CSC bets urge Comelec: Return ‘Abstain’ in 2018 ballot

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CANDIDATES for Central Student Council (CSC) Executive Board elections have appealed to the UST Central Commission on Elections (Comelec) to reconsider the exclusion of “Abstain” and the minimum vote requirement for lone candidates in this year’s student polls.

Public Relations Officer bet Jeremiah Pasion said the ruling of the commission “undermines” democracy in the University, and that the legal basis of these rules was “insufficient.”

“The UST student body deserves its democratic right to choose its leaders through the student council elections and must not be hindered by rulings that lack substantial and procedural basis,” Pasion said in a formal complaint last April 2.

Pasion also said the Comelec’s decision to allow lone candidates to be proclaimed if they win at least 25 percent of the voting population disregards the “voice” of Thomasians.

“Should the UST Comelec insist that lone candidates must garner the approval of only 25% of the voting population in order to be proclaimed as winners, it is committing grave errors with respect to both procedure and substance,” Pasion said.

Carol Anne Balita, candidate for CSC secretary, said students should not be restrained from their freedom to choose.

“[As regards] our judgment of the candidates, we opt to abstain from choosing those who don’t represent the student body,” Balita posted on Twitter on Saturday.

Robert Gonzales, candidate for CSC Secretary, said it was “brave and noble” that students were fighting for the retention of “Abstain” in the ballots.

“If you deem it necessary not to vote for a candidate, you have the freedom of choice,” Gonzales said in his statement posted on Twitter.

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Comelec Chairman Arvin Bersonda said the decision of the commission to remove the “Abstain” option was final.

“They are entitled to their own opinion and have every right to express it. We respect our differences in interpretation. The commission has already sought all legal avenues to push through the abstain option in the CSC polls but was rejected by the highest tribunal in our university, the Central Judicial Board (CJB),”  Bersonda told the Varsitarian in an online interview.

The Comelec removed the option to “Abstain” this year to comply with the order of the CJB last year, which said the poll body violated the UST Students’ Election Code of 2011 by including “Abstain” on the 2017 ballot, which led to massive abstentions in four out of six positions in the CSC.

“As far as we are concerned, there is very little we can do on our own end at this point, other than aid the CSC in their future efforts to amend our existing laws,” Bersonda added.

In a news conference last March 23, Comelec said positions could be left unanswered but the number of blank votes would not be used to determine the winners as 25 percent of the Thomasian voting population was required to proclaim election winners.

The University Students’ Election Code (USEC) of 2011 states that if less than 25 percent of the voting population did not cast their votes on any election, the poll body shall declare a failure of elections.

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