(UPDATED) This report has been updated to include Eunice Bermudez’ explanation of the event in question, which she outlined in a letter to The Bedan.
AS THE DUST settles on the conclusion of the Second Special Election for Student Council (SC) President and First-Year Representative Election in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), various issues have arisen to cloud its outcome and raise uncertainty within the Bedan community. The election process has now become a subject of controversy, leaving both candidates and voters seeking answers in its wake.
Complaint vs. Bermudez
Amir Hussin, a third-year student from the Department of Business, Management, and Entrepreneurship, says that during their Training and Development course around 11:30 a.m. on Election Day, September 9, what was supposed to be “an announcement” was actually Eunice Bermudez, then still the presidential candidate of the San Bigkis Party (SBP), “campaigning her three flagship programs” when it was not actually permitted as per the Omnibus Election Code. Thus, Hussin says that he “took the initiative, voice recorded her as proof” and presented it to Ayrah Asis, the Chairperson of the San Beda-Electoral Board (ELBO). He added that “since Bermudez signed on the integrity pledge [of the ELBO], she should have upheld electoral integrity.” Hussin also outlined his allegations in details through his personal Facebook page.
However, in a resolution, the poll body moved to dismiss the case filed by Hussin, even though it still determined that the “[San Bigkis Party] and [Bermudez] had committed a violation under Article 8, Section 1 of the Omnibus Election Code.” This is because the ELBO found the violation “moot” on the grounds that the infraction was committed “beyond the campaign period.” By the time the case was dismissed, Hussin filed an appeal to Dr. Marvin Reyes, the Prefect of Student Activities.
Following the appeal made by Hussin, Asis commented that in the initial complaint filed by Hussin, the complaint also “failed to state a prayer,” thus, the case was dismissed. Even so, Hussin elevated his appeal to the Office of the Prefect of Student Affairs (OPSA), where Dr. Reyes shared that following the acknowledgement of the complaint, he moved to suspend the proclamation of Bermudez as President-elect pending the resolution of the issue.
For Hussin, he explained that he was “just stating the facts, knew what he did was right and for the betterment of San Beda as it always aims for fairness and justice.”
On Bermudez’ part, writing in a letter to The Bedan, she explains that on the day in question, she “saw [their] professor Mr. Yves Viloria and three (3) of [her] classmates,” of which one “introduced [her] as a candidate for the second special election for the Student Council President to [their] professor.”
She also adds that “Mr. Viloria had allowed [her] to narrate [her] plans for the student body as a Presidential aspirant.” The former SBP bet was then “asked by [their] professor to come forward,” but she “declined” for two times. After a class icebreaker, Bermudez says that they “settled on [their] seats and [she] was [again] called by Mr. Viloria to announce something to the class, which consisted of no more than fourteen (14) students.”
“I felt pressured because we had to begin our discussion proper so I stood up and went in front to introduce myself and my platforms. Before the end of my speech, I reminded my classmates to vote during the aforementioned date until 5:00 P.M. to exercise their right to suffrage, without explicitly mentioning that they should vote for me,” said Bermudez.
Bermudez then reiterated that she “did not initiate to speak in front of the class,” nor did she “encourage [her] classmates to VOTE FOR [HER], contrary to what has been circulating online and on campus,” and that her classmates can attest to this.
In light of everything, the would-be SC president says that she nevertheless “[takes] accountability for the mistake” and that “there was no deliberate and malicious consideration in the violation” that she had purportedly done under the CAS Omnibus Election Code. Any penalty, according to Bermudez, should be “proportionate in view of the foregoing.”
Being within their jurisdiction, Dr. Reyes shared that he had meetings with Hussin and Bermudez to hear their sides, with the attendance of Asst. Prof. Sybil Agreda, the Assistant Prefect of Student Activities, Asis of the ELBO, and a classmate of Bermudez who served as the witness. Thus, the OPSA is still currently in consultation with legal advisers in coming up with a decision expected to be reached early next week.
