Special Elections end successfully amid various drawbacks

“We would not be able to achieve a successful election without the combined effort from all the parties involved.” This is the sentiment of DLSU Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Chair Giunell Flores on the 2015 University Student Government (USG) Special Elections.

The Special Elections was held in light of the dismal voter turnout in the General Elections (GE) held last March, where only 35.90 percent of the undergraduate student body exercised their right to vote. In contrast, a total voter turnout of 55.70 percent was recorded in the recent polls, which combined the GE and the Freshmen Elections. The voting period had to be extended by two days in order to allow all batches and colleges to achieve the minimum voter turnout of 50 percent plus one.

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As per the COMELEC’s official results released on November 5, this year’s Executive Board is composed of Pram Menghrajani as President, Micah Fernando as Vice President for Internal Affairs, Levin Garcia as Vice President for External Affairs, Kitkat Cuenca as Executive Secretary, and Zed Laqui as Executive Treasurer.

Of the total 90 positions vacant in the USG, 75 seats were won by candidates from Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon and 14 from Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista, in addition to the six seats they secured during the March elections. The only independent candidate who secured a seat in the USG is Menghrajani.

Prior to the Special Elections, Flores shares that the COMELEC conducted seminars for the volunteers and candidates to remind them about the rules and regulations of the elections.

“During the seminars we also instructed the volunteers on their role and what they need to do in order to help the elections become successful,” Flores details. “We also made pubs, did room-to-room [campaigning], and worked with publicity organizations in order to spread information regarding the elections,” he adds.

The Special Elections, however, were met with unprecedented roadblocks such as a disputed election code provision, a temporary restraining order, and three impeachment cases.

Undergraduate student and former Office of the President Chief of Staff Cedric Labasan filed a petition on October 12 calling for a nullification of the Special Election Code because of an unconstitutional provision. As a result, all campaigning and election-related operations were suspended on October 13 through a temporary restraining order imposed by the USG Judiciary.

After the Magistrates’ judicial review and issuance of a status quo ante, election-related activities resumed on October 14 and the controversial provision was eventually nullified four days later, on October 18.

Flores laments that the said event became a problem for COMELEC because it threatened the validity and constitutionality of the whole elections. “We talked with the parties involved in the problem,” he mentions.

“Thankfully, this issue has been resolved and the elections are finally over,” Flores concludes.

This, however, was not the only event that rocked the stability of the Special Elections. In October, undergraduate student Norben Sagun Jr. filed complaints against then-incumbent Executive Treasurer Rupert Laurel, Vice President for External Affairs Mae Mae Gonzales, and EXCEL2015 Batch President Zed Laqui on the grounds of gross negligence of duty and illegal disbursement of funds. The complaints made the Special Elections even more stirring, since Gonzales and Laqui were running for President and Executive Treasurer, respectively, under Santugon’s banner.

After a series of hearings, Gonzales and Laurel were found guilty of gross negligence of duty and were both ordered by the Judiciary to release a public apology addressed to Sagun and the student body. Additionally, Laurel was disbarred from office and was ordered to deliver the remaining sum of money to Sagun with duly processed documents. Meanwhile, in a separate hearing, the court ruled Laqui not guilty and dropped all charges against him.

With the pressure of meeting the bare minimum voter turnout for the election results to be rendered valid, ultimately, the COMELEC was able to hold a successful Special Elections despite the different issues they faced before, during, and after the actual election period.

The new officers of the USG were officially inducted into office in a Eucharistic celebration and oath-taking ceremony at the Chapel of the Most Blessed Sacrament last November 6.

Ramon Castañeda

By Ramon Castañeda

Ian Benedict Mia

By Ian Benedict Mia

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