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A month after the election, FE disqualification disputes capped

After a long tug-of-war of disqualification and re-qualification, the outcome of the Freshmen Election (FE) has come to a close.

Alyansang Tapat Sa Lasalista (Tapat) incurred a total of three major offenses, which caused the party’s disqualification during last month’s Freshmen Election (FE).

Tapat appealed to the magistrates one of their two minor offenses and won, lifting the disqualification ruled by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC).

The party decided to appeal since they believe that the cases filed against them lacked evidence to prove their guilt. The evidence that Santugon presented against Tapat was an alleged overheard conversation of campaigning at a time when one of Tapat’s candidates was suspended.

COMELEC decided to appeal against the decision of the magistrates to the Election Board, composed of University Student Government (USG) President Lorenz de Castro, COMELEC Chairperson Franz Cariño and the Dean of Student Affairs Fritizie De Vera.

COMELEC’s appeal was granted and their initial decision was retained, leaving Tapat still disqualified.

“We appealed for the decision of the magistrates because we believe that they did not see the bigger picture of the election cases since the complainant [COMELEC] was not represented in the hearing [organized by the magistrates],” Cariño said. He added that another reason for the appeal was the lack of basis of the magistrates’ decision.

As of press time, the original COMELEC result of 15 seats won by Iisang Tugon Sa Tawag Ng Panahon (Santugon), two seats counted as abstain and one declared a failure of election, still stands.

Tapat President Francis Roque explained that there is an underlying issue regarding the definition of powers between the Election Board and the judiciary arm of the USG. He furthered that under the USG Constitution, the judiciary composed of the magistrates, COMELEC and the Commission on Audit (COA) is the only body vested with judicial power.

“The existence of the election board is a clear overlap with the function of the judiciary. The Election Board is a remnant of a system wherein the judiciary was not yet existent. This is a matter that must be attended to by the legislative branch,” Roque pursues.

On the other hand, Santugon President Rico Locsin shared that the USG still needs to deal with problems such as technicalities and some vague points concerning the Election Code. The shortcomings of the Code that created confusion and misinterpretations made some FE cases harder to process.

COMELEC will hold a re-election for the three empty seats this term. Santugon and Tapat may field new candidates to represent their parties in the USG.

By Christopher Chanco

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