A special Legislative Assembly (LA) session was held last November 6 in the University Student Government (USG) Session Hall to continue discussions on amendments to the USG Constitution. This followed the previous sessions last October 18, where only one of two proposed amendments were passed, and October 25, where the only proposed revision was shelved.
The representatives were supposed to draft a resolution to approve the budget allocation of the USG. However, the discussion was dismissed as the budgets for the Judiciary Department (JD) and Commission on Audit were not yet ready.
Concerning the duties and responsibilities of the Office of the Secretary and the Office of the President, BLAZE 2020 LA Representative Urban Teh proposed three revisions to Article IX in the constitution, which deals with the responsibilities of the Executive Board (EB).
The first revision, in Section 1.9 of the aforementioned article, intended to shift the responsibility of creating term-end reports detailing the state of the student government from the President to the Executive Secretary. Teh reasoned that the creation of reports is an administrative job and must be given to the Executive Secretary, as the task is in line with their current duties.
The second revision put forward proposed a change in the wording of Section 1.10, which describes the USG President’s responsibility to monitor the performance of executive offices. Teh argued that “supervise” should replace “monitor”, pointing to the Philippine constitution. “Ang powers talaga ng [Philippine]President is concerned with supervision, and hindi talaga siya pwede mag-interfere with any affairs of local government units or other offices,” he explained.
(The power of the Philippine President is supervisory; he cannot interfere with the affairs of any local government units or other offices.)
The last revision hoped to divide the communication lines from the branches of the USG to the President: reports from officers in the Executive branch will go to the Executive Secretary, while reports from the LA and the JD will be received by the USG President.
USG President Lance Dela Cruz voiced his disagreement on whether the wording of the amendment is problematic. However, he agreed with the proposed changes for the Office of the Secretary, emphasizing that these changes should be in the Administrative Code rather than the constitution as he believes that it is a matter of practicality rather than principle.
However when legislators were questioned on whether incumbent Executive Secretary EJ Baillo had been informed of these changes, Teh admitted that he had yet to do so. Thus, all three revisions were laid on the table until Baillo could be consulted on these changes.
The LA also debated on the autonomy of college governments and the Laguna Campus Student Government. 73rd ENG LA Representative Alfonso Claros proposed that Article II, which dictates who can become members of the USG, should also include the students of the Laguna Campus, who, he argued, are also students of DLSU.
Some members objected, reasoning that this goes against the sentiments of the Laguna Campus student body for an independent student government. Chief Legislator Willem de Castro interjected, citing that if Article 1 of the Constitution was revised to allow the inclusion of the Laguna Campus as part of the seat of the USG, then the people of the Laguna Campus should also be considered eligible to become members of the USG. The objections were withdrawn and the amendment passed unanimously.
Teh also proposed an amendment to Article XI which will allow college governments to have greater “local autonomy”, such as allowing the implementation of college-specific projects without the need of the EB’s approval. “Who better knows the college itself or the needs of the college than the college student government?” he reasoned.
Despite concerns raised that granting colleges local autonomy would create conflict between the EB and the college governments, FAST2017 LA Representative Neal Gonzales agreed with the proposal, stating that the colleges are already acting independently in practice and that the amendment is simply updating the constitution to reflect that. But continued disagreement resulted in the amendment being shelved for a later date.
Another proposed amendment included changing the official titles of LA representatives from “Batch Legislative Assembly Representative” to “Batch Legislator”, but this was not voted upon by the assembly.
The LA is set to finalize the constitutional amendments on their next session on Friday, November 8.