Sudden extension of voting hours
Shortly after the ELBO’s announcement of Bermudez and Beige Campbell’s victories as the new SC President and First-Year Representative, respectively, the Nationalist Youth and Progressive Democrats (NYPD), along with Ang MITHI, declared an intention to lodge an electoral protest through their joint statement released in their own official Facebook pages.
The statement referred to an ELBO Facebook post that was subsequently took down moments later, with a caption reading, “…Following the extension of the voting hours, we have 4 hours and 30 minutes left to cast our votes, Bedans! Let our voices be heard!” The ELBO’s initial post implied that voting was to be extended until 9 p.m. Yet in another post that came just after the voting hours had closed at the original 5 p.m. deadline, the poll body promulgated Resolution No. 11-2324, which extended the voting hours until 6 p.m. only.
On ELBO’s part, Asis says that around 3:30 to 4:00 p.m., the ELBO already had initial resolutions regarding the extension of the said period, which it decided on following a meeting with Atty. Michael Daguinod, ELBO’s moderator and legal adviser. So at around 4:30pm, ELBO initially released a resolution extending the voting period to 9:00 p.m. However, as advised by their legal adviser, the ELBO again shortened the extended voting period, considering that offices in the University will be closed by 9 p.m. But ultimately, they had “to wait for the signatures before reposting the resolution extending the voting period,” which led to the announcement’s delay.
As a result, the aforesaid two political parties demanded to “…(1) nullify Resolution No. 11-2324, which was published after the 5PM closing of ballots, and we consequently move to (2) exclude all ballots casted after 5PM of the election day.” They also invoked Article XIV, Section 4 of the Omnibus Election Code, wherein it states that in case of protest on the conduct of the elections “Any duly accredited watcher contesting the inclusion, exclusion or deferment of any ballot or vote in the canvassing of votes shall make verbal objection to the Electoral Board at the time the questioned ballot or vote is presented for inclusion or exclusion.”
Dismissing both the cases filed before them, Asis mentioned that in consultation with Atty. Jeff Datinggaling, a part-time faculty of the Legal Management department, the ELBO “had the authority” to extend the voting period. Citing Article II, Section 2 of the Omnibus Election Code, the ELBO chairperson says that the “Electoral Board… shall have exclusive charge of enforcement and administration of laws relative to the conduct of elections for the purpose of ensuring free, orderly, and honest elections.”
Abrupt changes of MDA and Election Day schedule
Nearing the day of the Miting de Avance (MDA) and elections, supposedly on September 9 and 11, respectively, the ELBO issued a resolution moving these said events to September 8 and 9, respectively, in a resolution released only a day prior, on September 7.
According to Ayrah Celline Asis, ELBO Chairperson, the shift in the Election Day schedule was “primarily influenced by the information that September 11 onwards will be used for the preparation of the  Bar Exams,” that will be hosted by the University, explaining that to proceed with the elections within the calendar promulgated by the poll body, the shift was necessary.
On the matter of releasing the new schedule of the MDA and Elections a day before the rescheduled MDA, “kaya hindi siya narelease ng early was because we still tried to stick dun sa election calendar,” Asis explained.
Clarifying the issue on the abrupt change in the election schedule, Asis shared that “due to unforeseen availability of venue we decided to move the schedule and the supposed shift towards online class in San Beda from September 11 onwards,” she said, which constrained ELBO to release a resolution moving the said dates.
Nevertheless, after everything that had transpired, the Electoral Board conceded that “they understand the sentiments raised by the Bedan community and we would like to apologize for the confusion caused by the sudden announcement regarding the changes in the initial election calendar.” However, they added that “before announcing the changes, we conducted careful deliberation on the problems that arose, and we did our best to stick with the ELBO’s calendar of activities. Regrettably, the opportunity and schedule did not permit us at that time.”