No strangers to the University Student Government (USG), Noel Gatchalian of Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon) and Shei De los Santos of Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (Tapat) offer experience and vision. Looking back on the trials and tribulations the Office of the Treasurer (OTREAS) have gone through in the past year, De los Santos and Gatchalian vie for the position and the chance to leave their own mark on the Lasallian community.
On their background
The LaSallian: How [has] your past experience in USG help (sic) prepare you for the role that you’re running for, which is executive treasurer?
Noel Gatchalian (Santugon): During my first year, I was an executive for my batch government. Then during my second year, I was appointed by the past executive treasurer, si Adi Briones, as one of the overall bazaar head (sic), wherein we raised 1.2 million for the scholarship grants and also for the advocacy projects…Then in my last year, I was appointed by the Vice President for External Affairs, [Ronin Leviste], as one of the director (sic) for external opportunities…All of these experiences that I have garnered [have] helped me today because it has taught me so much about being a leader
Shei De los Santos (Tapat): Honestly, I could say that all the technical experience I’ve had has helped me to where I am today…However, that would be, in my opinion, a very—kumbaga—boring answer…What really prepared me from my USG experience talaga is being able to immerse with the students because as OTREAS…My [for] technical knowledge of OTREAS, I would honestly say that it could do some improving…‘Yung technical knowledge, you can learn that along the way, you can study that in a week…But ‘yung actual experiences ng other people—that would drive you to really want to make a difference.
The LaSallian: Aside from USG work, what other factors do you think would make you a good fit for the job?
Gatchalian: Aside from my countless positions in the USG, I also believe that simply me being there for the students…has prepared me to [be] where I am today because these students are really important in my perspective because they’re the ones who run the University…All our projects depend on the student.
De los Santos: Honestly, it would be my personal experiences…personally experiencing…the struggle of not knowing if I could pay for this term or if I could pay for next term…It’s personally having a friend na…nagsa-struggle. Or it’s my org experience na ang hirap mag-process ng financial documents kasi grabe ‘yung bureaucracy…to be completely blunt…And it’s these factors that really helped me [to] not only want to run…but to really know the type of platforms that I’d be offering them (students).
On money matters
The LaSallian: What is your assessment of the current financial situation of student organizations and USG units in the current online setup?
De los Santos: Currently, the financial processes…[are] quite bureaucratic. Andaming projects ang hindi napu-push through because nagkakaroon ng trouble not only sa financial processes, but even sa processes sa documents…However, ngayon, in the online setup, it’s been almost impossible to access our funds…It’s been almost impossible to conduct fundraising events…This is why I want to change the financial process…to better it. Kasi andaming nasasayang na initiatives that could have benefited hundreds, if not thousands, of students kung wala lang ‘yung bureaucracy na meron ‘dun sa processes na ‘yun.
Gatchalian: When we were in a face-to-face setup…all the processes were actually really hard. Shei’s right…Procurement takes long; Accounting takes so long to reply…So in the current setup…it’s way harder…So if ever I am elected…I would want to be able to lobby, to have focus group discussions [and] survey the students…It’s time for all of us to step up and help the administration to show them what must be changed in the system.
The LaSallian: Since you agree that it has been difficult, do you have any plans on how to make it easier for the USG and student organizations to access their funds?
De los Santos: You have to know first what needs to be…improved…We figure out alternative solutions, we do our research, we look into the financial processes of other universities. How are they able to procure goods? Once we’ve gathered all the research…we can also get suggestions from the student body. We discuss it with the different student sectors…and then once it’s been approved by all student sectors, that’s when we lobby it to the admin.
Gatchalian: One of my plans, actually, is to be able to improve our modern University transaction (sic). As we can see, yes…we can pay online, we can pay through MLS. However, there’s still a lot of inefficiencies, there’s still a lot of backlogs. Some…are already having a hard time processing their payments…We must be able to talk to each one of the student sectors…It can’t just be in the perspective of people in the USG…it should be everyone.
The LaSallian: Recently, as part of the University’s digital transformation project BITUIN, they merged the Procurement Office with the Asset Management Office merged to form the Supply Chain Management Office…Given that the procurement process has been a challenge for student groups, how do you plan to coordinate with this new office?
De los Santos: First is we find out kung sino ba talaga dapat kausapin…We set a meeting to discuss with the Asset Management Office, and of course with Procurement as well…We have to get to know ano ba ‘yung mga binago nilang processes…This shouldn’t just be a meeting with the USG and them, this should also be a meeting with the different student sectors. Communication is essential with this…most times, you really need to set up…a digital meeting with those offices.
Gatchalian: As I stated a while ago, everything should center around the student body. So before I would set a meeting with these offices…I’ll first ask the student body, ‘How did this affect you? When [the] Procurement and the Asset Management Office merged…how did this affect your org’s processes?’…We should get the perspective of the students first, get to know the problem…I believe that’s the key to get to know the problem: know the perspective of your constituents.
The LaSallian: Do you think the USG as a whole is doing enough to be financially transparent to the student body? In what ways do you think you can be more transparent?
De los Santos: I…think the USG is doing a lot in terms of transparency…However, I personally na think we could do so much more…In terms of how much we’re actually spending…how much we’re releasing for the different scholarships…do we disclose that? We wouldn’t be able to answer that if we were regular students…We can actually release transparency reports per event, actual transparency reports per event. It’s my responsibility to be transparent kung saan ba talaga napupunta ‘yung pera dapat para sa kanila.
(It’s my responsibility to be transparent on where their money is going.)
Gatchalian: I believe that when we talk about transparency it’s all about information dissemination. I believe, yes, the USG has have a lot of efforts in the past to be able to be transparent…but similar to Shei, I believe that it is not enough…How are we gonna…disseminate information properly? Through our college and batch governments…[who] play a really important role in being able to disseminate information to our constituents…Rather than having termy transparency reports…I believe we should make it the responsibility also of the college presidents to disseminate their own transparency reports.
On financial support
The LaSallian: In the past years, OTREAS has provided some financial aid to students in the form of scholarship programs. How do you plan to improve upon these, especially since the pandemic has had a financial toll on many students?
Gatchalian: I would want to focus on sustainable financial assistance…Some students cannot attend their online classes because…they don’t have laptops…[or] they don’t have sufficient internet connectivity. I believe one of the roles of the USG is…to also provide these kinds of assistance, we have to answer to the call of the times…So together with our Office of the Vice President for External Affairs…we will be asking companies to fund these kinds of programs externally. I’ve seen that colleges have not been very consistent with giving out scholarship programs…so I believe that the solution of this is to communicate with the college presidents…to have at least two scholarship programs per college so that.
De los Santos: We have several scholarship programs. However, just like with Noel, I personally believe these aren’t enough…Because they are being offered in a termly basis…it doesn’t take into account the other needs of the students…We have to expand these…we have to coordinate with the different college presidents because hindi enough na OTREAS lang ‘yung maghahanap ng external scholarships…or sponsorships…from companies…It needs to be a collaborative effort.
Our scholarships shouldn’t just stop with financial grants, it should also fund the other needs of the students…We should always continue to ask ourselves, ‘What else can we provide to the student body?’