Legislators quarrel over students’ charter amendments, postpone PWD assistance fund

Members of the minority and majority floor were in a heated dispute during a Legislative Assembly (LA) session last August 20 over a lack of supposed consultation on proposed amendments to the Students’ Charter. Legislators had also postponed approving bills that called for relief measures for officers of the University Student Government (USG) and the establishment of a persons with disabilities (PWD) assistance fund. 

Disputes over representation

EXCEL2021 LA Representative Katkat Ignacio and EXCEL2022 LA Representative Aeneas Hernandez presented revisions to the Students’ Charter in the Student Handbook, which included changes to grievance procedures and the addition of new provisions in compliance with the new USG Constitution and recent University policies and programs. 

While the title of the bill was submitted for inclusion into the agenda as early as last Wednesday, the amount of amendments to the charter convinced Chief Legislator Giorgina Escoto to propose a recess to give other representatives ample time to review the bill. 75th ENG LA Representative Vera Espino initially suggested laying the bill on the table due to time constraints, but Hernandez rebutted that the proponents have already consulted with various offices and that the approval of the bill is an urgent matter given that the Student Handbook was already approved.

Despite obtaining assurance from USG President Maegan Ragudo that the proposed changes were recommended by the Student Handbook Revisions Committee, a heated debate ensued between LA representatives, with legislators from the majority floor raising doubts on whether the amendments were properly consulted with other elected officers. 

BLAZE2023 LA Representative Bryan Reyes queried the proponents if the batch presidents were included in the focus group discussions (FGD) during the Convention of Leaders (COLE). Ragudo, who was invited to the session, clarified that attendees of previous FGDs were only college presidents, LA floor leaders, the Chief Legislator, and the Judiciary. Batch presidents, she added, will be invited to the next FGD.

FAST2019 LA Representative Lara Jomalesa also inquired if the new changes were again presented to COLE, to which USG Office of the President Students’ Rights and Welfare Director Jasmine Paras responded that they have not as the previous FGD was solely intended to serve as a way to identify deficiencies in the current University policies.

After an extensive discussion on whether the Students’ Charter was properly consulted and a drawn out review of each paragraph of the bill, the LA representatives finally reached a compromise to lay the bill on the table to ensure that all elected officers are given ample time to review the changes and provide suggestions before a planned special session. 

PWD assistance fund

In coordination with the Office of the Treasurer (OTREAS), proponents presented a bill that would allocate at least five percent of the USG’s funds to disabled students taking vocational, technical, or degree courses, in compliance with the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons under Republic Act No. 7277. 

FOCUS2019 LA Representative Macky Vjuan defined bonafide persons with disabilities as individuals with “psychosocial, chronic illness, learning, mental, visual, orthopedic, speech and hearing conditions,” citing relevant laws and an administrative order from the National Council on Disability Affairs. Moreover, individuals that are classified as PWDs include, but are not limited to, those who are on dialysis, have cardiac disorders, severe cancer cases, among others.

USG Executive Treasurer Noel Gatchalian, who was invited to the session, mentioned that the structure of allocating the PWD assistance fund will be consulted with the Office of Student Leadership Involvement, Formation and Empowerment yearly. The fund, he further explained, will only be executed by OTREAS as the office already handles assistance grants for the student body and will be approved by the LA’s Students’ Rights and Welfare committee. 

After a few amendments, the body decided to lay the bill on the table and pass it together with the Student Charter Bill in a special session. 

COPR established

While concerns were raised in the previous session regarding mandating the establishment of a Council of Program Representatives (COPR), Reyes explained that the amended bill now includes a clause subjecting the creation of the COPR by the Batch Government Executive Board to approval from their respective college president. However, Hernandez suggested revising the bill to instead inform the college president rather than seek approval as a way to respect the autonomy of the batch government.

After motioning for a primary amendment to reflect the suggestion, the bill was finally approved with 23 votes in favor and one abstain. 

Orville Apostol

By Orville Apostol

Michele Gelvoleo

By Michele Gelvoleo

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