New USC short of standard bearers, swept by independent councilor bets

For the first time in two decades, abstain votes swept the chairperson and vice chairperson posts in the University Student Council (USC) while independent candidates dominated the councilor positions.

Despite running unopposed, the standard bearer candidates of the UP Alyansa ng mga Mag-aaral para sa Panlipunang Katwiran at Kaunlaran (UP ALYANSA) lost their election bids against a majority abstention vote, leading to the vacancies of the top two posts in the USC.

The blue party’s chairperson candidate Jaira Del Mundo only garnered 3,756 votes against 5,745 abstain votes. This marks her second consecutive failed bid for the chairpersonship.

Meanwhile, her running mate Therese Mangussad received 3,870 votes versus 5,631 abstain votes.

The supposed 12-person slate of councilors also incurred four vacancies as the “abstain” vote ranked ninth in the electoral race with 2,496 votes. The candidates who amassed fewer votes than abstentions were not proclaimed as winners.

The eight councilors-elect ran as independents: Beatriz Pineda (4,554), Kat Batac (4,216), Bin Magno (3,988), Sean Limbaga (3,805), Charles Shi (3,709), Erwin Medina (3,613), Craig Navalta (3,439) and Ian Mercene (3,371). 

Six of them, namely Batac, Magno, Shi, Medina, Navalta and Mercene, previously ran under STAND UP, the ruling political party in the USC for the past two terms. They disaffiliated when allegations of mishandled sexual harassment cases within the party surfaced during the Aktibisita forum.

Independent candidate Wovi Villanueva and all councilor candidates from UP ALYANSA failed to clinch seats in the USC.

Filling in vacancies

Louise Jashil Sonido, the vice chancellor for student affairs, said that they only proclaimed those candidates elected at-large in recognition of the active and majority abstention votes in this year’s election.

“[T]here is no sufficient basis to declare the candidates superseded by abstentions as valid, elected representatives of the student body,” the statement of the University Student Electoral Board (USEB) read.

UP Diliman saw a similar case in 2016 when the University Student Electoral Tribunal (USET) declared null and void the proclamation of Juan Paolo Artiaga as the College of Law’s representative to the USC.

The then-USEB initially recognized Artiaga as a representative-elect despite securing only 174 votes against 340 abstain votes. After two separate post-election protests, however, the USET effectively reversed this decision.

“[A]bstention is a positive action, a valid option and a legitimate choice of an elector aside from the candidates running for a particular position or office,” the USET’s ruling on the Artiaga case read.

Following the two-day extension of the voting period, this year’s final voter turnout was 36.7%, a slight increase from last year’s all-time low of 35.32%.

During the proclamation of winners earlier today, the USEB announced that there are “no clear-cut provisions” in available codes and precedents to determine how the vacancies must be filled. 

They added that the decision is now up to the duly elected councilors and college representatives, so long as their resolution is still consistent “with the spirit of the [Revised UP Diliman Student Election Code of 2010] and the USC Constitution and By-Laws.”

Top two councilors-elect Beatriz Pineda and Kat Batac may serve as the interim chairperson and vice-chairperson of the USC respectively to preside over the discussions on how to fill in the vacancies.

Meanwhile, post-election protests may be submitted until June 2.

Here is the list of USC officers for A.Y. 2023-2024:

Chairperson: Vacant
Abstain – 5,745
Jaira Del Mundo – 3,756

Vice-chairperson: Vacant
Abstain – 5,631
Therese Mangussad – 3,870 

Beatriz Pineda – 4,554
Katrina Maria Batac – 4,216
Alvin James Magno – 3,988
Joseph Sean Limbaga – 3,805
Charles Justin Shi – 3,709
Erwin Ace Medina – 3,613
Craig Juliene Navalta – 3,439
Marc Ian Mercene – 3,371
Abstain – 2,496

College Representatives
College of Architecture: Mac Bautista (Independent) – 221 votes
College of Arts and Letters: Danicah Chaves (UP ALYANSA) – 273 votes
College of Fine Arts: Bryant Lee Morales (Independent) – 174 votes
College of Mass Communication: Edel Nazal (Independent) – 387 votes
College of Social Sciences and Philosophy: Jewel Politico (Independent) – 520 votes
College of Social Work and Community Development: Sam Acabado (Independent) – 231 votes
College of Education: Kian Noguera (UP ALYANSA) – 319 votes
College of Music: Zion Mallari (UP ALYANSA) – 60 votes
National College of Public Administration and Governance: Franz Beltran (Independent) – 265 votes
School of Economics: Camyl Camba (UP ALYANSA) – 287 votes
School of Statistics: Gerrymie Bajaro (Independent) – 206 votes
Virata School of Business: Lyka Rapal (UP ALYANSA) – 312 votes