DISSATISFACTION with the quality of candidates, especially with their answers to questions on issues such as tuition hikes and martial law, forced Thomasians to abstain from voting in four out of six posts in the Central Student Council (CSC), election observers said.
Dennis Coronacion, chairman of the UST political science department, said Thomasians did not know the candidates very well and most voted based on the controversial statements of the candidates.
“I guess the voters did not know well their candidates. The voters didn’t choose any candidate because they don’t have any good knowledge about the latter. The students only got to know them when the debate became controversial because of the martial law question,” Coronacion told the Varsitarian.
The official proclamation of the new CSC Executive Board officers at the Tan Yan Kee lobby revealed that majority of students voted for “abstain” in the positions of president, vice president, treasurer and auditor.
Only independent candidates Therese Ann Gorospe and Francis Santos won, as secretary and public relations officer (PRO), respectively.
Ysa Marasigan, outgoing president of the Faculty of Arts and Letters Student Council, echoed Coronacion: “A big factor was also the response of the candidates regarding national issues like martial law.”
Vice-presidential bets Gabriela Sepulchre (Lakas Tomasino Coalition or LTC) and Renz Santiago (Lakas ng Diwang Tomasino) came under fire on social media after their poor responses to a debate question about martial law.
LTC standard-bearer Steven Grecia drew flak after expressing his support for a “justifiable” tuition hike.
For Faye de Leon, an English language studies sophomore, the candidates failed to provide concrete representation for the Thomasian community on various national and University-wide issues.
“I believe that it is better to choose abstain rather than settle with candidates who may have enough credentials, but have failed to provide us concrete steps on how they’d be able to fulfill their platforms,” de Leon said.
Raymond John Naguit, former vice chairman of the UST Central Commission on Elections (Comelec), defended the widespread “abstention,” calling it a principled vote.
“It may serve as protest vote against a system that has failed or hardly delivered on the things that resonate most to students,” he said.
Former CSC president Ina Vergara urged political parties to scrutinize the reasons behind the election results.
“The answers we are all looking for are with the students — whether or not voter abstention was due to indifference, influence, or a principled preference they find fit for the changing times,” Vergara said.
Naguit challenged political parties to align their platforms with political ideologies, to develop firm campaigns.
The rate of abstentions drastically increased this year compared with last year’s results.
This year, 15,803 voters opted to abstain for the position of president, three times more than the 5,578 voters who abstained last year.
The position of vice president received 13,169 abstain votes, about twice the 6,662 abstentions last year. There were 13,088 abstain votes for treasurer this year, significantly higher than the 5,529 abstain votes last year.
For the position of auditor, 13,329 voters opted to abstain this year while only 5,367 abstained last year.
Abstain votes for secretary and PRO also increased even if winners were proclaimed for the two positions. For the position of secretary, there were 8,806 abstain votes, double last year’s 4,302. The position of PRO had 8,806 abstain votes this year, up from last year’s 5,551.
In a text message to the Varsitarian, Lakasdiwa Chairwoman Richie Mae Abache said she respected the decision of the Thomasians.
The results, Abache added, would serve as a way for their party to improve.
LTC Chairwoman Tanya Vasquez said that “if the Thomasians believe that we lacked, there is nothing but respect.”
This year’s elections broke the LTC’s winning streak in the CSC Executive Board. Last year, the party secured five out of six positions, including the presidency.
Only 28,858 of 43,762 students (66 percent) voted in this year’s CSC elections, a decrease from last year’s 30,645 out of 44,791 students (68 percent). With reports from Mia Arra C. Camacho, Christian de Lano M. Deiparine, Theodore Jason Patrick K. Ortiz and Maria Crisanta M. Paloma