General Elections University

Head to Head: Standard bearers Calvin Almazan, Giorgina Escoto plan to bring ‘steadfast’, ‘genuine’ leadership to OPRES

Facing off for the role of University Student Government (USG) President are Office of the President (OPRES) Chief Policy Adviser Calvin Almazan from Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (Tapat) and Chief Legislator Giorgina Escoto from Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon). Experienced leaders inside and outside the University, Escoto highlights how she intends to enhance student representation through data-driven approaches, while Almazan reveals how he plans to fight for pro-student policies.

The LaSallian: How has your past leadership experience, both inside and outside DLSU, helped prepare you for the presidency?

Calvin Almazan (Tapat): Two years of being under OPRES…has taught me…how OPRES has worked and…how urgent policies under OPRES need to be acted upon 

In terms of my external experience…I am an activist. I’m currently the Deputy Secretary General of the National Union of Students of the Philippines and this has taught me diplomacy…It taught me how to be professional…I know how student councils should act and…respond to issues.

Giorgina Escoto (Santugon): My very first job in the USG is actually under OPRES. I was an Executive for National Affairs, and then a few months later, I was elected as the Legislative Assembly (LA) Representative of BLAZE2022. I was elected twice, and I am currently the incumbent Chief Legislator of the LA…I remember working on the mental health and safe spaces advocacies of OPRES…As an LA and Chief Legislator, doon talaga dumating ‘yung listening to the needs of the students.

In terms of external experiences, I’m currently the Associate Director of Sagip Kapwa, an organization that is focused on charity…I’m also the former Director for Resources of Kilos Ko Youth Organization under Sen. Francis Pangilinan…

The LaSallian: Are there any leaders that you look up to as role models? How have they impacted your leadership philosophy?

Escoto: I’ve always been a supporter of ideals and values rather than personalities…I really want to ensure that I make an educated vote…When I get asked who has influenced my leadership style, it’s always been my dad because he’s always shown me genuine leadership that will always listen to the people that I serve. Very pro-people, and not pro-interest. I believe in people who uphold democracy, equality, justice, and will protect human rights all the time.

Almazan: If I look [for] a person who I really look up to, it’s actually Cong. Sarah Elago…She’s one of the youngest youth representatives in Congress…but one of the most progressive. Despite all the odds…she’s steadfast with her goals, pushing the interest [of] the youth [and] students’ rights and welfare. That’s the leader I want to be. I want to be steadfast, uncompromising toward the policies that I will be pushing for. 

The LaSallian: Is there any political figure, regardless of whether or not they have expressed interest in running for president, that you would want to support in the 2022 national elections? And why that person specifically? 

Almazan: Personally, ako as of the moment, wala pa. What I look into in presidential candidates are their platforms and not the person who is running…We don’t want to look back na, “Okay, we supported this person,” but noong siya na ‘yung tumatakbo, iba pala ‘yung platforms na hawak niya…I would decide once the candidates are there and once the platforms are there because it should always be platform over personality.

Escoto: Since no one has filed for candidacy yet, I cannot say who I’m willing to support…I agree a platform is always the priority rather than the popularity of names or the people who are currently in talks of running, because we don’t know what they can offer to the table, we don’t know what their advocacies are…I will stick with believing in ideals and values and whether or not they’re really for the Filipino people.

The LaSallian: As the main representative of the student body, what policies and programs will you prioritize to promote student welfare?

Escoto: I have a flagship program called the Student Sector Agenda, which really tackles representation, welfare, and citizenry…We want to push for a safe and inclusive DLSU…Gusto ko maging safe mga estudyante with cybersecurity, the threats of online bullying, and inclusivity. I want to address inclusivity for…the LGBTQ+ community, and also those who are experiencing distress. 

I really want to focus on an agenda that will prioritize the welfare of the students inside the University…We will do this by making the constituency checks personal…I would want as president to really learn about the everyday experiences of the Lasallians so that we would be proactively making a response, solutions to their issues.

Almazan: What I will focus on would be our policies regarding education…We want to [make] education more accessible to them (students) and…basically supporting our students who have COVID-19 problems, so we want to push for a COVID-19 fund as well…We want to push for more pro-student policies that [are] more compassionate and student-centered. We’d want to push for the availability of COVID-19-afflicted students to push for a LOA (leave of absence)…plus a refund in their tuition fees. 

