IN AN HISTORIC turn of events, the students of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) have twice abstained from voting for any of the candidates vying for the Student Council (SC) presidency, leading to a prolonged vacancy in the said position well beyond the election period. 

The 2023 General Elections held last May 12 and the subsequent Special Election for President last May 26 both failed to produce a new Chief Executive for the SC Executive Committee (SCEC), as a greater plurality of students chose to abstain from voting for any of the candidates running for the said post. As the SC presidency remains vacant, the College finds itself in unchartered territory, prompting the need for its immediate resolution. 

Accreditation of political parties, CoC filing 

Prior to the start of the campaign period for the General Elections, the San Beda – Electoral Board (ELBO), the official poll body of the CAS, began to lay the groundwork for the necessary activities before election day. 

On April 13, in a resolution promulgated on April 4, the ELBO accredited the registration of the Nationalist Youth and Progressive Democrats (NYPD) and the San Bigkis Party (SBP), two of the CAS’ oldest political parties. However, noticeably absent from ELBO’s resolution was Ang Mithi, the youngest political party in the College. 

In an interview with The Bedan for the Boto Bedista 2023 Special Issue, Julia Fabon, Ang Mithi’s chairperson, said that they did not want to produce a slate “just because” they wanted to fight, but because they wanted to run a campaign “in line with the party’s standards and principles.” 

Fabon also categorically denied any brewing collaboration between Ang Mithi and the SBP, despite the inclusion of two former Ang Mithi members in the SBP slate, namely, Juwan Barbosa and Enrique Bonete. 

Following the accreditation of parties and the screening of submitted Certificates of Candidacies (CoCs), the ELBO then released the list of the qualified candidates on April 25. 

The candidates for the NYPD were Kurt Francis Casano (President), Julia Clarisse San Jose (Internal Vice President), Kyla Cristina Cayetano (External Vice President), Kyrelle Dianne Tolete (Secretary-General), Ryza Mikaela Basas (Treasurer), Anthony Navarro II. (Auditor), Mikaela Dimapilis (Fourth-year batch representative), Ma. Audrey Munsod (Third-year batch representative), and Jumura Zheva Adam (Second-year batch representative). 

On the other hand, the SBP slate included Arlene Grace Sol (President), Juwan Jean Barbosa (Internal Vice President), Eril Yuri Edullan (External Vice President), Alessandra Nicole Namujhe (Secretary-General), Enrique Louise Bonete (Treasurer), Rean Jam Dela Cruz (Auditor), Rebecca Reigne Angela Cajucom (Fourth-year batch representative), John Dominic Salonga (Third-year batch representative), and Mitziko Clare Yema (Second-year batch representative). 

General Elections campaign period 

Though the official start of the campaign period was scheduled on April 28, which coincided with the College’s midterm examinations, both parties launched their room-to-room campaigns as per the approved schedule of ELBO.  

NYPD candidates held their room-to-room campaigns on May 2 until May 4, while the SBP began theirs on May 3 and ended it the next day, May 4. 

Additionally, both their campaigns were the first to be held in-person and in-campus since the pandemic. 

The two parties were also given the opportunity to set up booths near the Sabater Garden to further advertise their platforms through pre-approved flyers, pins, and banners throughout the duration of the campaign period. 

Miting de Avance 

On May 11, ELBO, in partnership with the San Beda Debate Society (SBDS) and The Bedan, facilitated the Miting De Avance (MDA) at the ground floor of the Lydia Tan Sy Building. 

During the event, the candidates running for each position faced each other in a debate that touched on numerous issues of concern within the University, which was followed by a panel discussion with representatives of the Student Organization Circle (SOC). 

During the one-on-one encounter between Sol and Casano, the two standard-bearers of the SBP and NYPD, respectively, personal attacks were exchanged, in a word war that brought up their conduct during their time working together as elected SC officers. 

The incident was earlier reported on by The Bedan in its Boto Bedista 2023 Special Election Issue, along with response of the College administration and the ELBO. 

Election Day 

On May 12, students of the CAS cast their ballots in an online setup, as the electronic ballots were distributed through Microsoft (MS) Forms, and students would be notified by ELBO through their official SBU Mail accounts. 

