The students from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) will be exercising their right to vote in the annual University Student Council-College Student Council (USC-CSC) elections on March 16 to 19, 2021.
Typically, the campus would be filled with colorful posters from the different political organizations, rooms would be visited for their campaigns, and precincts would be set up across the different parts of the university. However, due to the restrictions brought by the current pandemic, the Central Electoral Board (CEB)—the body that oversees the student elections—has adopted new guidelines for the elections that are to be done virtually and remotely.
What used to be room-to-room campaigns would now be hopping from one zoom class to another. The Miting de Avance (MDA), originally done in front of the Hagdan ng Malayang Kamalayan or SU amphitheatre, would be restricted to laptops streaming in the Zoom and Google Meet platforms or through the respective councils’ Facebook pages.
The filing of the certificates of candidacy (COCs) officially closed on March 3. The candidates running for the USC positions as well as for the CSC have already been approved by the CEB and council slates were presented and introduced to the student body shortly after.
Our university has six main political parties. Two are university-wide parties and also the main rivals for the USC positions namely the Samahan ng Kabataan para sa Bayan (SAKBAYAN) and the Buklod-UPLB. On the other hand, there are four college-based parties which are: the CEAT Alliance for Student Empowerment (CEASE), ADLAW CEM, the Veterinary Medical Students’ Alliance (VMSA), and the Linking Everyone Towards Service – CDC (LETS-CDC).
In this year’s elections, however, LETS-CDC will not be offering candidates from their respective party. Buklod-UPLB, meanwhile, hasn’t run since the 2018 USC-CSC general elections.
This being said, let’s now meet and delve deeper into the six parties of UPLB.
Samahan ng Kabataan para sa Bayan (SAKBAYAN)
Established on July 1, 1996, SAKBAYAN is the widest alliance of student organizations, fraternities, and sororities across the UP System. It was founded by a total of 25 organizations, frats, and sororities and it was primarily built to counter commercialized education and campus repression. Today, SAKBAYAN has 61 member-organizations.
Bannering the color red, their three main points of service are: (1) to unite the studentry to advance their rights and welfare, (2) to promote democratic rights of the university constituency, and (3) to link the principles of the students to that of the masses.
They regularly conduct leadership training, seminars, and the likes concerning public speaking, advocacy writing, and alliance work. SAKBAYAN also leads educational discussions (EDs), outreach programs, and its newsletter “SANGHAYA.” The alliance also helps in organizing benefit and advocacy programs.
For this year, the candidates from SAKBAYAN dominate the council posts of the USC as well as the positions that constitute the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), College of Human Ecology (CHE), College of Development Communication (CDC), College of Forestry and Natural Resources (CFNR), and the College of Agriculture and Food Science (CAFS) councils.
Ten SAKBAYAN candidates are currently running for the USC positions with Siegfred Severino spearheading the slate as chairperson.
“UPLB, Tayo’y magBuklod tungo sa daluyong ng positibong pagbabago.” – This has been the mandate of Buklod-UPLB.
Buklod-UPLB is the first and only recognized student political organization in UPLB. Their primary principles are integrity, initiative and involvement or what they peg as the “Three I’s.” “It started out with a vision of a campus of student leaders rising up to take part in transforming the nation. At the same time, they believed that to make a lasting impact, change has to start with ourselves.” Buklod wrote in their Facebook page on the establishment of their organization.
Integrity, initiative, and involvement. These are the core values of the color blue-dominated party. Integrity indicates incorruptibility, transparency, and accountability. Initiative signifies that changes have to start with the self and that every individual plays a part in nation-building. Involvement means that collective action can win any battle.
The last time the organization offered candidates was back in 2018. Ever since, SAKBAYAN has remained uncontested in the university student council elections.
SAKBAYAN and Buklod were not the only university-wide parties that existed in UPLB. We also had the Movement of Students for Progressive Leadership in UP (MOVE UP). It was formed in 2011, after several individuals built their own political party and detached themselves from their former organization, Buklod. MOVE UP had affiliated parties and slates, not only for the USC, but also for the college-level which were SINAG-CAS, KATIPUNAN-CHE, LETS-CDC, and MALAYA CA for the CAS, CHE, CDC, and the then College of Agriculture (CA) student councils. Since 2015, MOVE UP has been inactive in campus elections.