One thing that is very integral in our campaign…is pushing for observer status in the Academics Council. In recent years, we have seen how the USG has pushed for numerous policies to the Academics Council…What we want is to have our foot inside the conference hall…to expedite our process in academic policies…We want to push for a campaign to ready our students for the gradual reopening of classes. So this encompasses reinforcing our vaccination plans in DLSU [and] proposing a blueprint of how it will look when we go back to DLSU. 

The LaSallian: Issues around online learning, such as connectivity concerns and a perceived lesser quality of education, have remained for students and faculty alike. How will you address these should you become USG President?

Escoto: One thing that I would want to prioritize is enhanced student sector representation. And that includes reviewing all of the decision-making bodies in the University, such as the different councils like the Multi-Sectoral [Consultative Committee on Tuition and Fees] and [the] Academics Council. And so when dealing with the online learning environment, I really want to cultivate a safe and inclusive one…I do understand the plight of the students when it comes to dealing with their classes. 

I want to lobby for the standardization of online learning protocols. We will be working with the Vice Chancellor for Academics in prioritizing a set of policies which can help students and professors…And this will include the academic easing policies, professional etiquette, the process for absences or tardiness, and the situation [and] circumstances of the students.

Almazan: I think one thing that I didn’t mention kanina was to enhance our student services with regards to concerns that really affect student life in general…What we want to have in our enlistment and enrollment concerns is a streamlined student concerns process na direct na dapat yung contacting ng University [and] administration kapag the USG will be lobbying for that avenue that the students will have to the University. 

This is why we’d want to lobby for the Concierge Project…If students would want to contact University offices, doon sa concierge nalang sila cocontact. Hindi na nila kailangan dumaan sa USG…Another perspective that I want to add is that my presidency…would always look at the grassroots approach, solving problems from the root causes…So we would want to…talk to the administration…for better University services [and] processes so that malessen yung problems natin with regards to concerns.

The LaSallian: What approach will you take in lobbying for pro-student proposals like academic break or a zero percent TFI (tuition fee increase) given that the DLSU administration’s reception has been lukewarm toward the USG’s recent efforts?

Escoto: One of my platforms…is lobbying for the Lasallian Research and Communication Hub (Lasallian REACH). This will be the main platform…to learn about the personal and everyday experiences of the student body…So hindi lang tayo basta-basta magrelease ng mga survey or constituency checks…We will not only be able to cater to their needs when it comes to academic breaks, typhoons, or calamities, but we will also be dealing or hearing about the problems when it comes to enlistment, enrollment, and tuition…We will be able to really lobby for an issue-based USG…as well as a data-driven policy-making mechanism.

Almazan: I’d be having three approaches: a data-driven approach, a steadfast pro-student approach, and an approach that is open to collaboration with those who want to work with us. In terms of a data-driven approach, I think the past two USGs…have been maximizing our efforts…by letting out surveys or conducting FGDs. This is something that I would want to carry on…Next, [a] steadfast pro-student [approach]…What I want to do here is have a USG that doesn’t give compromises because at the end of the day…We have to fight for what the student body deserves and what the student body needs…Lastly, open to collaboration…One of our platforms is actually called the grassroots movement…What we want here is to collaborate with more organizations to come up with the best policies…For example, one issue that kinakaharap ng student organizations right now is sa MOA (memorandum of agreement)…These are things that we can also tackle through collaboration.

The LaSallian: Given that the holdover term last year shortened the past administration’s stint in office, are there any initiatives from your predecessor that you would want to continue?

Almazan: As someone who’s working under OPRES right now as Maegan’s (Ragudo) Chief Policy Adviser, the policies that I’d want to continue would be the Educational Recovery Plan…Isa din sa campaign natin this USG presidency would be the gradual resumption of face-to-face classes for courses that need [it] the most….We’d want to…develop it into tangible protocols [na] susundan ng isang Lasalyano if ever man mangyayari ang gradual resumption of [face-to-face] classes.

Escoto: I’m really an advocate for sustainability and continuation of projects para the students will feel that the USG has stability…I really commend incumbent president Maegan Ragudo for really pushing for the Student Census…It will really give light to what policies and programs should be advocated for and lobbied for. And so I would want to continue these kinds of initiatives…I know that the incumbent president has looked forward to the future of Lasallian education. And this is something that I want to continue.

Frank Santiago

By Frank Santiago

Dustin Albert Sy

By Dustin Albert Sy

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