BLAME the party poppers.

Unlike routine polls of previous years, this year’s student council election has been marred by disqualification cases – election officials have denied accreditation to the ruling party, which then attempted to have the presidential bet of the rival party disqualified.

In the first day of the official campaign period last February 3, the Central Judiciary Board and the Central Comelec announced that the ruling Lakas Tomasino Coalition is no longer accredited. Its candidates were automatically deemed independents.

Lakas Tomasino has accused the Central Comelec of harassment, and has filed its own disqualification case versus the Alyansa ng Kristiyanong Lakas (Aklas) presidential bet, Juan Paolo Perlada. The case was thrown out last February 15.

Randolph Clet, representative of Lakas Tomasino, said the reason for the loss of the party’s accreditation was its failure to give an official receipt for “party poppers” used for its victory party after sweeping the Central Student Council (CSC) election last year.

“We submitted a wrong receipt. We gave them a receipt dated 2008 when it was supposed to be 2009. But we were able to provide on February 1 the 2009 receipt because the store got it wrong,” said Clet, also the chairman of the grievance committee of Central Student Council.

The party sought consideration from the Central Comelec last semester but was denied. On November 12, 2009, Lakas Tomasino appealed to the Central Judiciary Board and was re-accredited.

The members of the board who sat on the meeting with Lakas Tomasino were: Students Welfare and Development Board Director Anita Garcia, former legal counsel of the Office for Student Affairs Rafael Bautista, and seminarian Kristian Sibbaluca.

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Lakas Tomasino was given three days to complete the requirements to qualify for the student elections. However, after submission of the missing requirements in February, the Central Comelec still denied Lakas Tomasino its accreditation due to the “questionable authenticity” of its documents.

“The receipt was photocopy of the original with an amount of P540, but the fund left on their [financial] declaration last school year was only P536, so we requested for the original. They provided us with an original receipt with different invoice number and different amount,” said Central Comelec president Yanna Umali.

Umali said Lakas Tomasino declared a remaining balance of P536 pesos from the previous school year in its financial report, but stated a zero-balance during the first semester of the current school year.

“But it’s not only receipts,” said Umali. “They also failed to give us a master list of their party representatives for every college and faculty, institutions or schools. When we checked the documents they submitted, they did not match.”

Resolution No.1 issued by the Central Comelec required all political parties to submit financial documents, including the explanations as to how, where and when the funds were used.

On the other hand, Central Comelec’s Resolution No. 2 mandates the conduct of the candidates running under a party or independently.

On February 5, the Central Comelec released Resolution No. 4, which allows local-independent candidates to endorse candidates for the CSC as long as they come from the same college.

Lakas Tomasino said this curtailed freedom of expression, as local candidates were barred from endorsing bets from other colleges.

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“We don’t actually care about the unaccredited status, but this [Resolution No. 4]? This is an over-kill,” said Milfen Alvarado, another representative of Lakas.

Umali denied the allegations, saying that “Resolution No. 4 is only an addition to an existing Resolution No. 2 two years ago [which is] still in effect up to now.”

“We just complemented whatever is lacking on the earlier resolution,” she added. Umali stressed that there was no abuse of power in the part of the Central Comelec.

Aklas disqualification case

Two failing grades was the sole basis of Lakas Tomasino for the failed petition to disqualify Perlada, Aklas’ presidential candidate.

Perlada obtained the two failing grades at the College of Science before shifting to the College of Tourism and Hospitality Management.

“The quadricentennial president should be the best leaders among the thousand of leaders,” said Clet, who spearheaded the petition.

He also questioned the credibility of the Central Comelec particularly on enforcing rules on the qualifications of presidential candidates.

Perlada said “the issue was a matter of interpretation.”

The Students’ Election Code states in Article V, Section 1 that “candidates for the position of the president and the vice president must not have failed or dropped any subject throughout his or her entire course including Physical Education and National Service Training Program.”

Perlada said the Central Comelec allowed him to run because the failing grades he got were from his previous course.

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