Only nine seats are left unfilled in this year’s University Student Government Special Elections (SE), according to the results posted by the DLSU Commission on Elections (Comelec) last December 3. According to the commission, five seats in the Manila Campus—the Vice President for External Affairs, the College President for the Gokongwei College of Engineering, and all the seats for FAST2015—and four representative seats in the Laguna Campus are still left empty.
According to the Article VII, Section 5 of the SE Code, a re-election will be held within the first four weeks of the succeeding term after elections to address the remaining vacancies. As of press time, the schedule and details of the re-election are yet to be finalized.
During GE 2018, Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (Tapat) was unable to field any candidates after they failed to submit their Certificates of Candidacy (COC) before the deadline set in their Memorandum of Agreement. The party had initially requested that an extension be given as there was an issue in submitting the needed requirements. Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon), meanwhile, had no trouble submitting the necessary documents.
Comelec denied their request as they could not reach a quorum to address Tapat’s sudden request. Because of this, their entire slate was ineligible to run, leaving only Santugon to run unopposed.
The voting period commenced last July 25 and ended on August 1, after inclement weather forced the elections to be pushed back and extended to multiple dates. While the overall voter turnout reached 52.48 percent, the turnout for each of the individual colleges and batches did not all reach the minimum requirement, resulting in multiple positions being left open for another election.
As stated in Article V, Section 1.9 of the Election Code, a total of 50 percent plus one votes should be reached by each batch, college, and the by the University to be considered valid. After failing to fill all the seats in the USG, another round of elections was needed, and last October 1, the Legislative Assembly (LA) passed the SE Code which allowed for the remaining seats to be filled.
Jess Magaoay, Santugon’s candidate for College President in the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business (RVRCOB), shares that she viewed the previous GE as tough because only one party had eligible candidates, and the postponement of election-related events caused confusion among students.
Moreover, despite the failure of elections last GE, Magaoay adds that she personally views voters as not apathetic toward student elections, but rather the multiple suspensions caused students to be less enthusiastic to vote.
Meanwhile, Isa Topacio, Tapat’s candidate for RVRCOB President, disagrees with this sentiment and instead argues that their political party not being able to file their COCs and her college not reaching the required turnout was enough proof that students were apathetic. When further asked on the topic of student apathy, she contends that students do not have trust in the USG, which translates to students not seeing the value of exercising their right to vote, reflecting in the resulting low turnout.
In terms of how she could further encourage students to vote, Magaoay elaborates that students should be reminded of the principle of student representation. “They have to understand that these candidates are running because they believe that the students, the respective batches that they are representing, deserve representation in the different sectors of the University,” she explains. Topacio, on the other hand, highlights that the first way to encourage students to vote is with the platform that a political party introduces during its campaign.
When it comes to how posts in social media, such as those on the DLSU Freedom Wall and Community Forum, affect SE, Magaoay argues that those are avenues where people will often speak up and that this makes it impossible to control. Because of this, Magaoay urges the students to be critical of candidates and their platforms, and not only limit themselves to the posts that they see online.
Topacio believes that the current situation on social media affects the voter turnout as it creates a feedback loop where issues are shared to the students, which then increases their own lack of trust on the USG and ends up resulting in a lack of votes.
Political parties preparations
For Tapat President Josh Cheng, their preparation for this year’s SE started from scratch. According to him, their failure to file for last year’s GE drove the political party to return to their roots and rebuild their political party. The only difference of their preparation for SE, Cheng adds, is that the party decided to stick to their identity, which is lobbying for social change and doing progressive projects.
When asked how the political party choose their candidates, he explains that they do not choose their candidates, but rather they focus on training dedicated people. “We believe that the formula in choosing students who shall represent our principles and beliefs in the USG does not lie in their reputation and their standing—it is in the training and mentoring that they receive,” Cheng elaborates.
He also mentions that the platform of Tapat for this SE harkens to the foundation of their political party: a group of students from different backgrounds who are fighting injustices inside and outside of the University. The political party’s basis for their platform, he continues, is their belief of a principled and unwavering brand of leadership, which they view is important now that student harassment cases are increasing.
Cheng admits that the need for a SE served as a wake up call for Tapat. In terms of their take on the turnout, he also believes that the corruption issues hounding the USG may affect the turnout, a factor their party has acted on during their campaigns.
Santugon President Barex Dimalibot, meanwhile, shares how Santugon was able to start their preparations immediately after the GE by being able to gather student leaders who were willing and deserving to serve the student body. However, he laments that the party was not able to find suitable candidates to run for some of the positions.
Dimalibot furthers that not much has changed in their preparations for SE compared to previous elections, including how they formulate their platforms. He relays that the process of how the party crafts their platform starts by knowing the problems of DLSU students inside and outside the campus.
From there, the party makes their best effort to come up with feasible solutions which translate to programs and activities that cater to the student body, a point that Dimalibot highlights. “We made sure to be consultative. The programs and initiatives that we offer them, are the ones they need and will be able to help them during their stay in the University,” he expounds.
In the eyes of Comelec
When asked about the SE, Comelec comments that the said elections were necessary in such a way that it represents the students, most especially the freshmen, since they now have the opportunity to not only choose their batch representatives but also their college leaders.
In terms of preparations, they shared that it was similar with how they prepared for the GE, with the exception of the appointment of senior associates, who spearheaded the Miting De Avance and Debates.
Comelec also expects a higher voter turnout this round with the freshmen being also part of the voting process and with both parties fielding candidates. They also add that they have been encouraging students to vote through room to room campaigns with the assistance of the administration and the USG.
As Comelec seeks for a successful voter turnout, they assure the student body that they respect
students who opt not to vote, stating that “at the the end of the day, we are not in the position to force people to vote out of reaching the turnout.” They aim to make students understand that their opinions really matter to the USG, and that the SE is held for the betterment of not just the school, but also of the student body.
The students’ say
Alex*, a freshman student, agrees that the voter turnout would be more successful for the SE since he believes that his batch is more open to exercising their right to vote. “I think it would be successful in terms of voter turnout since this is something new for the freshmen,” he explains.
In terms of the votes themselves, he believes that freshmen would make more genuine choices as unlike the higher batches, their batch would have open minds since they “still have no idea on what the USG should do for us.”
Chi*, a sophomore, agrees with this sentiment and believes that this round would be more successful since they are no longer limited to voting between one party and abstention. She also adds that the increased voting population would guarantee more voters.
When asked what they sought for in candidates, Gab Yuzon (II, DSM-MGT) stresses that transparency is an important factor. “What I look for in a candidate [is someone] who is very transparent and honest with their own set of ideas and also someone who can really integrate him/herself with the students in DLSU, and also at the same time someone who has bold ideas in allowing the school to be a better place,” he elaborates.
*Names were changed for anonymity