ensure that the USG is strong enough, that it is research-based, and that it is an organization that self-improves throughout the years. At the end of the day, the USG is supposed to represent the student body, and what happens kasi every year is USG performance is always going to be dependent on who’s seated there, [and on] the people running the organization. But I feel like that itself is one of the main problems. Minsan tumatama si USG, minsan hindi. To address that, there has to be long-term solutions so that we don’t have short-term problems, kasi dapat lahat ma-address.
Sustainable student governance is about putting the mechanisms in place, [and] making sure [that] student leaders are prepared, and that you create a stronger USG. So that whoever sits there, whoever is in the USG, they [will] provide the best services for the student body throughout the next few years.
One of our flagship projects this year would be the USG Roadmap to 20. It’s really about creating a long-term plan for the USG. I made it comprehensive in the sense that when you look back, you look back at what the USG did right, what the USG did wrong, and [if] the USG [fulfilled] its purpose. It’s more of [a] consultation and looking at past administrations. Kung baga, be-benchmark ka sa past mo. We’d like to be connected to the student body more; expect a lot of initiatives na very research-based, very student-centered, and there would be planning for the future. So it’s planning out what the goals are, [and what] the key result areas of the USG would be throughout the next 10 years.
How do you balance your academic load, social life, org work, and USG work? How do you spend your free time?
I think it’s all about good time management. Something I really love about working in the USG is you really get to balance everything because everyone you meet [socially] are also the people who work with you. It’s all about balancing, providing, [and] prioritizing also kung kailan titigil ka sa pagiging presidente at kailangan mo muna maging estudyante.
(It’s all about balancing, providing, and prioritizing also when to stop being the USG President and start being the student again.)
What issues in DLSU do you think are of utmost importance right now and why? What steps have you planned in solving them?
I think the first one would be University Break. It was recently implemented, we’re in a testing phase [now]. But I feel like there should be a stronger student stance this time because tayo yung pinakamalaking population dito sa La Salle, tayo yung pinakaka -apektado ng U Break. Of course, it’s also understanding what students feel and how students feel about it. So it’s about making sure that the student stance is strong, that we lobby it properly, and that processes are followed when it comes to lobbying. Kasi last time nagkagulatan na lang? So this time, ina-anticipate namin lahat para maayos natin siya maipalakad.
(Last time, we were surprised. Now, we’re anticipating every possible outcome so we may properly address them.)
Second issue [would be a] solution to U Break. Evaluations will begin second term; yung on-grounds [and] lahat ng initiatives for U Break will begin second term. However, there will be preliminary evaluations this term. We actually have University Research Week this coming November. We’re [going to] devote one week just trying to [gather data], and understand all of the issues of the students, and dun rin namin papasok si U Break—of course [what] U Break [is] for students as individuals and [what] U Break [is] for organizations. There will be a convention of leaders, so lahat ng students organizations and student sectors’ leaders, isasama sa isang place, tapos pag-uusapan ng mansinsinan kung ano ba talaga ba mangyayari sa U Break.
(There will be a convention of leaders, so all of the student organizations and student sectors’ leaders will be gathering, where plans for how to address issues with U Break will be discussed formally.)
With the current social issues present in Philippine society, what do you think is the importance of social awareness? What can Lasallians do in addressing societal problems?
Magkakaroon tayo ng National Elections in the upcoming year. We know that there are people fighting, [and] we know that the [officials] are starting their political campaigns already. I feel like the best way, as students, in order to make sure na maayos lahat ‘yan is to participate. [First,] make sure that we are registered voters; [second,] make sure that we’re always aware of everything that’s happening; and number three would be the most important one, which is to be critical about everything. We are all provided [with] this freedom, we’re provided with the information in the world, and I feel it’s all about being critical Lasallians that we can make the right choices and support the right people.
On a macroscale, what national issues do you deem most important and close to the Lasallian community and why?
As I said earlier, National Elections is one of the things we have to be very careful about. We have to be very much aware about it because the [officials] are going to be the people na magbibigay ng future problems and future success. One thing that we’re all doing right now is being very active in Boto Lasalyano, Sugod Filipino. It’s an intersectoral project that we’re all working [to] right now. It’s making sure that we have voters’ education, that we are all aware of [who] the candidates [are]. The plan is to make sure that the senatoriables come here and engage in a dialogue with the Lasallians.
What qualities do you think should an effective and efficient leader possess?
Number one, it’s about having direction—having a good direction for your constituents and for your organization. Ikaw yung magle-lead sa kanila to that place, so dapat clear ‘yun lagi sa’yo.
(You will be the one to lead them to that place, so that direction always has to be clear to you.)
Number two, it’s about introspection—understanding yourself, understanding your organization, so that you can implement the changes that need to be implemented.
Third, it would have to be strength—everyone relies on you. You cannot falter. You cannot have any moment of weakness in front of everyone because one thing, [one mistake], and the whole organization would collapse. It’s strength in making sure that you are a strong leader, strength in supporting the whole organization, and strength in implementing the changes you want.
If you were to endorse one political figure for Senatorial Elections, who would that be and why?
I am personally a very vocal supporter of Atty. Chel Diokno mainly because he’s from DLSU, [a] proud Lasallian, [and] Dean of our College of Law. He understands one of the issues that is most pressing to the youth, which is human rights. I feel like we need someone strong enough to be that voice in the Senate, to be [that] someone who would say “No, mali ginagawa natin. Ayusin natin ‘to.”
(I feel like we need someone strong enough to be that voice in the Senate, to be [that] someone who would say, “No, what we’re doing is wrong. We have to fix this.”)
What legacy do you want to leave to the next batch of student leaders? What is your vision for the Lasallians to come after you?
The legacy would be the USG Road Map to 20 because honestly, whether I’m here or not, sana matuloy siya. It’s a ten-year plan that anyone and everyone would be able to achieve, and at the end of those 10 years, sana ma-renew siya. It’s really all about helping the organization do better for the student body.
As for the student body, I think it’s all about going back to unifying the student-centered University, making sure that everyone has a good place in the University, everyone is heard, [and] everyone is collaborating with one another. At the end of the day, the students should feel that the University is always there for them in whatever they do. From student services, to opportunities, to their academics, it’s [about] creating an environment in DLSU that would be best for students.