By Maria Feona Imperial
Second update: Feb. 22, 12:54 am
It was another war between the incumbent student council members – except that this time, it was open for public viewing.
Incumbent councilors of the University Student Council (USC) criticized Thursday the lack of unity among its members in Hot Off the Grill, the official miting de avance of the College of Mass Communication, when asked what happened to the “One Strong UP” catchphrase of the yellow-led outgoing council.
Carla Gonzalez, Nagkakaisang Iskolar para sa Pamantasan at Sambayanan (KAISA) candidate for chairperson, said among the problems the USC faced in forwarding pertinent issues is the tendency of its members to prioritize their own interests.
“Hindi kami nagkakaroon ng consensus, laging divide the house. Paikot-ikot lang yung arguments sa USC kasi ayaw magpatalo ng iba (We do not have consensus. It is always, ‘divide the house.’ The arguments are not resolved in USC because the others do not want to give way),” Gonzalez said.
Meanwhile, UP Alyansa ng mga Mag-aaral sa Panlipunang Katwiran at Kaunlaran (ALYANSA) standard bearers Arjay Mercado and JP de las Nieves pointed out how attendance, including instances of walkouts during meetings, had been a major problem.
Tension built up further when Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND UP) candidate for chairperson Erra Zabat reacted, “I can give you names of council members na umaattend ng GA [na] tulog, umattend ng GA na tahimik (who attend the GA then sleeps or do not talk). And you’re all for students’ rights, you’re all for people’s struggle?”
De Las Nieves said after USC Education and Research Committee Head Christian Lemuel “Lem” Magaling’s impeachment trial in September, no general assembly (GA) pushed through since due to the lack of quorum.
Magaling was suspended and put into trial after incurring a total of 6.5 demerit points due to unexcused absences, tardiness and the unauthorized release of publicity materials, among others. After five trial sessions, charges were dropped and he was reinstated as USC councilor.
The incumbents also debated on the constitutionality of the USC demerit system. Asked whether Magaling’s trial was overpublicized compared to the resignation of Secretary-General Rafael Fernando, Gonzalez said there were no contentions from all council members at the onset of the drafting of the USC house rules.
“Palaging sinasabi na nagsasayang ng oras yung USC sa pag expose ng issue na ito. (People always say that USC wasted time when it exposed this issue.) When in fact, it’s actually an issue of accountability; it is an issue of transparency,” Mercado said.
Macapado however said the demerit system is a “fraud,” citing lapses in the specificity and strictness on the grounds of what can be considered an excused absence, including organization events outside the USC.
Meanwhile, ALYANSA’s De Las Nieves said being excused from assemblies took as simple as attending GAs or sending valid excuses via text message. He said more pressing issues, such as the UP budget and the pork barrel scam, were not tackled because USC lingered on the technicalities of Magaling’s case.
STAND UP’s Zabat, however, said some members of the USC chose to prioritize the Magaling’s impeachment case over issues such as supporting Yolanda survivors from UP Tacloban.
The event organized by the UP Mass Communicators’ Organization (UP MCO) also saw the candidates debate on issues within and outside the campus such as the San Roque demolition, UP Professional Schools, Cybercrime Law and the University Freshman Council (UFC), among others.
(This article was earlier published in Botong Isko 2014, Tinig ng Plaridel’s special election primer. Read it here.)