After the dismal turnout of this year’s University Student Government (USG) General Elections (GE), the Legislative Assembly (LA) has decided to approve a resolution that calls for another round of elections in a session conducted last March 27. As stated in the resolution, Special Elections will be held to fill the vacant seats in the USG . The period will run from March 28 to May 7.
According to the schedule agreed upon by the LA, the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) should take place on March 28, a day after the resolution was approved. Filing of Certificates of Candidacy (COC) will be done on March 30 and 31, and are due by noon of April 7. Candidates will then be announced by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) later on the same day.
The campaign period will then start on April 8 and end on April 13. The Miting de Avance (MDA) is expected to be held on April 10, with an MDA done first in the Science and Technology Complex (STC) campus in the morning and in the Manila campus later that afternoon. Voting will then take place from April 14 to April 16, and should an extension be required, will continue on April 17 and 20. Votes will be canvassed on April 30, and winners will be announced on the 7th of May. Due to time constraints, the COMELEC Seminar, Debate, and Open Forum will no longer be held during the said elections.
Why so sudden?
Originally, reelections should be held during the first few weeks of the following academic year, as stated in the Election Code. However, the developments in this year’s GE have left multiple positions vacant, particularly the entire USG Executive Board.
Prior to the session, the parties involved in the MOA convened with COMELEC on the possibility of special elections happening this term. During the said meeting, the parties gave a conditional yes provided that all conditions are met.
The conditions agreed upon were: all vice deans permit a second round of room-to-room campaigning, all prescribed polling booths should be open during voting period, and that stronger manpower be provided for during special elections. However, some of the signatories later revoked their consent and instead pushed for having elections as scheduled during the first term of the upcoming academic year
On the other hand, the LA stressed that special elections must push through due to ‘exigent circumstances’, stressing the strong need to have student representation. Further, the LA has pointed out that with the lack of any members within the legislative body come next year, appointments for the new COMELEC commissioners cannot push through causing a ‘constitutional crisis’.
As stated in Article XIX, Section 2 and 3 of the USG Constitution, qualification, appointment, and approval of all commissioners are the responsibilities of the LA. However, EXCEL2014 LA Representative Meg Buensalido pointed out that in the following section of the said constitution, appointments of commissioners should be completed at most a month after the conclusion of GE, and not necessarily during the first term. This implies that the present LA has the duty to already begin processing the next set of commissioners once the GE ends.
But majority of the other LA representatives claimed that it cannot be done since according to them, their power is limited to this academic year. Thus, it has been the practice of LA to appoint commissioners at the beginning of the academic year.
Could they do that?
The LA’s involvement in the discussion has also been called into question. EXCEL2014 LA Representative Meg Buensalido cited that the election code states only the parties involved have the power to decide on the schedule. As found in Article VII, Section 5.2 of the said document, “A new election schedule shall be agreed upon by all parties involved in the Memorandum of Agreement.”
However, Chief Legislator Patrick Kahn clarified that it is well within their power to make such a decision as they are the highest policy-making body in the student government.
A question of legality was also raised during the session regarding the creation of a new MOA. It was argued that a new agreement cannot be signed while the current MOA is still in effect. As stated in the agreement, the MOA will remain in effect until the official release of winners, which is scheduled on April 7. However, other legislators argued that the action is justified for as long as it is for the greater good of the students.
An issue with protocol was also discovered when formulating the schedule. COCs are only released when the MOA has been signed by all parties. According to the proposed schedule, the MOA should be completed by March 28.
However, Vice President for Internal Affairs Pram Menghrajani, who was invited to the floor as a candidate during the GE, claimed that 24 hours is not a sufficient amount of time to let students decide whether they want to run for a position, especially if they will run independent. To solve the problem, COCs will be released starting March 30, but interested participants in the special elections can sign the MOA by April 1.
As of press time, only Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon and independent candidate Marc Morales have signed the new MOA, but the agreement is still open for further additions until the first day of April.
Note: This post has been edited.