With the 2022 Make-Up Elections nearing its cusp, students at DLSU are likely to notice that the political culture on campus mimics that of Philippine politics. The mudslinging, whisper campaigning, sexual assault allegations, corruption, poor takes, rumor-spreading, flawed electoral system, and the overall negative campaigning—controversies from both political parties Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (Tapat) and Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon)—have been commonplace for the past few years.
On bothersome campaign concerns
Voter harassment has been a recurring concern for students every University Student Government (USG) election. For instance in the 2021 Make-Up Elections, The LaSallian previously reported the concern of a student who recalled one of the political parties making her feel uncomfortable by persistently urging her to vote and even walking her to the voting booth. Even the online setup could not stop this practice. Political organization members would simply migrate their nagging to social media messages and ask for private information, such as asking students who they voted for.
These concerns would stretch out past campaign periods and campuses, even messages reaching other universities such as the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde or Ateneo de Manila University. But the DLSU Commission on Elections (Comelec) had stated, in response to such concerns raised in the 2019 General Elections (GE), that they could not have moved forward with penalizing these as there were no formal complaints filed by any student. That year, The LaSallian had uncovered a loophole in the Election Code for cases like these—there were no penalties in place for major offenses post-campaign period.
The USG is no stranger to major corruption scandals. In 2017, a former Santugon executive treasurer was alleged of stealing about P200,000 from a scholarship fund. The incident is still not confirmed as of press time.
Furthermore, allegations of sexual harassment and assault were also present in the past years. During the Harapan Special Elections Debate 2019, Tapat’s Isa Topacio, the Ramon V. del Rosario (RVRCOB) college assembly president from 2018 to 2019, stated that addressing sexual harassment was a “big part of Tapat’s legislative agenda”. Santugon followed suit in 2020 through their platforms against sexual harassment and strongly standing with victims.
Yet, during the 2021 GE, both parties had candidates withdraw for sexual assault allegations: Arvin Rufino of Santugon and Benedict Mateo of Tapat. Although Mateo’s allegations were confirmed, Santugon has yet to release a statement on Rufino’s allegations and withdrawn candidacy as of press time. However, Rufino did release a statement denying the claims—only to delete it after posting on his personal Facebook account.
From sexual harassment cases, Santugon took another blow over controversial takes. CATCH2T23 batch legislator candidate Riley Uy was scrutinized after commenting on the regime of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. during the 2019 Special Elections Miting De Avance: “We should forgive what the Marcoses have done, but we should never forget what they have done.”
Tapat, meanwhile, fell to another controversy in the 2021 GE when its members did not appear to be aligned in their thrust toward building a safer space for the student body when it came to personal well-being.
Calvin Almazan of Tapat, who ran against current USG President Giorgina Escoto, had to release a statement of apology after telling former partymate and current USG presidential candidate Jasmine Paras to withdraw from the elections. He explained that he was worried that her state of mental health at the time would take a toll on their performance, suggesting that she would jeopardize their work.
“If you’ll ask me why walang OVPEA (Office of the Vice President for External Affairs) ang Tapat, it’s because they forcibly removed a candidate on the basis na hindi nila kakayanin ang elections dahil may mental health issues sila. That candidate was me,” Paras called out her party in a statement on Facebook. “Imagine having your mental health reduced to a hindrance for them to have a successful elections [campaign]…I was begging to stay in the slate because I had something to offer and that I was getting help to take care of my mental wellbeing but the decision upon my candidacy wasn’t even in my hands anymore.”
Santugon acknowledges controversies in 2022 MUE
A year later, Santugon’s president Paolo Teh stepped down after being scrutinized on social media over leaks of his messages that showed him being averse to political protests. “Di ako woke ba’t ako pupunta…[Ayoko] mahampas ng mga batuta,” Teh was shown saying in one of the messages.
Around the same period, The LaSallian also released an article on the Office of the Executive Treasurer (OTREAS) denying their alleged bias on granting financial aid to those part of Santugon—the party current USG Executive Treasurer Caleb Chua ran under. The allegation came from a DLSU Freedom Wall post by a self-identified whistleblower.
Later in the year, screenshots of Facebook messages showed Santugon members promoting their party by discouraging students from joining Tapat. “There is no record of any member of [Santugon] that has been red-tagged and no one is forced to join rallies,” one of the messages read.
Santugon later released a statement apologizing for their members’ behavior in the leaked messages, which was criticized as being a form of red-tagging, and announced that they are not fielding candidates to reassess their party’s values. However, former Santugon members eventually ran for USG positions under independent coalitions, spurring questions over whether Santugon is truly not participating in the year’s elections.
Santugon and Tapat have had their fair share of scrutinization and controversies. However, with the 2022 Make-Up Elections is nearing its cusp, the student body will now have to weigh their options on where to cast their vote as they now have an idea of their political party’s previous actions rather than their embellished platforms.
EDITOR’S NOTE: November 16, 2022
A portion of the article was corrected to accurately reflect the status of the sexual assault allegations against Arvin Rufino of Santugon, which have not been confirmed. Rufino and Santugon have yet to release a statement on his withdrawn candidacy. The publication apologizes for the oversight.