Midway through the current term, the traditional rivalry of political parties will again be put to play this academic year when they go head to head for seats in the University Student Government (USG) during the Freshmen Election (FE).
Ready, set, go
The campaign period is set for July 26 to August 4, while the election period will run from August 5 to 7. With only a few weeks left, political parties Iisang Tugon sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon) and Alyansang Tapat sa Lasalista (Tapat) have already begun mobilizing their members in preparation for the elections.
With both parties having concluded their recruitments and, as of press time, are in the process of screening and selecting candidates for this year’s FE. Santugon president Gregg Tolentino shares, “We hold a series of screenings to check on potential student leaders in the freshman level. We have a set of criteria to uphold objectivity.”
Robbie Arcadio, president of Tapat, says that their party is being thorough in selecting members they feel are qualified to run among the new members the party has acquired.
According to Tolentino, Santugon has already prepared a series of training modules for both the candidates they will field and the core members or campaign officers who will be attending to them. All training-related activities will commence as soon as the candidates have been chosen and the required documents filed.
Arcadio, meanwhile, shares that Tapat has also been making preparations in terms of campaign collaterals, with the party already in contact with people who would best attend to these. He explains that the party is still deliberating on their campaign strategy this FE, but highlights that Tapat will not rule out any changes to the traditional room-to-room campaign system.
Humidity is rising
The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) is also in the middle of FE preparations and is working to address some of the problems regularly experienced during elections season. COMELEC Chairperson Aaron Quidilla says that one of the biggest problems in recent years stems from the venue for FE, the lobby of the Br. Andrew Gonzalez building.
“During break times, there are a lot of people so it’s sort of hard to manage the crowd,” he explains, “We’ll try another method this FE so we can ease the crowd. Because of the number of people and limited space, it’s very humid, so I guess there were times when medyo naiinis yung voters… but we’re thankful that despite the environment, they’re usually still willing to vote.”
Quidilla says that FE is usually held in Br. Andrew Gonzalez building because it’s where majority of the freshmen have their classes. He affirms, however, that COMELEC is still open to making venue adjustments if the need presents it.
This year’s FE will still be manually done. “We considered [automated elections], but we don’t really have enough time to prepare for it. It’s hard to process something such as the automated elections mainly due to the lack of funds,” explains Quidilla. The 2012 General Elections (GE) was the first and only election that was automated.
When it comes to discrepancies in the election code, not much can be done by COMELEC as of this time, since the election code revisions will be completed later this year. The efficacy of the revised provisions will take place during next year’s GE, if not during elections scheduled for next academic year.
Below expectations performance
The political parties have their own share of problems come election season. Santugon and Tapat’s usual problems are about managing campaign officers and the campaign, in general. “There were cases that some supporters are not informed about the prohibited campaign dress code for certain dates or what campaign collaterals could be distributed, [and these shortcomings] are sanctioned [as] electioneering,” Tolentino laments. To address this, the Santugon president tells that the party will be streamlining communication processes to “keep everything in our control and to uphold the integrity of the election code and the Memorandum of Agreement.”
Arcadio shares that the number of freshmen applicants for Tapat membership is lower than his party’s expected headcount. “It turns out a lot of freshmen are disinterested [in joining the political parties],” the Tapat president says, sharing that he personally expected that the usual trend of high membership applications during the political parties’ recruitment week could be maintained.
There are also allegations that both political parties try to recruit high school seniors even before they confirm their enrollment into the University. Arcadio didn’t dismiss the allegation, but he defends that this type of recruitment is done informally, mostly by Lasallian friends of incoming freshmen. “It’s not very formal because we’re very aware and that we understand that it’s only during the USG annual recruitment week that applications should be entertained. That’s when we should get official sign-ups,” Arcadio adds.
The reception of freshmen towards membership into any of the two political parties has been mixed. Freshmen like Luis Cachero III (I, PSM-APC) and Kyra Montalbo (I, PSM-BSA) tell that they decided to join Santugon and Tapat, respectively, because they feel that participating and being active in their chosen parties will help them maximize their stay in the University.
Cachero explains “I wanted to join Santugon because I wanted to maximize my potential in the political side of my college life.” On the other side of the coin, Montalbo shared, “I can see myself growing in Tapat and I actually felt more welcome there.”
On the other hand, freshmen like Micah Del Carmen (I, PSM-APC) and Christian Kaw (I, PSM-ADV) chose not to join any political party. Kaw explains that he was supposed to join Santugon but he was advised by a friend not to while Del Carmen reasons that joining a political party wasn’t her priority.