With the voting period only a few days away, General Elections (GE) 2019 picks up steam as candidates squared off in the annual GE Debate held last July 20 at the Cory Aquino Democratic Space.

Organized by the DLSU Commission on Elections, the La Salle Debate Society, the USG Judiciary branch, and Ang Pahayagang Plaridel, candidates from both parties underwent two rounds of debate where Legislative Assembly (LA) and Executive Board (EB) candidates took stances on key University issues.

Participants for each round were given five minutes to introduce their policy platform and three minutes to answer questions from moderators. Another three minutes were allotted for rebuttals between the candidates, which was also followed by additional questions from moderators.

Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (Tapat) FAST2018 LA representative candidate Maegan Ragudo was announced the winner of the first round, while Tapat’s USG President candidate Lance Dela Cruz won the second round. Dela Cruz was also distinguished as overall best speaker.

Student welfare, safe spaces

Santugon’s FAST2017 representative candidate Neal Gonzales, who faced Ragudo in the first round of debate, championed his party’s fight against bullying and sexual harassment.  

“We believe that the well-being of students should be [at] the forefront of our advocacy by [fostering] a healthier environment here [in our University],” he stated.

Gonzales also sought to push for a disaster risk management fund drawn from the “extra money” of terminal batches. The fund, he explained, will be placed in a separate bank account, which will be used to aid Lasallians affected by natural disasters.

Meanwhile, Ragudo described her vision of a “safer University for all”, which she plans to achieve by lobbying for a strengthened University code against sexual harassment. She continued by describing her plan to focus on establishing a student welfare help desks in coordination with the Office of Counseling and Career Services (OCCS), the Health Services Office, and the Office of Student Affairs.

Dela Cruz also expressed his support for a mental health policy, a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community, sectoral student representation, and a fast track student approach on administration concerns. 

“We will establish a task force to gather advocates on leading advocacies, and train them on organizational building. By the end of our term, these advocacies will have fully accredited organizations,” Dela Cruz expounded. 

Santugon’s Vice President for Internal Affairs candidate Lou Zarcal shared that she wishes to empower women, the LGBTQ+ community, and persons with disabilities by creating an “inclusive environment”, but admitted that there will be challenges in drafting such policies.

“It is hard to create a [mental health] policy, because this is a sensitive topic and what OCCS is ensuring is that our role in the University is to help them get feedback for cases like this,” she elaborated. Zarcal added that this gathering of feedback is part of their push to be “data-driven”, which would ensure that the policies and activities implemented are fit for those who need it.

Student involvement

Adjudicators questioned Dela Cruz and Zarcal on their plan to make student-centered events successful, well-marketed, and well-attended. Both candidates pointed out that the cause of low student involvement in recent activities is the current Monday University Break schedule and noted that the planned shift would improve turnout.

To protect the interests of student organizations, Dela Cruz backed reforms in organizational processes. “We want to streamline the processes that we have in [the Office of Student Leadership Involvement, Formation and Empowerment] so that our organizations will be able to proceed with their activities without fear of delay or cancelation,” he stated.

Zarcal, on the other hand, supported an increased adoption of digital methods. “[We] are trying to lobby for online paper processing so that these [processes] can become more efficient and accessible for organizations,” she said.

The Santugon candidate also described her aim for “active student involvement” to bolster interest for concerns inside and outside the University. “We want to…create a multisectoral committee [to] bridge different student sectors…and other organizations [to create] an avenue to [discuss] social issues and [decide on] social action we can do as a University together,” Zarcal explained.

Constutional reforms

Gonzales shared his wishes to back a constitutional plebiscite that would amend the USG’s constitution. “We want to make a change kung saan mag-iiba ‘yung buong structure ng USG [so that] students would [say], ‘Okay na pala ‘yung USG. Pwede na akong magtiwala dito kasi nabago na siya,’” he declared.

(We want to change the entire structure of the USG so that students would say, ‘The USG is okay now. I can put my trust in it because it has changed.’)

On the other hand, Ragudo emphasized the need to restore the Ombudsman through constitutional reform. “We are pushing for the Ombudsman because we want an independent arbiter for cases to make sure that all officers are well accounted for,” she explained.

Dela Cruz echoed Ragudo’s sentiment, declaring that this action will “eradicate negligence and corruption in the USG by establishing the Office of the Ombudsman and making sure that everyone is held accountable for their actions.”

Voting period for this year’s GE are scheduled to take place from July 23 to 26. As of press time, voting booths will be situated at the Cory Aquino Democratic Space and at the ground floor of Br. Andrew Gonzalez Hall.

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