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Ten Questions: Escoto details student-centered plans for USG

As Escoto assumes the USG presidency, she shares her plans on policies that aim to empower students.

The upcoming 2022 national elections and possible resumption of face-to-face classes both place heavy responsibilities on the new set of University Student Government (USG) officers led by USG President Giorgina Escoto. 

Planning to ensure “proper” student representation, Escoto shares her plans that she says are rooted in her leadership experiences and ideals. 

How did your past experiences in the USG influence your decision to run for an executive position?

I’d have to take inspiration from the previous presidents before me, Lance and Maegan, the two most recent presidents who both came from the legislative branch before serving as members of the Executive Board for the administrations. I think that serving in the Legislative Assembly (LA) trained me for the position of being president. I owe a lot of who I am through being an LA Representative. After all, it was a position that really allowed me to listen to the members of the student body and directly fight for their rights and welfare through legislation. 

How were you able to build your leadership ideals?

Early on in life, I was always able to rise to the occasion. I think I was also blessed to be in a very progressive environment, which allowed me to [adopt] different principles and [explore] different perspectives, not only at home, but also in the educational institutions that I attended. 

The woman that inspires me the most is the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg—a feminist icon and a champion for women’s rights, and many other marginalized groups. Her life’s work encouraged me to pursue positions that are stereotypically and traditionally reserved for men. Closer to home naman, opposition leaders during the Martial Law era in the Philippines solidified my interest in being a leader for national causes such as Lorenzo Tañada, Ka Pepe Diokno, and Jovito Salonga.

What roles do you play as Sagip Kapwa Associate Director and as former Kilos Ko Youth Director of Resources? How do these organizations fulfill your personal advocacies?

I co-founded Sagip Kapwa with my friends back in the year 2020 as a response to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The very first project we [had] was a donation drive that funded PPE for healthcare workers.  It moved on to different causes such as responding to calamities and natural disasters after that, and we intend on establishing the organization for this year. 

Meanwhile naman in Kilos Ko Youth, even if I only spent a few months in that position, I was able to handle more of its financial and logistical arms.

Both of these organizations allowed me to work on my advocacies outside of the University. And it’s, I think, a reminder that there are also battles to be won outside [DLSU].

What plans does the USG have in terms of promoting voter’s education and keeping the student body well-informed in preparation for #Halalan2022?

We plan on launching Lasalyano Para sa 2022, together with Boto Lasalyano, Sulong Pilipino (BLSP)…a coverage of the national elections next year. All the information to be released by the USG [undergoes] naman a series of fact checking that we can so that we can ensure that what we put out there is really the truth. We will be presenting our plans to the Committee on National Issues and Concerns soon. But we really want to highlight the possibility of candidate debates, interuniversity dialogues, and policy watch teams. So it’s really a coordination between the USG, BLSP, and other student sectors.

Do you think political party issues from the last General Elections (GE) will affect the way you work with USG officers who were not in the same political party as you? 

I have been participating in USG elections since I was a frosh and I have worked with people from both parties and [with] students who are also non-partisan. I have experienced no issues now, even back then as chief legislator, and wala talagang issues because I think we have one goal and that is to serve in the USG. 

What other measures do you have in mind to succeed in enhancing student representation?

Aside from being in the Convention of Leaders, I have made it a priority to build a strong relationship with all the student groups and organizations in the University. Open communication between the USG and these organizations is, I think, of paramount importance, which is why I plan on launching the Lasallian research communication hub. 

Our vision for the USG is really founded upon being aware of the everyday experiences of the student body, which is why we will set up a mechanism for reaching out to them, getting feedback [from them], and providing policies and projects [to them, which will be based on] the data that we will gather. 

With regard to the Student Sector Agenda, what steps will you take to ensure its success?

The Student Sector Agenda is policy-based and will run in pursuit of the Executive Board thrusts, namely proactive student welfare, inclusive student representation, and progressive student empowerment. Under the Student Sector Agenda, I plan on working on policies centered on [a] safe and inclusive DLSU, [on] academics, and [on student involvement in] national civic affairs.

My priority right now is tackling safe spaces in the University and revising academic policies [that should] take into consideration the circumstances of the students. For safe spaces, for the first [few] weeks of the academic year, we’ve been receiving a lot of issues from the students na nami-misgender sila, iba ‘yung pronouns na nagagamit and this is very traumatizing for them. So I’m really working on that with the Lasallian Center for Inclusion, Diversity, and Well-being and the Office of Student Affairs.

What is the difference of Lasallian REACH from what batch units do in terms of checking in on constituents’ well-being? How would this be able to retrieve similar information from the student body? 

Our USG must work together…to ensure that we’re always in pursuit of our unified vision for the student body. So for Lasallian REACH, we intend to partner up with the college and batch governments in the implementation, not only [of] that project, but in everything. [Collecting] information from the student body [will be done by] batch representatives kasi [they] are evidently closer to their batchmates, [which will make] data [gathering] easier. 

What are your plans for #LigtasNaBalikEskwela? Has your stance on it since the GE changed?

I remain firm in my stance. Right from the beginning, my Executive Board and I have always been for the gradual resumption of face-to-face classes, so long as we can do it safely. Our priority is the health and well-being of not only our students, but [of] their families as well in the event na we go back to campus and we will have to travel back and forth to our homes. I have been working with the policy team [of USG] on a revised proposal for #LigtasNaBalikEskwela, [considering] the unpredictable national situation and the guidelines set forth by the Commission on Higher Education and the DLSU administration. 

What programs or projects would you like to continue from your predecessor and what steps will you take to successfully carry them out?

I would like to continue [the] student census. It’s a mechanism talaga to get data from the students and I want to improve it further by ensuring that lahat ng phases ng student life cycle, we will be able to tackle…I think it will really be helpful if we’re able to revise some of the content of the student census…mas comprehensive siya without the risk of students being bored of answering it kasi it’s kind of a long document. 

So previously, there was the Anti-Red tagging policy. In the proposal level, I think that it’s very good when it comes to tackling internal threats of red tagging in the University but I think that my policy would also like to expand on that and also explore on proactively acting upon the external threats that students receive, possibly in the future, lalo na’t papunta na tayo sa 2022 national elections.

And…‘yung pinaka-important na talaga I think is #LigtasNaBalikEskwela. Priority talaga [is] getting the students back [on] campus safely…So we will try to make the learning environment accessible even during the high flex and blend flex period and for the post-pandemic period. 

By Michele Gelvoleo

By Barbara Gutierrez

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