Head to Head: EXCEL2024 mainstays Meneses, Rivera to expand scholarship programs, address USG budget matters in OTREAS

Juliana Meneses of Tapat and Xymoun Rivera of Santugon plan to expand scholarship opportunities and external collaborations for a more effective OTREAS.

EXCEL2024 Batch Vice President Juliana Meneses of Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (Tapat) and EXCEL2024 Director for Activities & Advocacies Xymoun Rivera of Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon) bank on their experiences in and out of their batch unit as they vie for the top seat in the Office of the Executive Treasurer (OTREAS). The two aspirants provide a closer look into their initiatives to uphold efficient fund allocation, mitigate budget issues, and optimize the Lasallian community’s access to financial assistance grants.

The LaSallian: How do you think your past leadership experiences in and out of the USG prepared and motivated you to take on the role of executive treasurer?

Juliana Meneses (Tapat): As the incumbent batch vice president of EXCEL2024, I heard personal stories from my constituents regarding their concerns pagdating sa tuition [with] payment deadlines, and I’m also a scholar…at talagang alam ko ‘yung pakiramdam ng mga scholar dito sa DLSU. Ang platforms ng executive treasurer under me [are] focused on convenience and providing support to the students. For example, expanding scholarship programs, para mas maraming mga estudyante ang makinabang at mag-provide ng mga subsidy initiatives para makatulong, makagaan, at makabawas sa expenses ng students. 

Xymoun Rivera (Santugon): During my frosh year, I was the junior officer for finance for [the] Business Management Society. I also became the team head for finance and documentation for Frosh Welcoming 2023. Ultimately, I was one of the overall heads for “Amore 2023: Bazaar and Fair” under the OTREAS, where we were able to raise P600,000 in revenue, and much of that portion went to the scholar community. That’s why now, I’m running as an executive treasurer, wanting to expand that financial assistance and endorse the whole student body.

The LaSallian: Former executive treasurers often cite that their office is challenged by bottlenecks, leading to delays in implementing their goals. How would you reduce the risk of bottlenecks happening in the future? 

Meneses: May experience ako in terms of handling operations and finance, and nakikita nating undermanned [ang USG]. Kaunti ‘yung mga tao na nagwo-work para mapagaan ‘yung buhay [at] para dumali ‘yung pag-process ng documents dito sa USG. What we can do, kasi systematic problem na siya even before, is constant communication with the admin, especially sa pag-raise ng funds ng USG sa projects, kasi alam naman natin lahat na ang hirap  mag-release ng projects…Bukod dun is dapat transparency pa rin ang ia-uphold ng OTREAS—Transparency and inclusivity, kasi ‘yun dapat ‘yung core ng OTREAS.

Rivera: As someone who has worked [in] finance, documentation, and logistics positions, I know just how inefficient ‘yung current financial process [is] within USG. However, now, kaka-implement lang ng bagong financial process, and we can expect that in collaboration with the SLIFE (Office of Student Leadership Involvement, Formation and Empowerment), mas mapapadali ‘yung financial processes natin. What we aim to do is i-mirror natin ‘yung financial processes with the different offices or universities and even organizations that make it work for them na walang bureaucratic process. For example, we have consulted with [the] CSO (Council of Student Organizations) ngayon na binago na nila ‘yung financial processes nila. In consultation with SLIFE, mas napadali yung financial process nila in a way na mas streamlined ‘yung pagbigay ng budget towards different organizations. And now, what we want to do with OTREAS is tanggalin ‘yung bureaucracy para mas makapag-implement ‘yung USG units nang more efficient and effective.

The LaSallian: What will be your priorities in allocating funds, and how will you ensure that this allocation is well-balanced among all units and projects of the USG?

