THE CENTRAL Judiciary Board of the Central Student Council (CSC) has ordered the Central Commission on Elections (Comelec) to proclaim the candidates with the highest votes as winners in the April student polls, following petitions from various parties to disregard “abstain” votes.
In a resolution released on July 24, the judiciary board ordered Comelec to set aside the poll body’s resolution released last May 10, which declared the positions for president, vice president, treasurer and auditor vacant.
— UST Central COMELEC (@USTCComelec) July 24, 2017
The Comelec, through the May 10 resolution, likewise called for a special election after elections produced winners only for the posts of secretary and public relations officer.
The judiciary board said the Comelec should not have included “abstain” along with the names of the candidates in the ballots used during the elections because it violated Article 10 Section 5 of the UST Student’s Election Code of 2011 (USEC).
“[Comelec] violated [Section 5 of Article 10 of the USEC] by including ‘abstain’ in the ballot as if it is a name of candidate. The said act of Central Comelec, even if previously done, cannot be established into a custom or established practice in contemplation of Article 2 of the Civil Code because it is contrary to the said law,” the resolution read.
“[T]he abstentions should not have been counted or tallied because they are not votes,” the resolution added.
Article 10 Section 5 of the USEC states that the ballot shall contain the printed names of candidates, their position and their party; a box before the candidates’ names, serial number and instructions.
With the decision of the judiciary board, candidates from Lakas Tomasino Coalition will assume the vacant posts. They are Steven Grecia (12,596 votes) as president, Gabriela Sepulchre (10,130 votes) as vice president, Daveson Nieto (9,446 votes) as treasurer and Richard Javier (10,212 votes) as auditor.
Comelec Chairman Arvin Carlo Bersonda said the poll body did its part in securing the votes of Thomasians.
“[A]bstain has been part of the ballots for years [so] bakit ngayon lang [ito] naging big deal?” Bersonda said in a text message to the Varsitarian.
“The Commission firmly believes that it operated in the most lawful, unbiased and democratic definition of the Constitution for the student electorate,” the official statement of the Comelec read.
Lone CSC presidential candidate Steven Grecia sent a “written clarification” to the Comelec and the judiciary board on April 29 and May 16, respectively.
Grecia said the written appeal was to clarify the definition of “abstain” after a whopping number of Thomasians chose to abstain rather than vote for the candidates in four out of six positions in the CSC.
“[The written clarification was] regarding the effects of abstain in our elections since the CSC Constitution and the Students Election Code does not mention anything about abstain,” Grecia said in a text message last May 24.
Aside from Grecia, Daniela Frigillana, a candidate in the Faculty of Arts and Letters’ student elections, also filed a petition before the judiciary board, arguing abstentions were not and should not be counted as votes.
The judiciary board is composed of the University Legal Counsel Alfonso Versoza, Legal Coordinator Elgin Michael Perez, Office for Student Affairs Director Arlene Calara, Canon Law Student Council President Glen Mar Gamboa and outgoing CSC President Janela Love Nartates.
Only outgoing CSC President Janela Love Nartates dissented with the judiciary board’s decision.