CEAT Alliance for Student Empowerment (CEASE)
CEASE is the sole college-based party for the College of Engineering and AgroIndustrial Technology (CEAT). It is made up of several organizations and individuals of the said college. Their principles revolve around diversity, unity, and proper representation. The color violet separates their party from the rest.
This campaign season, CEASE focuses on the calls for safe spaces for CEAT students and #LigtasNaBalikEskwela. Some highlights of their plans include lobbying for an increased mental health response through getting a psychiatrist or counselor at the college level, and a concrete vaccination program for students before returning to face-to-face classes.
In the upcoming elections, CEASE announced a full slate of 13 candidates composed of ten councilors, one college representative to the USC, one vice chairperson and chairperson. Charle Macarandan is the sole candidate for chair.
Showcasing its “sunlight” color scheme, the ADLAW party is an independent political organization native to the College of Economics and Management (CEM). Their mandates are “to uphold the spirit of genuine service” and “to promote genuine representation for the CEM student body.”
ADLAW is made up of students from CEM as well as its six recognized organizations namely: the UP Agribusiness Society (UPABS/BISOK), UP Agricultural Economics Circle (UPAEC), UPLB Economics Society (ECONSOC), UP Alliance of Economics and Management Students (UP AEMS), UP Junior Executive Society (UPJES), and the UP Society of Management and Economics Students (UP SMES).
Much like the CEASE party, ADLAW was also able to fill every position in the CEMSC slate. Marj Destreza would be leading the party as ADLAW’S candidate for chair.
Veterinary Medical Students’ Alliance (VMSA)
Dominated by the color white, VMSA is the uniting party of the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM). It is composed of various student organizations based in the CVM and they believe in a “fair and formal selection of students with leadership capabilities.” They also seek the students best fit for the council positions and aspire to strengthen local student governance.
This upcoming elections, VMSA stands by the campaign line: HAYOP, seeking to (1) highlight the role and importance of veterinary medicine in the the medical field and society, (2) abridge the gap between the administration and students, (3) yield sensible and compassionate leadership encompassing all vet students, (4) organize, educate, and mobilize vet students on college, university, and national issues, and (5) promote each and every veterinary specialization and encourage community involvement for vet students.
VMSA presented 13 candidates, completing the council positions of the CVMSC. Fronting the slate as chair is Therese Lomeda, Batch 2018 veterinary medicine student.
Linking Everyone Towards Service – CDC (LETS-CDC)
LETS-CDC is the lone political party of the College of Development Communication. It upholds the values of unity, participatory student government and a proactive leadership.
The said party is a member of Bukluran UP System, the first and only system-wide federation of progressive student organizations.
Utilizing the color green, the last time LETS-CDC candidates ran for the CSC was back in 2019. They have not formed council slates since then.
The search for genuine student representation
This coming March 16 to 19, the students, who have access to online resources, will vote through the UP Halalan page. Offline voters, on the other hand, will be given load assistance so they would be able to vote through either text or call.
In a time when academic freedom and democratic spaces are continuously threatened, student representation is crucial. Our future representatives would be the individuals who would help us carry our demands and advocacies; they would serve as the bearers of the calls of the studentry. That is why your vote matters!
Exercising our right to vote in the university is also a step towards democracy because when we are able to elect leaders who bear the interests of the student body, we are also able to discern the individuals who should be given the privilege to serve us, and that is vital the next time we select the leaders who would make up our national government.
We must bear in mind that, yes, student representation matters, but it should be carried by the right representatives. Representatives who forward and prioritize the interests of their constituents and not of their own. Because whether a candidate parades a red, blue, violet, orange, or white background, one thing remains. That is, we should judge and elect leaders who would not only uphold, but also protect, the welfare and rights of the studentry. [P]