NEWS | General Election not substantiated, says UPM UEB

By Alexandra Kate Ramirez

On January 18–20, the University Electoral Board (UEB) conducted a public consultation to resolve the issues surrounding the conduct of university and college student council elections in the University of the Philippines Manila (UPM). As the country still grapples with the public health crisis on top of the government’s negligence, university-related pursuits were either modified or not carried out at all since activities were now practically confined to digital platforms. Moreover, the UEB denied the motion to conduct General Elections and specified electoral and/or appointment procedures in the UEB General Resolution №2021–01 promulgated on January 25.

Behind the decision

In the wake of quarantine restrictions brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of university-related activities inside and outside of the institutions were cancelled for the time being. Accordingly, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed on May 9, 2020 in order to settle the legal predicament of extending the terms of incumbent University Student Council (USC) and College Student Council (CSC) officers without violating the authority of the Constitution and the Elections Code.

The decision to postpone the elections was due to the aforementioned conditions, alongside concerns on the sustainability of online platforms as mediums for discourse as well as accessibility of both internet connection and electronic devices.

The MOU, originally, was only expected to cover certain months of the year 2020. However, the circumstances remained unfavorable for all of the stakeholders, if not worse, thereby prompting the UEB to redeliberate its previous recommendations and further resolve the issue correctly and inclusively at an opportune time.

In a resolution calling for the official decision regarding the conduct of University and College Student Councils in UPM, the UEB declared that the move to conduct the General Election is denied, further reiterating that a General Election is not substantiated back then and until now.

The UEB also added that the resolution is made effective from the date of its promulgation until April 30, 2022, which, in accordance with the UPM Election Code, is the maximal week before a General Election in the year 2022.

Adjusted procedures

Along with its decision to deny the conduct of the General Election, the UEB also handed out orders regarding the selection of the new set of USC and CSC officers. According to Sandiego, the UEB and College Electoral Boards’ (CEBs) move to hold a public consultation before coming up with a decision is highly commendable since the students’ involvement in these matters is just as crucial.

As indicated in the resolution, there shall be elections and/or appointment procedures in the CSCs. Along with the CEBs, they will be given independence in deciding which method shall be enforced in selecting the new set of CSC officers, provided that they shall brief the UEB on the selection process specifics and that all procedures shall be made public once the appointment process is favored.

The UEB also specified that the procedures in the selection of CSC officers shall be done prior to the selection of the new officers of the USC. Therefore, the selection and declaration of new CSC officers shall be conducted no later than March 26, 2021 and April 8, 2021, respectively.

For the selection of the new USC officers, meanwhile, a separate appointment procedure shall be conducted. Ensuing this resolution’s promulgation, the UEB, together with the USC and the UPM League of College Student Councils (LCSC), shall further discuss the final details of the appointment procedures in order to streamline the appropriate legal review of such procedures.

After all, even with the unprecedented measures brought about by the pandemic and back-to-back calamities, electing student leaders remains a service to the whole student body.

Campaigns amidst online constraints

Since traditional on-ground campaigns would not be witnessed in the coming selection processes, ensuring the student body’s participation would be all the more strenuous. With the unfavorable decline in voter turnout during recent years, students being confined to digital screens would only possibly contribute to this decreasing trend.

The incumbent USC Vice Chairperson also stressed the importance of having ample time to conduct campaign activities in order to reach students through different channels, especially those who have little to no access to online platforms as well as those who provide for their families.

Furthermore, Sandiego noted that the Duterte administration’s indiscriminate red-tagging of universities and student leaders amidst the pandemic made election campaigns much more challenging to launch.

You may read the full resolution by accessing this link: http://tiny.cc/UEBRes

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