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General Elections University

Make-up Elections 2021 end in split; charter revisions finally ratified

Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon) was able to seize a slim majority stake in the University Student Government (USG) in Make-up Elections 2021, an unusual outcome for the USG which for years had always been dominated by one of the two parties. The elections also marked a reversal of fortune for Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (Tapat), who made a spectacular comeback in 2019 after they obtained their first majority win in the USG’s decade-long history. 

Overall, Santugon managed to win 41 seats, while Tapat only bagged 39, including four key positions in the Laguna Campus.

At the highest level, Tapat nearly swept the Executive Board positions, with the exception of the Executive Treasurer, which was won by Noel Gatchalian. Santugon, meanwhile, regained hold over the college president seats, losing only for the College of Science (COS) and School of Economics (SOE) which were bagged by Renee Formoso and Zane Kekenusa, respectively. 

This year’s historic polls saw 8,245 students, or 60.02 percent of the undergraduate population, cast their vote on an automated voting system in an election season held completely online for the very first time. The overall turnout has been the highest in any general election since 2014, when the final result was at 62.05 percent.

The elections had also proven to be a pivotal moment for the USG Constitution, as 7,541 students, or 91.45 percent of all the voters, said they were in favor of the amendments, which have been under discussion since 2019. This is the first time that the charter will be amended since its ratification in 2009 and after student leaders previously attempted a plebiscite in 2014 that ended with an 8.49 percent turnout.

By the numbers

Tapat remains popular among ID 118 students; of the 19 seats, Tapat swept 14, failing only to secure two seats in the Gokongwei College of Engineering (GCOE) and three seats in the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business (RVRCOB)—a similar outcome to that of General Elections 2019.

But younger batches seem to prefer Santugon which had also been the case in Special Elections 2019. The party scored 12 out of 19 seats among ID 119 students, and 15 out of 21 seats among the ID 120.

Santugon also currently controls a slight majority in the Legislative Assembly (LA), winning 11 over Tapat’s nine, but this may still change as 11 positions in the batch government, six of which are for LA representatives, are still left unfilled.

The University’s three most populous colleges—RVRCOB, GCOE, and the College of Liberal Arts—are now largely dominated by Santugon, while COS and SOE are still Tapat strongholds.

The Laguna Campus seats, meanwhile, were swept by Tapat candidates who ran unopposed. The campus treasurer and four college representative positions are still vacant.

Not without drama

The elections saw both political parties and the DLSU Commission on Elections (Comelec) face a barrage of controversies and technical setbacks that seemed to threaten the success of the polls.

Tapat was slapped with a one-day campaign suspension for failing to submit requirements, while two of its BLAZE2022 candidates had challenged Comelec’s decision to declare their candidacy “incompletely filed”, leading the Judiciary to suspend campaign and elections for the affected BLAZE2022 seats until the case is resolved. 

The two petitioners were later issued a show-cause order by the court after clips were found on Instagram that showed them allegedly promoting Tapat, violating the writ of preliminary injunction they themselves requested. As of press time, the Judiciary has not issued a verdict.

Candidates had also received intense criticism online: Santugon’s standard bearer was castigated by some students for supporting charter change, while a Tapat batch president candidate publicly apologized after posting a meme on Instagram that appeared to show his face superimposed on an iconic image of former president Ferdinand Marcos while asking people to vote. Neither candidate won the position they ran for.

Comelec, meanwhile, dealt with issues in the automated voting system stemming from email sending limits that complicated the distribution of login credentials and voting receipts, leading to multiple delays and reschedules. The poll body would resolve this problem by coursing the bulk emails through Mailjet, an external email delivery system.

By Frank Santiago

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