Without a complete set of officers, both the Judiciary and the Commission on Audit (COA) of the University Student Government (USG) saw hindrances to their operations last academic year (AY).
Despite a lack of magistrates, the Judiciary was still able to operate. However, its inability to reach a quorum incapacitated the judicial body, according to former Chief Legislator Stella Santos. Recently appointed Chief Magistrate Clifford Martinez also agreed to this sentiment in a previous article by The LaSallian. Meanwhile, COA was inactive due to having no appointed officers last AY.
Last October 23, the Legislative Assembly appointed new magistrates to the Judiciary—Andre Miranda (II, BSLGL), Rafael Peña (IV, AB-ISE), and Ding Bayeta IV (II, CPE)—and a new chairperson for COA, Maria Kaela Alcoreza (V, AB-PLM), to formally fill the gaps in both offices.
After a prolonged period of dormancy, both units, along with their newly instated officials share that they are now ready to rebuild and reintroduce themselves to the student body with a new set of plans and initiatives.
Alcoreza discloses that the main challenge of COA last year was maintaining enough staff members. She mentions, “COA being low on members has been a recurring problem throughout the years.”
COA had no appointed officers since the second term of AY 2018-2019 and examination results for commissioner applicants were never released that same AY. Alcoreza reveals that COA had to reintroduce itself to different USG units and the Office of Student Leadership, Involvement, Formation and Empowerment. “In the midst of all the changes we want to make, it is also important to establish strong foundations with people you will work with, whether it be inside and outside the unit,” Alcoreza states, emphasizing the need to form connections with USG units.
Meanwhile, Peña, one of the newly appointed magistrates, elaborates that the Judiciary branch experienced similar problems with a lack of members to carry out departmental tasks.
Early this AY, Judiciary members revealed that the vacant magistrate seats were the result of delays in conducting interviews for magistrate applicants, a procedure mandated by the USG Constitution. As previously reported by The LaSallian, members of the Executive Committee, who are in charge of interviewing the applicants, allegedly repeatedly postponed these interviews.
Former Judicial Secretary Joshua Castro believes that the branch developed strained relationships with other USG sectors in the aftermath of former Arts College Government Student Services Chair Angeli Andan’s impeachment case. Andan, who was found guilty of gross negligence, was barred from holding office and was ineligible to hold her position as Vice President for Internal Affairs, a position she won during General Elections 2018.
Setting an ‘identity’
College of Liberal Arts Auditor Xyrelle Tejoso shares that COA’s rebuilding process is challenging because most of its members are fresh recruits. Despite this, both COA and Judiciary are currently taking steps to improve its image within the University. Alcoreza notes that a Publicity team is now part of COA to help the branch build up its communication platforms for the student body. “With the rising concern for transparency, we believe that improving our media reach is important,” Alcoreza affirms.
Peña, on the other hand, outlines a similar strategy for the Judiciary and plans to “strengthen its position in the USG” by having more publicity materials and public trainings for council officers and magistrates.
Sharing the same sentiments with Peña, new Judicial Administrator Franz Valdez says it is necessary for the Judiciary to initiate programs and activities, such as awareness campaigns happening concurrently with the branch’s 10th anniversary. “[The anniversary is] also an opportunity for us to recruit individuals who share the same goal,” he acknowledges.
Moreover, changes in audit practices will be strictly observed this AY. “COA will be implementing surprise inspections on activities and student feedback surveys hopefully by next term,” Alcoreza reveals. The commission hopes that these changes will push USG officers to be more mindful and accountable for all the financial transactions made under their unit. A missing signature or lost document can have big ramifications for USG units following COA’s strict implementation, emphasizes Alcoreza.
Alcoreza recognizes that COA’s absence last AY could cause tension between the commission and other USG units, especially when it comes to complying with the commission’s requirements on financial statements. With this in mind, she explains that COA is doing its best to educate and respond to questions from USG units. “Mahirap lang talaga kasi medyo madetalye yung pag-prepare ng [financial] statements, especially kapag madaming labas or pasok ng pera,” she shares.
(It is difficult because a lot of details need to be taken into account when preparing financial statements, especially when a lot of money goes in or out.)
To prevent an undermanned Judiciary, Peña shares that he plans to assist in fielding new members and magistrates, even if this is his last academic term. He reveals that if approved by its relevant officers, the Judiciary plans to recruit new members before the term ends and at the same time seek help from alumni to assist in trainings.
With both the COA and the Judiciary undergoing restoration efforts, the familiar issue of membership must be resolved to ensure a fully-functional USG. As the new officials share their plans and initiatives, it remains to be seen whether or not these will address the current challenges and visibly strengthen the position of both offices within the USG.