The approval of a mental health task force, the revision of the Commission on Audit (COA) manual, and call for the release on issues raised by the rice tariffication law were among the agendas that the Legislative Assembly (LA) deliberated on during their session held last October 16, at the University Student Government (USG) Session Hall, third floor of Br. Connon Hall.
Tackling mental health, rice tariffication
In a resolution unanimously approved by the LA, FAST2018 representative Maegan Ragudo called for the approval of a voluntary mental health task force that would focus on the creation of projects and initiatives that raise awareness about mental health. USG President Lance Dela Cruz and Chief Policy Advisor from the Office of the President (OPRES) Marina Lim also appeared before the floor to support Ragudo’s resolution.
The FAST2018 representative explained that the resolution supported the mandate of the LA to uphold the welfare of the studentry. She added that the proposal is “necessary [in] promoting mental health and destigmatization.”
Sharing Ragudo’s sentiments, Dela Cruz underpinned the resolution’s importance in line with his administration’s efforts to implement a University mental health policy within the academic year.
Dela Cruz outlined that the voluntary group will initially be placed under the Office of Counseling and Career Services (OCCS). To build up the group, initial plans were prepared to instate proper financing from the OCCS, to train its volunteers in scenarios needing mental health therapy, and to outline the group’s recruitment process.
Lim, on the other hand, disclosed that while the initial screening for the recruitment process will be handled by the OPRES, the final screening—which includes an assessment of the recruits’ psychological status—will be conducted by OCCS personnel.
Harms caused by the Rice Tariffication Law on farmers also became the focus of discussion in a manifesto produced before the Assembly. Proponents Nina Bermejo of EXCEL2020, Bill Dulay of FAST2016, Neal Gonzales of FAST2017, Urban Teh of BLAZE2020, and Robin Lim of BLAZE2021 cited detrimental effects against local farmers, who continue to struggle amid falling rice prices.
“We believe, as proponents, na hindi lang enough yung magkaroon ng statement, but rather, also an action to the stand,” Gonzales said, affirming the sentiments of legislators, who had also put forward their own ideas on how to aid local farmers.
(We believe, as proponents, that it is not enough to have a statement.)
Along with the final appointment of Chief Magistrate Officer in Charge (OIC) Clifford Martinez as Judiciary Magistrate, other resolutions were also discussed during the session, such as issues experienced by the COA. Kaela Alcoreza, the commission’s OIC Chair, noted periods when the COA laid dormant: in 2013, and again last year. To prevent such an event from happening again, Alcoreza pushed to add more provisions to the commission’s manual to ensure that a proper succession plan is ready for the next set of commissioners.
She also touched on a provision calling for the addition of a human resource team that will ensure that the succession process is carried out every year. Additionally, a publicity team is proposed to be in charge of communicating audits of the COA.
With the need for additional training and activities for the development of their members, a request to open a depository fund was also raised by Alcoreza. Being only equipped with an operational fund, Alcoreza stated, “I don’t think this will be enough to finance our activities.”
Discussion on COA revisions eventually led to talks of revisions in the role of the USG Batch Vice President. CATCH2T21 representative Jaime Pastor argued that the role of the Chief of Staff in the Batch Government overlapped with the functions of the Batch Vice President.
“We decided that we should make the Batch Vice President the de facto Chief of Staff of the batch government,” Pastor proposed.
He also surmised that the proposal addresses concerns raised by the LA that the role does not have enough responsibilities within the batch government. The planned revision would give a new set of rules and responsibilities to the Batch Vice President, including those of the Chief of Staff, according to Pastor. “By making the Batch Vice President the de facto Chief of Staff, we can resolve both problems at the same time,” he said.
The latter resolution was subsequently approved, while four LA representatives—Bermejo, Dulay, Teh, and Lim—opted to abstain.