OTREAS denies allegations of ‘unfair’ financial handouts

A self-identified whistleblower claims that OTREAS’ selection process for scholarships is biased toward students affiliated with the USG Treasurer’s political party.

Self-identified whistleblowers and other concerned anonymous students have been popping up on social media pages such as the DLSU Freedom Wall, questioning the standards of the selection process of scholarships handed out by the Office of the Treasurer (OTREAS).

The office has two types of scholarships: the Lasallian Scholarship Program (LSP), which is based on student needs; and the Achiever Scholarship Program (ASP), one that is based on student merit. For Term 2 of Academic Year 2021-2022, 25 students were given scholarships of various percentages for LSP. Meanwhile, OTREAS also gave 12 students roughly P16,000 under the ASP.

Under LSP, the only requirements are proof of financial situation and attached images of properties and assets. As for ASP, applicants only need to submit their cumulative grade point average, list of extracurricular involvements, and a recommendation letter from their professor and organization superior. Through a series of applications and interviews, it is the University Student Government’s (USG) OTREAS that determines who will receive their limited grants. 

Of careful deliberations, objective selection

Despite having similar processes, each scholarship grant is based on separate criteria. For both scholarship types, OTREAS’ screening process involves two phases. After the applicant submits the required documents to the committee, the first phase of the selection process is the paper-screening process where documents are thoroughly deliberated upon. Once applicants pass the screening, they are notified for an interview. This second phase allows the committee to know each applicant better and aids the office in their final deliberations. 

According to LSP Project Head Trisha Floreza, those invited to the second phase are one-third of the highest ranking applicants. She shares, “[We take] into consideration the budget allocated for scholarships, as well as whether or not the applicant would be able to sustain their education in DLSU in the long run.”  

USG Executive Treasurer Caleb Chua discloses that for ASP, the funds come from OTREAS’ fundraisers or donations, which means that grantees are limited to how much the budget can accommodate.

But besides these constraints, their office also partners up with groups for their grants. The grants’ criteria may then be influenced by the sponsors’ requests. For LSP, their partner—the DLSU Science Foundation, Inc.—advised OTREAS that they also need to prioritize applicants who are nearing their graduation. 

Ensuring fairness

The current OTREAS team assures that the process remains “as objective as possible” by implementing necessary revisions to the selection process and remaining cognizant of the current situation of students.

For instance, the Scholarships Committee directors—with the approval of the OTREAS Executive Board—introduced changes to the current term’s Lasallian Scholarship Program selection process, based on gaps observed during last term’s selection process. For Floreza, this exemplifies how the unit “tries to make everything as fair as possible.”

OTREAS Executive Director for Scholarships Ina Peñaflor also shares that since the start of their term, they have modified existing requirements for programs so that applicants can be graded more objectively and accurately. Her fellow project head, Jopha Hong, echoes this and emphasizes that the office will continue to refine these processes until the end of the term to serve the community better. 

Claims have ‘no factual basis’

Posts on the DLSU Freedom Wall contended that people who do receive the grants are actually financially able, even bringing up beneficiaries they supposedly know showing off expensive purchases and spendthrift lifestyles. More of these posts also claimed that “seemingly super-sided sa blue team ‘yung piniling grantees ng scholarships,” insinuating that the project heads are skewed toward giving the grants to members of Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon)—the party Chua ran under last General Elections.

All officials deny these accusations, not even having encountered these before, and maintain that the office always follows the stipulated rubrics for grading applicants set to ensure objectivity and fairness. Addressing the concerns of bias, Floreza shares that when an official in the office knows an applicant, they will be assigned to an applicant they have no relations with when reviewing applications and interviewing. This is affirmed by OTREAS Associate Director for Scholarships Katrina Dela Cruz, who says that this practice is done to further the process’ formality and objectivity. All officials also reiterate that the office is committed to nonpartisanship in the USG.

Chua furthers that the claim saying the office is biased to Santugon “does not really have factual basis.” While he understands that there are concerns on the processes the office carries out, he assures that his team wants to give back to the community and are always open to any suggestions from those who think that the program can be further improved.

For rejected applicant Alex* (I, AEF-BSA), OTREAS could be more transparent and specific with the decision-making process. Beyond the office’s open book publishing, they should also “enlighten rejected applicants why they were not chosen.” He believes it would be a show of their honesty and integrity, and would reassure failed applicants that the slots were “filled by the deserving ones.”

*Names with asterisks (*) are pseudonyms.

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