Meneses: I will prioritize funding for scholarship programs and financial aid. Alam naman natin ‘yung four-percent tuition fee increase last academic year is talagang burden sa mga estudyante [at] ‘yun ‘yung i-prioritize natin. Ise-strengthen natin ‘yung centralization of funds para mas maging proportionate na ‘yung pagdi-distribute [ng funds] sa scholars natin. In close collaboration with [the] OAS (Office of Admissions and Scholarships), kung mag-agree ang OAS na mag-extend ng help sa atin in terms of application and with regards sa budget ng units natin, ang gagawin natin is proportionate lang din [based on the] number of constituents, kung ano talaga ‘yung need ng students, and ina-approve naman ‘yan usually sa LA (Legislative Assembly).

Rivera: What we aim to do is gawing equal ‘yung allocation for scholarship aid, financial grants, and even activities and advocacy. Nakikita natin [na] ang bawat aspeto nito ay may equal importance dahil mayroon silang kanya-kanyang representation kung paano nila naa-address ‘yung problems, challenges, and struggles of the student body. Now, what we must do is palakasin ‘yung collaboration and coordination natin with external opportunities para if ever magkaroon tayo ng cut in budgets, hindi mako-compromise ‘yung student body in terms of them getting what they deserve financially.

The LaSallian: Various offices have reportedly been facing budget cuts from the University administration. Should the USG face such an issue, how will you handle this as executive treasurer?

Meneses: Ang puwede nating gawin para matuloy ‘yung mga proyekto natin is mag-raise ng funds. First of all, [there are] fundraising activities. Puwede tayong magkaroon ng concerts [and] bazaars. Talagang ‘yan ‘yung mga nagre-raise ng funds for the USG. At the same time, what we can do is tap external resources, puwede tayong makipag-partner with external organizations, or [gather] donations. 

Rivera: What we must recognize is [that] nandiyan naman ‘yung budget natin at napakalaki nito. We need proper allocation and appropriation ng budget na ito dahil dapat, mayroon tayong continuous dialogues and communication with the administration kung paano ito mabu-budget for our office. Echoing what Juliana has mentioned, kailangan palakasin natin ‘yung partnerships with external companies. Kailangan paigtingin natin ‘yung private partnership. We must establish good relationships with external companies. Sa ganitong paraan, we can ensure na mayroon tayong long-term agreements in terms of getting monetary assistance. 

The LaSallian: You both mentioned during the debate opening more financial grant opportunities to more sectors of the student body. What specific steps will you undertake (i.e. details, logistics, partnerships) to make these plans come to fruition?

Meneses: When I consulted with OAS, willing talaga silang tumulong sa USG para mas maging fair at tama ‘yung application process. Ang gagawin natin is palalawakin ‘yung scholarships. For example, ngayon, existing na ‘yung students with disabilities and students with single parents financial grants. Ie-ensure natin na sa tulong ng OAS is proportionate [‘yung pondo sa] kung ano ‘yung kailangan ng mga estudyante. In terms of logistics, when I consulted with OAS, [they] agreed na ‘yung USG scholars is magiging recognized na rin. Meaning, puwedeng same benefits na rin ang USG scholars and [other] scholars. In terms of partnerships, what we can do is reach out sa external organizations na willing tumulong and sa mga untapped resources like x-deals, mga ganoong partnership na puwede nating gamitin para mas lumaki, maraming maka-receive, at gumaan ang buhay ng mga estudyante dito sa DLSU.

Rivera: Itong pag-abot natin sa external companies, this should be [done] in close collaboration with the OVPEA (Office of the Vice President for External Affairs), where we would be able to reach more companies that can be accredited para magkaroon tayo ng agreement, collaboration, and partnership. In this way, makapag-hanap tayo ng more companies that could be accredited by COSCA (Center For Social Concern and Action). Through this, hopefully, we can ensure na ‘yung companies ay maga-agree na magkaroon tayo ng long-term partnership that would be very much sustainable for our University.

The LaSallian: How will you ensure the sustainability and continuity of existing and upcoming initiatives by the Office of the Executive Treasurer (OTREAS)?

