For the past two terms, the quarantine measures put in place due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have kept the campus closed from students, impacting many scheduled University-wide activities. The annual University Student Government (USG) General Elections (GE), an event normally held every third term of the Academic Year (AY), had been postponed because of these developments. As new officers were not voted into office, some incumbent USG officers had to extend their terms under a holdover period for Term 1 of AY 2020-2021.
In two emergency sessions last October, the Legislative Assembly (LA) processed several resignation filings from elected officials who have either completed their degree programs or had other responsibilities that they had to attend to. In their place, interim officers in charge (OIC) were assigned to helm the vacated posts.
With the holdover period, incumbent USG officers are given additional time to launch new projects or continue those they have already implemented in the past AY.
USG President Lance Dela Cruz, who is extending his term, points out that as student leaders, they have a commitment to represent the students. Calls for online learning policy reforms and a zero percent tuition fee increase—initiatives that he and his office have undertaken in the past AY—will continue to be among his priorities.
Meanwhile, USG Vice President for External Affairs Ronin Leviste says he intends to provide more external opportunities to students, adding that his office has been working with various organizations and local government units to ensure that Lasallians play a role in “rebuilding our nation.”
For Gokongwei College of Engineering President Madeleine Tsai, it is important that continued service is given to the student body. “I think we always have to go back to the roots of why we have to do this, who are we looking into, and what is the need of the students,” she expresses, noting that she plans to continue improving student services within her college.
School of Economics President Lizelle Cruz, on the other hand, shares that her main goal for the remaining period is to “ensure that we can provide as much support as we can to the students’ online learning environment.”
Replacement of officers
While some officers have opted to stay in their roles, others have instead stepped down, turning over their duties to their chosen replacements. Former Executive Secretary Earl Joseph Baillo, who had resigned in October after completing his undergraduate degree, tells The LaSallian that he and Annika Silangcruz, his former chief of staff who has assumed his role, have discussed plans to conduct a constitutional plebiscite campaign. The plebiscite, which was originally planned to be held alongside the 2020 GE, had been postponed earlier this year.
Former College of Liberal Arts President Jose Antonio Felipe, meanwhile, shares that his decision to appoint Michelle Orbeta, his former chief of staff, was a “no brainer” because of their past work history. “I guess at the start we were kind of like, ‘I’m not so comfortable just leaving it or assigning [to] just anyone,’” he recounts. “I asked Michelle [that] when I do graduate, ‘[do] you think you’ll be comfortable being my OIC?’”
Meanwhile, Lyka Samson, the interim Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business President, shares that the responsibility of managing one of the largest colleges in DLSU was a major factor she had to consider before accepting the offer. “We are the bridge between the student and the [administrators] and [faculty]. So, I had to make sure to be able to relay the concerns of the students to the administration,” she explains.
Fearing that some students might worry about the multiple turnovers disrupting the overall operations of the USG, Orbeta reassures, “We just want the students to know that even though we have our transition, we’ll still be working to our best abilities to provide the services they need.”
Make-up elections plans
With the possibility of the current term still being held entirely online, the DLSU Commission on Elections (Comelec) has made preparations to hold the upcoming elections online as well, partnering with the La Salle Computer Society (LSCS) and the User Experience Society-DLSU (UXSoc-DLSU) to develop an automated voting system.
DLSU Comelec Chairperson John Christian Ababan reveals that the system would be hosted on a regular website accessible only during the voting period.
Students will be granted login credentials through their DLSU email, ensuring that they can only cast their vote once. A confirmation receipt will also be provided as proof that they have voted.
The new voting process was also formalized in the Online Election Code, which was approved by the Legislative Assembly last November 6. DLSU Comelec is also exploring whether it is possible for events such as the debate and miting de avance to be conducted over Zoom or Google Meet.
An entirely online election, however, poses new challenges for the commission. Unlike previous elections, monitoring campaign violations on social media will be difficult, Ababan admits, as internet connectivity issues and technical difficulties are also more likely to occur during the whole election process.
Nevertheless, he maintains that the polls must push through this Term 1 as “further postponing the elections will be detrimental to the USG.”