The University Student Government’s (USG) Judiciary branch denied the petition filing for the imposition of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on the USG General Elections (GE) Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) in a decision released last March 10.
Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (Tapat) President Robbie Arcadio and Vice President for External Affairs Anjho Cruz originally pushed for the nullification of the MOA between the political parties and the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) for the proceedings of the GE, and suggested that a TRO be placed in the meantime while investigations are being carried out.
In the decision, the Judiciary argued that nullifying the MOA would potentially cause a failure of elections, leaving majority of the seats in the student government vacant. The Judiciary further explained that a TRO could not be given because the delay of elections would only be a “fruitless effort”, citing the TRO on the plebiscite earlier this academic year as an example of its consequences.
According to the petitioners, they found no problems in the carrying out of the MOA until they discovered Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon) had yet to field candidates in the College of Science (COS) when the deadline for passing their Certificate of Candidacy (COC) lapsed last March 4, 6 pm.
However, COMELEC permitted Santugon to file candidacies under the agreement that the party will be given one minor offense per batch unit and an additional minor offense for the College Assembly President (CAP) filed late. Last March 5, during the mandatory COMELEC seminar, there were already official COS candidates running for Santugon.
Tapat asserted that COMELEC allowing Santugon to file candidacy after the deadline violates the second clause in the MOA which states, “The filing of candidacy shall officially open on February 23 (9:00 AM) and end on March 4 (6:00 PM), 2015. Submission of the Candidacy of the [involved parties] after the deadline will not be accepted.” The petitioners also added that the decision was made without the consent of the parties involved in the contract, which they claim was also a violation of the MOA.
Furthermore, Tapat attested that COMELEC violated the 15th clause which demands the party to submit a hard copy and soft copy list of all the campaign details to all the parties involved in the GE at the same deadline for filing candidacy. Failure to do so, as the clause states, would incur one minor offense per day of non-submission.
The petitioners also contested that COMELEC gave a “lump-sum” of four minor offense to both parties to account for the errors found in the COCs, citing that “Four minor offenses were a better alternative than assessing offenses to the parties concerned.” Tapat contested that there is no legal basis for COMELEC to impose those four minor offenses because imposition of such was listed in neither the MOA nor the Election Code.
Accounting for the number of offenses imposed by COMELEC, Tapat already incurred four minor offenses from the arbitrary issuance due to incomplete requirements, while Santugon incurred seven minor offenses, four from the same cause and another three from filing their COS candidates late.
In our defense
Santugon President Pam Ramos confirmed that the party indeed submitted the COCs for COS candidates after the deadline, but argued that they were merely seconds late when the COMELEC closed their doors, making them unable to pass the documents. She also said that, “We acknowledge that we had a little mistake of not being on time, [but] we were responsible enough to accept the sanctions that were given to us.”
Arcadio felt that the decision of the Judiciary to deny the petition was unjust. “The issues brought up in the petition were not even mentioned, and the ruling, to me, seemed to be more about convenience and less about doing what was just and right,” he furthered.
He also said that they are currently looking into the matter. However, Arcadio clarified that they would accept the decision if no further developments take place.
COMELEC Chairperson Aaron Quidilla shared as of press time that they are trying their best to resolve the issue. In the meantime, COMELEC has suspended all forms of campaigning until the issue is resolved. This suspension was put into place on March 11.