Meneses: What we can do para mas sustainable [ang initiatives] is talagang ipatupad through LA na gagawin siya every year, and of course, ‘pag naman nakita ng mga estudyante na useful ito, itutuloy at itutuloy talaga ito ng next admin. Puwede rin tayo lumapit sa external organizations na willing mag-fund ng scholarship programs natin ng ilang taon between USG and other organizations. And, of course, mayroon talagang existing fund ang OTREAS na allocated para sa mga iskolar. So, para mas sustainable, proportionate allocation [of funds] talaga ‘yung susi.

Rivera: Para dito, katuwang talaga natin ang LA towards making sustainable initiatives. Kailangan institutionalized ‘yung initiatives natin. For example, one of the agenda of [the] LA under us is the leadership-based grant. The leadership-based grants would recognize na may students who are halfway between merits and needs-based. By institutionalizing this, masisigurado natin na this would come for many more years to come in the University. 

The LaSallian: Aside from those mentioned, what other issues do you think should be addressed within OTREAS and how do you plan to resolve them?

Meneses: [Ang] problema ngayon is [that] USG officers [ang] nag-aabono ng expenses ng projects. Masyado kasing bureaucratic ‘yung process para makakuha ka ng funds na talagang magagamit mo sa project. What we can do is i-expedite na ‘yung mga ganoong proseso para hindi na mag-shell out yung student leaders natin sa projects…streamline yung processes, and [maintain] constant communication with the admin.

Rivera: With the recent cyber security breach within our MLS website, nakita natin kung gaano ka-inefficient ang current website natin. This trickles down to the convenience of the Lasallian community in terms of paying their fees. Nag-trickle down ito into many more problems, like the late payment penalty fee [na] nag-extend [and] also the installment plans na hindi nasunod ang current deadlines. We recognize na itong mga problema na ito ay nagru-root from the inefficiency of our website. That’s why we have also consulted with OAS regarding this, na kailangan mayroon tayong financial [inclusivity] within our University, which means digitalization in terms of our payments. We would collaborate with fintech [companies], and OAS is very on board with partnering. They have actually been reaching out to GCash, and hopefully, in our term, masigurado and ma-secure natin ‘yung partnership para ma-streamline ‘yung financial process ng payment [for the] student body.

The LaSallian: If elected as executive treasurer, what are your short-term and long-term goals for OTREAS and the Lasallian community?

Meneses: Sa Tapat, ‘yung gusto namin is long-term solutions over short-term promises. Ang gusto kong iwang vision sa OTREAS is naka-uphold [ang] transparency, accountability, and inclusivity. Sa OTREAS, dapat tapat ‘yung nandyan kasi pera ‘yung pinaguusapan, [so] faithful representation talaga ng mga bagay. Puwede dito makipag-close coordinate with Commission on Audit (COA) para maiwasan ‘yung anomalies and discrepancies. Emphasis talaga on transparency, accountability, and inclusivity. Yung transparency is para sa financial transactions ng USG units, inclusivity in terms of grants [para] sa mga estudyante, and then accountability in terms of USG officers sa perang ginagastos nila, kasi pera ‘yan nating lahat, pera yan ng mga estudyante. 

Rivera: Echoing Juliana, dapat ‘yung plans and goals natin ay long-term [and] sustainable. What we plan to do is really institutionalize our financial grants. For example, hindi lang dapat siya grants for this term [or] natatapos for the next term. Dapat ‘yung grants na nabibigay natin sa student body ay meron silang kasiguraduhan [at] assurance na hindi sila nangangamba kung saan nila kukunin ‘yung financial assistance nila for the next term. Dapat ‘yung conduct na ito ay institutionalized, with the help of the LA, where we are focused on student-centered initiatives for the OTREAS. Also banking on what Juliana has mentioned, I’m also for transparency and accountability within the OTREAS, because…all three [branches are] mandated to oversee financial transactions and fundraising activities with integrity with these mandates and responsibilities [and] are grounded upon the principles of our student charter. Nakakasigurado tayo na hindi lang ito basta-bastang section or act within the student charter, pero ito ay ima-maximize natin and ii-implement nang maayos.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

With reports from Christopher Go and Carl Joshua Mamuri

Shania Dominique Jose

By Shania Dominique Jose

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