In a Legislative Assembly (LA) session on September 11 last year, representatives unanimously passed a resolution calling for the establishment of the Office of the Chief Legislator (OCL). The new office is meant to aid the LA head in exercising their duties and responsibilities as well as giving more autonomy and transparency over the LA’s responsibilities.
As a result, the OCL was also included in the charter changes that were ratified in the plebiscite last February. In conjunction with the rest of the University Student Government (USG), the office held its first recruitment last March and has now filled its ranks with new members.
As the office enters its second month of operation, projects such as LA Connect and LA Gazette are underway, while plans and policies related to the LA Vault and LA Journal are also in the pipeline.
Committees aiding the OCL
In past years, the administrative matters of the LA were handled by the Office of the Executive Secretary (OSEC). Now, these tasks will be transferred to the OCL, granting the LA independence over matters such as the transparency and management of resolutions, manifestos, and other responsibilities.
The approved resolution called for the formation of two committees: the Legislative Secretariat and the Legislative Publications. The Legislative Secretariat is in charge of maintaining the LA Journal and LA Vault, freeing up legislators to use their time “more efficiently and effectively as a branch of the USG,” Escoto reasons.
The LA Journal currently serves as the official record of LA sessions, resolutions that were deliberated on, and other files related to past, present, and future LAs. The journal will ensure that documentation on legislative affairs is available to USG officers and students, while also serving as a reference for future legislators to improve existing laws and avoid drafting redundant measures.
Meanwhile, the Legislative Publications team is assigned to publicize all approved manifestos, open letters, statements, transparency reports, and all other documents on the LA’s official social media accounts.
While the original resolution only stipulated two committees, Escoto added two more committees under her remit: the College Legislative Correspondents Committee and the Programs and Initiatives Committee. Adding both committees was necessary, she explains, as the initial resolution “was not able to consider LA project management and college policy fast-tracking.”
The College Legislative Correspondents are tasked with collaborating with the Chief Legislator and the LA representatives of their home college in providing policy reports and aiding in the revitalization of the college legislative boards.
The Programs and Initiatives Committee, on the other hand, was only formed after the Student Government Annual Recruitment. The committee was created to take the LA “beyond policy-making in terms of creating projects and initiatives that cater to different sectors” and was expected to prepare activity requirements required by the Department of Activity Approval and Monitoring and the Office of Student Leadership Involvement, Formation, and Empowerment for initiatives under OCL and LA representatives.
Student awareness, transparency
Before the creation of the OCL, Escoto saw the need to reform how legislative affairs were communicated to the student body so students would be made aware of policies. In her aim to revamp the USG LA Public Information Office, the OCL has so far launched LA Connect, a weekly video series, and LA Gazette, a monthly publication, both of which summarize the policies and resolutions adopted by the LA.
“Additionally, we are planning projects that will be presented by the first OCL in coordination with the LA Committees that address national and sectoral affairs,” she says.
The office will also be coordinating with the LA Committees to “address national and sectoral affairs” by partnering with internal and external organizations. Plans for next term include events on environmental awareness and voter education.
Planned revisions to the LA Manual this June will also include measures on the increased usage of the LA Vault and LA Journal. “With the inclusion of these (revisions) and with the help from the OCL’s Legislative Secretariat, we will ensure that they (LA Vault and LA Journal) are utilized well,” she assures.
She elaborates that measures such as a strict routine and timeline for updating both the vault and the journal will be implemented to “institutionalize proper record keeping.” Additionally, the Chief Legislator, LA Inner Circle, and the Legislative Secretariat will also share the responsibility of keeping the LA Journal and LA Vault up to date.
Changes are also planned in the process of accessing information in the journal. Originally, the resolution called for a request system via Google Form for students. However, Escoto explains that they are currently looking into the use of Messenger bots and a website for the LA to allow students “to review policies and initiatives with just a few clicks.”