The voting period began at 9 a.m. and ended at 5 p.m. on the same day, with a final turnout of 1639 (59.97%) of 2733 students. 

The ELBO proclaimed the set of newly elected SC officers at the Office of the Student of Prefect Activities (OPSA) at 6 p.m. of the same day. 

NYPD candidates San Jose and Cayetano were proclaimed as the winning Internal Vice President and External Vice President, respectively, while SBP’s Namujhe, Bonete, and Dela Cruz won as Secretary-General, Treasurer, and Auditor, respectively.  

For the batch representatives, NYPD’s Dimapilis was proclaimed as the winning Fourth-year Batch Representative, while SBP’s Salonga and Yema won as Third-year Batch Representative and Second-year Batch representative, respectively. 

However, the presidency was declared vacant by the ELBO, as a larger plurality of student voters chose to abstain, thus, resulting in a special election for the position of president to be held two weeks later. 

Resolution for Special Election 

On May 15, just days after the results of the General Elections, the ELBO released Resolution No. 16-2223 calling for a Special Election for President. This was in accordance with Section 5 of the Omnibus Election Code, which stated that “In case a vacancy arises in the Executive Council, the Executive Council shall call for a Special Election to be held within ten (10) days after the vacancy occurs to elect the officer to serve the unexpired term.”  

The ELBO also issued Resolution No. 17-2223, which called for the schedule of the Special Elections to be set on May 26. 

On May 18, after closing the filing of the CoC, the ELBO released the names of the candidates qualified to run in the Special Elections: Carlos Marcelo, an independent candidate, and Jewel Elefane, the outgoing SC External Vice President, running under SBP. 

Town Hall Meeting 

Leading towards the Special Elections on May 26, the ELBO held a Town Hall Meeting at the Abbot Lopez Hall, in partnership with the San Beda Red Lens (SBRL), to introduce the two candidates running for the vacant seat of SC President, where candidates Elefane and Marcelo presented themselves to the Bedan voters. 

In the one-hour event, the ELBO devoted half of it to a panel discussion involving representatives from the Student Organization Circle (SOC), where they asked the candidates questions based on important issues and their platforms. 

Marcelo was asked about his platforms like “Safe Space Bedista” and the proposed addition of a new committee in the SC, while Elefane was asked on her platform of ammending the SC Constitution and the Code of Discipline, wherein many previous administrations have tried and failed to deliver on such promise. 

While candidates were given the opportunity to answer the questions, they also were given a time limit, in which Marcelo was stopped on multiple occasions by the moderators because he frequently spoke beyond them. 

In the latter portion of the program, in a question-and-answer segment, the candidates were asked the same set of questions by the ELBO-appointed moderators, particularly on issues such as amending the SC Constitution and other student-submitted questions.  

Because the event took place during class hours, many were not able to attend in-person. However, the event was streamed live on ELBO’s official Facebook page. 

Election Day 2.0 

On May 26, for the second time in a month, Bedans again went to the polls to fill the vacancy in the SC presidency. Like in the General Elections, the Special Election for President was again done through MS Forms and was opened from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to allow Bedans to vote. 

Though voter turnout was lower than what was recorded in the General Election, the ELBO still managed to get enough votes to declare the election a “success,” with 1387 (50.75%) out of 2733 Bedans casting their votes, exceeding the 50%+1 threshold to avoid a “failure of election.”  

But despite this, Bedans again chose to abstain from voting for any of the two candidates vying for the SC presidency, with “abstain” garnering 640 votes or 46.14%.  Both Marcelo, with 186 votes or 13.41%, and Elefane, with 561 votes or 40.45%, failed to secure enough votes to fill the vacancy. 

In light of these developments, Prof. Marvin Reyes, Ph.D., the Prefect of Student Activities, called for the outgoing SC President, Ron Ashley Trias, “to convene a Student Assembly” under Article V, Section 1 of the SC Constitution and “resolve the matter expeditiously,” with the assistance of the ELBO. 

(With Veronica Balbin) 

Photo by Anne Julia Francisco