From releasing manifestos on current issues such as the graft conviction against Imelda Marcos to solving conflicts in internal STCG operations, and to revising the Presidential Pardon Guidelines, a session was held by the University Student Government (USG) Legislative Assembly (LA) last November 26 at the USG Session Hall.
The session also addressed the resignations of both Chief Legislator Norbs Sarigumba and FAST2015 Batch Vice President Shanta Carlos. Stella Santos, 71st ENG LA Representative, was appointed to Sarigumba’s position, whereas FAST2017 LA Representative Neal Gonzales was appointed as Majority Floor Leader in replacement of Santos.
Solving internal STC issues
With the third agenda moved first, Science and Technology Complex Government (STCG) LA Representative Geo Olaivar started off the session by addressing the plan for STCG Campus President Daryll Overos to temporarily uphold the vacant STCG college representative positions.
According to Olaivar, the Laguna Campus candidates for the ongoing Special Elections have not yet been validated, meaning there is still a chance the positions will remain vacant. Upholding the representative positions for College of Business, College of Education, and College of Engineering, Olaivar assured the assembly that Overos is capable of holding all three positions on his own.
Having internal conflicts within the STCG such as delayed requests for academics-related paperwork to course codes and enlistment troubles, Olaivar shared that he planned to address those concerns through an inquiry with USG Vice President of Internal Affairs Adrian Mendoza. Olaivar added that “There’s always a thin wall between the Laguna Campus and the Taft Campus in which [it defeats] the purpose na laging sinasabing ‘One world, One La Salle’.”
Revising manifestos on current issues
On the graft conviction case of former First Lady Imelda Marcos, proponents Santos, FOCUS2017 LA Representative Marco Zulaybar, and FAST2016 Representative Frances Hernandez discussed their planned manifesto to address how politicians have been using their state of health as a way to evade pending cases. The proponents cited prior examples such as House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo wearing a neckbrace when accusations were thrown against her post-presidency, and Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s persecution evasion due to his advanced age.
Zulaybar stated that the manifesto tackles Marcos’ bail and how it “makes the rich go untouched while it prosecutes the poor.”
A “call to action,” one of Hernandez’s main points in the manifesto is to place the power on the youth and to continue to speak out against the tragedies that happened during the Marcos regime.
The resolution was opened for discussion “to make a stronger introduction in the manifesto, and to directly talk to the Marcoses and fully denounce them of their actions.” Santos added that the University’s stance is essential, as it discourages apathy from its students. A unanimous decision afterwards was agreed upon by all representatives.
A manifesto on the removal of Filipino as a required general education subject in tertiary education was also tackled. Proponents 72nd ENG LA representative Marian Lao, BLAZE 2019 LA representative CJ Merin, CATCH2T19 LA representative Christian Alderite, and Hernandez argued that the recent decision made by the Commission on Higher Education and the Supreme Court of the Philippines should be reconsidered because “our national language is part of our identity.” They emphasized that Filipino education should not stop at usage of basic grammar but also in aim for a deeper understanding taught in tertiary education.
Resolutions on the issue included that the manifesto should be an open letter instead for it follows the original plan, and that the open letter should be written in Filipino. The resolution was also passed, with nine LA representatives voting for the decision, and three who abstained.
Vague guidelines on presidential pardon
Proponents argued that the executive and judiciary branches of the USG are currently experiencing a clash of systemic procedures due to the vagueness of the guideline on the presidential pardon, questioning the concrete definition of the “just cause” stated in the constitution.
In order to alleviate this, Sarigumba proposed that it be tackled “objectively and as a whole.” CATCHT20 LA representative Paolo Delos Reyes and Olaivar suggested a revision on the constitution that presidential pardons should be inexcusable for impeached members to uphold a position in the USG.
However, EXCEL2018 LA representative Sophie Go explained that if the officer was unfairly sanctioned as guilty by the judiciary, a check and balance can still be done through the powers of the president, given that he/she has sufficient legal proof for it to be granted. Gonzales highlighted that the 1987 Philippine Constitution allows an offender of the law to run for a position since there are two separate entities involved. He narrated, “In the University, if someone stole, they have to answer to the SDFO, not the USG. It’s a different entity.” In addition, an office monitoring board under the Office of the President supervises the officer after the individual is pardoned.
The resolution was laid on the table because the representatives were not able to meet a consensus. The proponents insisted on the revision since it objectively tackles the guideline on presidential pardons, but the LA representatives countered that a part of the revision limits the checks and balances expected of the USG.
Resignation and turnover
The final agenda for the LA session was the resolution calling for the resignation of both Carlos and Sarigumba due to their future endeavors.
Sarigumba shared, “Already graduating, [Shanta] Carlos cannot fulfill her duty anymore,” while adding that his own reason for stepping down is due to his practicum courses the following term, and that he would “rather step down and have a new chief so that the direction of the LA would be clearer.”
Following the adjournment of the final agenda was the choosing of the new Chief Legislator and the Majority Floor Leader, which were appointed to Santos and Gonzales, respectively.
Explaining her plan of action for future endeavors, Santos is determined to be transparent, collaborative, and purposeful, while hoping that “both majority and minority will work towards a successful plebiscite and towards purposeful resolutions.”