CERTAIN forces have been working behind the scenes in the past several weeks to overturn the results of the April Central Student Council (CSC) elections, in which only two candidates were proclaimed winners because of overwhelming abstentions.
One of the appellants is Steven Grecia of Lakas Tomasino Coalition, the lone presidential candidate who lost to “abstain” votes.
Grecia, a medical technology student, raised legal arguments, chiefly that abstain votes are essentially non-votes or stray votes and should thus be discarded. In other words, because he ran unopposed, he needed only one vote to become president of the CSC Executive Board.
Grecia, however, was well within his rights to question the results before the UST Central Commission on Elections (Comelec), and he is to be admired for his guts amid the flak he had received on social media.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the CSC Central Board, the council’s legislative branch composed of college-based student council presidents.
In the first week of June, the Central Board called on the Central Comelec to hold another round of polls, and accused officials of the poll body of “gross negligence” and “miserably [failing] to fulfill their mandate to conduct a free, orderly, honest, peaceful, credible and democratic elections.”
It “most respectfully prayed, after notice and hearing, that all the votes cast last April 18 to 21, 2017 be declared null and void.”
It’s shocking in itself for students to learn that such complaint existed from leaks and murmurs, and that the Central Board, a co-equal branch of the CSC and thus an accountable body, practically had to be begged by the campus press for a confirmation, if not a copy of its petition.
It’s shocking for many to find out that this complaint had advanced to the Central Judiciary Board for final judgment (and for some, to discover that such a body even exists). Who are the members of this judiciary board? Where are its rulings? Where are the notices of hearings? Does it have a bulletin board?
It’s shocking, the lack of transparency. Do the people behind this complaint really think the outcome, any outcome, of this surreptitious process will be acceptable to Thomasian voters?
Let us turn to the legal issues raised. First, that abstain votes are non-votes and should be set aside. Grecia himself pointed out that the student election code is silent on how abstentions are to be treated by the Central Comelec.
It is precisely because the code is silent that the Central Comelec stuck to its established practices and refused to proclaim winners for posts where abstain “won.” The poll body cannot be faulted for this. The right thing to do is to amend the election code, not to hand over CSC posts to losing candidates on a silver platter.
Second, the call for special elections. According to the election code, there are only two valid circumstances allowing special elections: a failure of election or a vacancy in the council.
“Failure” is supposed to be due to “violence, loss or destruction of election paraphernalia or records, force majeure, etc. … If for any reason, less than 25 percent of the voting population cast their votes…”
But there was no failure of election! Everyone knows this. Voter turnout was at 66 percent, unheard of in other campuses.
As for the vacancies, the rules of succession apply, as in previous years. And the Central Comelec has set in motion the succession process, only to be stymied by the Central Board, which incidentally, is packed by Grecia’s co-members in Lakas Tomasino.
Instead of working in the shadows, Lakas Tomasino should be starting the process of looking for better and more acceptable candidates for next year’s polls.
Attempts to overturn the results of the CSC elections should be vigorously opposed because the process is questionable and, more importantly, because these efforts, if successful, would be injurious, iniquitous and unjust to the interests of the Thomasian electorate.
Let us be clear. The results of the CSC elections were in protest of the poor quality of candidates inflicted upon the student body. Thomasians want student-leaders who are articulate, knowledgeable and capable of representing their interests in and out of UST. If this is at the cost of non-representation for a year, then so be it.