TWO POLITICAL science experts said the lack of competition in the Central Student Council (CSC) elections this year was a signal of the dwindling interest of Thomasians in student politics, mainly due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Asst. Prof. Dennis Coronacion, the UST Political Science Department chair, said most Filipinos have become indifferent to elections during the pandemic, except for the 2022 national elections. 

“With the exception of the 2022 Philippine elections, most Filipinos have become indifferent to elections during this pandemic, especially those that involve the selection of leaders of organizations such as professional organizations and student councils,” Coronacion told the Varsitarian

“There is a low turnout of voters in these voting events because they don’t see the need to prioritize elections over other basic needs like health, resources, and education,” he added.

Coronacion said stringent health protocols and mobility restrictions had made people “isolated and alone,” and made them think they didn’t need to belong to a community and contribute to an organization. 

Jazztin Jairum Manalo, a political science instructor at UST, said the pandemic has changed the playing field in student politics in the University. 

“We need to note that there might have been a major change in terms of the rules and regulations in relation to campaigning, and for student-candidates to present their platforms which [are] mostly limited online,” Manalo told the Varsitarian

The online learning setup, the limitations of virtual campaigning, and the “toll” of the pandemic on the students’ mental health and well-being are the three factors that may have contributed to the dwindling interest of Thomasians in student politics, Manalo said. 

He said the stringent requirements of the UST Central Commission on Elections on candidates should remain to make sure future student leaders would be properly equipped and qualified to hold positions. 

Only five candidates—all unopposed—are seeking CSC posts in this year’s student elections.

Civil Law Student Council President Nathan Agustin is the sole candidate for president, while former UST Senior High School Student Council (SHS SC) secretary Francisco Mayuyu is the lone applicant for secretary. 

Accountancy junior Benjamin Amper IV and former SHS SC president Dale Marollano are eyeing the positions of treasurer and auditor, respectively.

Rhojen Sianda, the chief of staff of the Conservatory of Music Student Council, is running for public relations officer. 

CSC thinks otherwise

For CSC President Krizia Bricio, the Thomasians’ interest in campus politics is not waning.

“[B]eing in the student council for the past five years, mas nakita ko pa nga `yung willingness ng mga students na sumali sa mga student councils as long as they can serve the student body,” Bricio told the Varsitarian

There are still students eager to contribute to the student councils by suggesting and recommending what the student leaders should do despite the Covid-19 pandemic and online learning setup, she added.

CSC Public Relations Officer Gabriele de Lara said the health crisis made students prioritize themselves over anything, but “I don’t think the political interest of the Thomasians waned or shrunk in any way during this pandemic.”

“It’s really based on the situation that we are in […] kasi hindi natin maitatanggi that the online set up drains a lot from us to the point na kahit tayo nahihirapan na tayo mismo bumangon para magpatuloy,” he said.

CSC chief of staff Gilbert Estropia said student council elections were as important as the national elections because of the University-wide issues and grievances of students that needed to be addressed.

“[I] can say na kasing importante ng national elections ang local elections ng UST dahil marami tayong issues na gustong i-solve, kaya nakikita natin dito na, kahit sabihin natin walang tumatakbo sa vice president, talagang nae-engage pa rin natin yung students natin in terms of our elections in the University,” Estropia told the Varsitarian

Manalo also said participating in campus politics was important because it could help students become well-educated voters beyond the University. 

“Campus politics is a good start for students to exercise their right to vote and choose their student-leaders who will represent and hopefully address their concerns,” he said. 

The voter turnout for the University-wide elections in 2021 was 72.53 percent or 28,848 students out of 39,773, a significant increase from 55.54 percent or 21,112 students out of 38,032 in 2019. 

The election period for the CSC polls will run from April 4 to 7, from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m., and on April 8, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The proclamation of the new officers is on April 8. with reports from Eduelle Jan Macababbad and Jacqueline Martinez


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