BY GUIEN GARMA
In the College of Human Ecology (CHE), Samahan ng Kabataan para sa Bayan’s (SAKBAYAN) Marvin Noces got the most number of votes for the position of CHE Representative to the University Student Council (USC) during the elections last February. But his competitor, KATIPUNAN-CHE’s Carina Angela Lazaro, took the seat instead.
Lazaro joined the officers of CHE Student Council (CHE-SC), led by its chair Jean Paula Regulano last July 2 after Noces transferred to the College of Social Welfare and Community Development (CSWCD) in University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD).
Noces obtained 209 votes while Lazaro got 171 votes. Forty-one students abstained.
Noces told [P] that he was already a registered UPD student on June 13, 2013. He officially became a student of CSWCD in July 11, 2013, nine days after the CHE-SC officers took office.
In an interview, Regulano told [P] that she knew about Noces’ plan to transfer around the second or third week of June. She said that one time, while she and Dr. Wilma Hurtada, CHE college secretary, were talking, “Bigla niyang nabanggit, ‘O, si Noces pala magta-transfer.’”
The CHE-SC chair said that when she was able to talk to Noces and confirmed the representative-elect’s intention to transfer, Regulano and the council already worked on filling the college representative position.
“Matagal namin tong pinag-usapan sa council kasi hindi namin alam kung paano namin siya papalitan, though… may Constitution,” Regulano told [P], referring to the 1984 Constitution of the University of the Philippines Los Baños Student Council.
However, the CHE-SC chair noted that the clause on filling of vacancies for the college representative position is prone to various interpretations.
Article VII, Section 7(d) of the Student Council Constitution states: “A vacancy in the office of College Representatives to the USC shall be filled, in so far as practicable in the manner provided above, for the university councilor.”
The “manner provided above” stated in Section 7(d) may have been referring to Section 7(c) of the same Article, which states: “If vacancy occurs in the office of the university/college councilor, the candidate who obtained the next higher number of votes in the last general elections of the student council shall take place.”
Because of varying interpretations, CHE-SC decided to consult three lawyers to interpret the 1984 Constitution. Regulano said that all three lawyers say that the candidate for the college representative who got the next highest number of votes shall fill the vacancy. She added that one lawyer suggested the conduct of special elections.
“Kung wala siyang kalaban, doon possible na kukuha sa councilor o magkakaroon ng special elections. It’s our choice kasi autonomous ang councils,” she explained.
After seeking legal counsel, Regulano said, the council met again and finalized that Lazaro shall fill the vacancy. She added that it took them two to three weeks to settle the issue.
Noces, however, asserted that the CHE Student Council’s decision was undemocratic. He said via a Facebook message that making the legal opinions of the lawyers CHE-SC consulted as bases for its decision to place Lazaro to the college representative position when the council itself should autonomously decide is undemocratic.
“Sa nakaraan na nagkaroon ng kaparehong kaso na ito, pinagpasyahan ng mga student council na ipalit sa sino man na umalis sa konseho ang isa pang nagmula din sa hanay ng mga ‘elected’ student council members,” he explained.
“[K]aya naman nanindigan ako kasama ng ilan ko pang kasamahan sa konseho na ang dapat pumalit sa akin ay iyong nakakuha ng top slot sa pagiging councilor,” Noces added.
However, Regulano explained, “Hindi sinasabi na yung second rank is yung top councilor kasi it’s possible na yung votes ng top councilor is higher than the CHE rep… E ang sabi eh second highest number of votes sa last general election.”
Noces confirmed to [P] that he has not filed yet a resignation letter both to the University Student Council (USC) and CHE-SC as a form of protest.
‘Why run in the first place?’
When asked about how she felt when the position Noces supposedly vacated was given to her, Lazaro said that she “felt excited that [she] would still be able to serve the college despite losing in the elections.”
Through a Facebook message, Lazaro also aired her opinion about Noces’ move to transfer to CSWCD. “I wouldn’t have ran [sic] if I never had the intention of taking the position in the first place, or were planning to shift to another UP unit.”
She added, “When I heard of [sic] the news that Marvin Noces transferred, I thought to myself, why run in the first place if you had intentions of leaving the college?”
When asked about Noces’ stand that the council’s decision was undemocratic, Lazaro said that the 1984 Student Council Constitution already bares the proper procedure of filling the vacancy. “I find it bothering that there was an effort in his part to not follow the constitution, even citing precedents in the CHE-SC, which does not apply in this situation,” she said.
Noces also noted that some CHE-SC members who stood by their stand that Lazaro should fill the vacancy seemed to be non-negotiable. “[T]inuligsa ko din noon kung paanong hinawakan ni Ms. Regulano ang mga pagpupulong ng konseho at ang kanyang pagkiling kay Ms. Lazaro na kasamahan nya sa hanay ng mga kandidato ng kanilang partido na lumahok noong eleksyon,” he added.
However, Lazaro said, “There is no issue of politics in here, just plain and simple reading of the constitution would do, and would clearly explain what to do in such situations.
Despite all these, Noces wishes Lazaro all the best.
“Dapat na lamang siguro nating siguruhin na si Ms. Lazaro ay tunay na maglilingkod sa interes ng sangkaestudyantehan. Kasaysayan na ang manghuhusga sa kanya,” he said. [P]