The Legislative Assembly (LA), in its session last July 2, scrutinized the DLSU Commission on Elections (Comelec) in its inquiry into the issues encountered during the 2021 Make-up Elections (MUE) held last January.
The questioning was mostly led by the Tapat-dominated minority floor, which pressed the poll body on various matters, particularly on cases of missing login credentials for its online voting system and on supposed shortcomings in promoting awareness of the elections.
Minority Floor Leader Marts Madrelejos, who co-authored the resolution calling for the inquest, told The LaSallian that it was prompted by lapses observed in the last elections but maintained that such was not the focus. “It’s more of an evaluation of the processes and activities ng Comelec so that we can improve the next elections,” she added.
Present to answer the LA’s queries were several Comelec officials involved in the 2021 MUE, including then-Comelec Chairperson JC Ababan, then-ad hoc commissioners Vincent Magsalin, Josh Pascua, Jed Abalos, Eianna Tagalog, and then-membership committee head Bea Delos Reyes.
Missing login creds left some unable to vote
Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista President Martha Delos Santos testified that there were students who were unable to vote because they had not been given login credentials by the time the voting period for the MUE closed.
Ababan recounted that while voting was ongoing, the commission received around 2,254 reports of students who had no login details. Magsalin explained that most of these students were from ID 119 and ID 120 and that Comelec simply asked them to submit proof of enrollment so they could be given their credentials.
Ababan noted that the poll body “cannot simply act” on the reports they receive since they need to verify first whether or not the students are actually enrolled for the term. “In the elections, only enrolled undergraduate students are allowed to vote…That’s why we’ve asked for the EAF (enrollment assessment form) or the proof of payment for the term because we really need to ascertain if the students are enrolled,” he went on. This process, he said, takes a long time.
When asked why the voting period was not extended to accommodate students who had not received their login details earlier, Ababan reasoned that the Online Election Code—the law that governed the conduct of the MUE—only allowed the voting period to be extended if the voter turnout had not reached the minimum of 50 percent plus one.
Both Ababan and Magsalin, however, admitted that Comelec had shortcomings in the rollout of login credentials. “We do hope that these things can be fixed, can be rectified, or can be lessened, especially with the elections coming soon,” Magsalin avowed.
Ababan also asserted that given the circumstances, the commission did exhaust all means to allow all students to vote.
LA questions voter awareness, participation
Laguna Campus Student Government LA Representative Pauline Carandang brought up the results of a January survey by Ang Pahayagang Plaridel which reported that 51.4 percent of respondents were not aware of the MUE. EXCEL2022 LA Representative Aeneas Hernandez notioned that if only the remaining 48.6 percent voted, the election would have been invalid for not reaching the required minimum turnout. Following this, he asked, “Would you say that Comelec lacked in fulfilling its duty…of educating voters on the process in the USG elections as per the USG Constitution?”
Chief Legislator Giorgina Escoto, however, interjected, surmising that the figures earlier cited may have been the result of a “survey dissemination problem.” The MUE, in fact, actually ended with 60.02 percent of students voting—the highest since 2014.
Magsalin, who is currently the Comelec Chairperson, nonetheless maintained that Comelec will continue to hold the miting de avance and debate which, he said, will help students know the candidates and their platforms. He noted that Comelec has partnered with Student Media Groups (SMGs) to amplify the publicity of the MUE process. Utilizing the audience reach of SMGs in future elections, he reasoned, will help encourage more students to vote.
Magsalin also recognized the existence of election-related issues, such as cyberbullying and voter harassment, acknowledging that they were not able to educate students regarding such violations. To address this, he mentioned that Comelec has plans to partner with the LA’s Rules and Policies Committee to produce informative materials that will discuss how to identify reportable offenses.
Meanwhile, EXCEL2021 LA Representative Katkat Ignacio probed on these partnership plans, claiming that a partnership between Comelec and LA could be a “breach of the constitution” given that Comelec is an independent government body. Both Ababan and Magsalin asserted that this will not be the case since the partnership will remain nonpartisan and is only for information dissemination.
EDGE2020 chief of staff named VP
The body also named EDGE2020 Chief of Staff Julienne Gonzales as the new vice president for the batch after the post was vacated last week. She was appointed into her new seat with a unanimous vote of 22-0-0.
Among her plans for her term are to create systems that will receive academic concerns and grievances and to produce a webinar that will tackle how her batch government can create initiatives for out-of-school youth.