Leading the new roster of leaders as USC chair and vice-chair are Siegfred Severino and Shaira Daludado, respectively.
Words by Pierre Hubo
The University Student Council (USC) slate of party alliance Samahan ng Kabataan para sa Bayan (SAKBAYAN) won this year’s student council elections with a clean sweep, as announced last March 19.
This year’s General Elections concluded with a 44.16% voters’ turnout, with 5,115 total votes out of 11,581 voters. This was the highest turnout since UP Halalan’s system was used for campus elections. It also greatly surpassed the 2019 Special Election voters’ turnout of 11.96%.
Former Student Regent candidate and SAKBAYAN USC Chairperson Siegfred Severino won with 4394 votes, and will be working alongside slatemate Shaira Daludado for Vice Chairperson, who accumulated 4294 votes. The incoming councilors of SAKBAYAN include Beatriz Quidilig (3367), Gean Celestial (3336), Agnes Gutierrez (3248), Bianca Katalbas (3248), Clarice Sumagaysay (3174), Christian Reginio (3052), Arveil Briones (2946), and Michael Olarita (2870).
Severino will take office this upcoming midyear.
Last March 15, SAKBAYAN addressed the university in the first ever virtual Miting de Avance (MDA), where they discussed their plans for their potential terms and addressed the concerns of the students.
The unopposed party alliance presented a three-point General Plan of Action (GPOA), which delved into academic freedom, the current UP situation, and national sovereignty, were the talking points of the session.
The party members were all present at the MDA, except for then-councilor candidate Olarita, who absented due to personal reasons.
The said event concluded a series of MDAs of the different colleges for their respective College Student Council (CSC) elections, following the new election guidelines, which were mandated by UPLB’s Central Electoral Board (CEB). SAKBAYAN’s MDA was chaired by panelists that included outgoing USC Chairperson Janino Bongon, former Chairperson Merwin Jacob Alinea, and current Perspective Editor-in-Chief Mark Famatigan.
With an agenda set, outgoing USC chair and fellow panelist Jainno Bongon set the tone by talking about the pandemic, remote learning setup, and the current situation in Southern Tagalog. He emphasized that the students need a student council with a mandate of protecting the students.
“Nasa panahon tayo kung saan pinaka-kinakailangan ng [mga estudyante ng] representasyon,” he said, following his address with a moment of silence for the CALABARZON 9, as well as for the death anniversary of the late Kristel Tejada.
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Promises and proposals
When Bongon asked the candidates their take regarding last semester’s strike that was spearheaded by UPLB Kilos Na, Severino said that the said strike is proof of the militant movement of the students.
“Makikita po natin na hindi po tayo nagpapakulong sa mga diyalogo lamang, sa pagpapasa ng position papers upang marinig ng administrasyon yung mga demands, yung mga hinaing ng mga estudyante,” answered Severino, who was one of the convenors of Defend UPLB (READ: #WelgaUPLB: Calls to end semester amplified with UPLB strike).
In relation to this, Famatigan asked Severino if the student body will still put their trust on leaders, after an incident regarding the alleged use of the alliance’s phone number to “manufacture” a death threat.
Severino apologized, saying, “Never magiging perpekto ang student movement.” He assured that the slate will work in heeding to the demands of the students (READ: Ex-Defend UPLB volunteer yet to clarify affiliation with Manila police; alleged connection with MPD crime lab circulating online).
Mathew Barbeyto of College of Human Ecology Freshman Council (CHEFC) inquired on their “No Student Left Behind” campaign, asking how the current slate will uphold the said movement.
“Tayo po sa SAKBAYAN ay naniniwala sa isang collective leadership […] shared ang responsibilities, shared ang burdens, at gano’ng type of leadership po ang pina-practice sa SAKBAYAN, at gano’n din po ang magiging leadership ng SAKBAYAN USC slate once nakaupo,” Daludado responded. She also highlighted the neoliberal orientation of education as to why students are being left behind, vowing that their will not be “individualistic.”
Meanwhile, when asked about their assessment on the first four months of Chancellor Jose Camacho’s term, Daludado said that, while there were pro-people and pro-student successes, there are still existing problems from the previous term that need to be resolved. She said the USC will ensure that they will continue to pay close attention to the new chancellor (READ: Balik-tanaw: Unang 100 araw ni Chancellor Camacho).
SAKBAYAN stated in their GPOA that they believe in the strength of the students in standing up for free, accessible, and quality education. The party also promised to continue the fight in protecting the democratic rights of its students.
Famatigan then raised the matter of fraternity-related-violence (FRV) cases, asking for the candidates’ stance on the call to abolish fraternities in the university. Celestial explained that this is only a band-aid solution, citing FRVs’ roots to the patriarchal society. She proposed to strengthen the inter-fraternity council, in order to tackle fraternity-related issues. Meanwhile, Guiterrez expounded on this, proposing to intensify women empowerment discussions.
Famatigan followed-up by asking about the perceived power that fraternities hold over the university.
“Manipestasyon nga ng nag–eexist na patriyarkal, macho-pyudal na lipunan kung saan pinapahalagahan ang mga koneksyon [at] padrino system […] na naglalagay sa mga tao sa mga posisyon,” Severino answered. He campaigns for collective leadership, saying that SAKBAYAN USC protests the said perception.
Despite numerous anti-harassment policies in the university, SAKBAYAN was asked of their plans in strengthening these policies, as cases are still evident of such harassments. Reginio aligns his answer to the party’s GPOA, saying that they would collaborate with the Gender Center and Office of Anti-Sexual Harassment (OASH), thereafter assigning a council member or volunteer to monitor the cases.
Jonah Hufano, SAKBAYAN College of Development Communication (CDC) candidate and a member of UPLB Delta Lambda Sigma Sorority, directed her question to sorority member candidates, asking them of their say on the issue of exclusivity and internalized misogyny of sororities.
Sumagaysay said that she believes that sororities are made to empower, and that they help members in having constructive self-criticism. Meanwhile, Quidilig proposed joining campaigns that further empower women, such as the General Assembly Binding Women for Reforms, Integrity, Equality, Leadership, and Action (GABRIELA) – Youth.
On their stance regarding the Acceptable Use Policy of UPLB Information Technology Center (ITC) and actions to protect digital rights, Severino said that the setup should not be a hindrance that curtails the right to express academic freedom. He proposes to review it to be more inclusive, so as to be used at its fullest extent. Daludado added that given the current setup, resources should be maximized to strengthen the student movement.
SAKBAYAN was also asked about their stance regarding House Bill No. 8737 or “Off Campus Education Act”.
“Tayo po sa SAKBAYAN ay naniniwala na isa na naman itong hakbang ng rubber stamp congress ng Duterte administration upang mas paigtingin yung crackdown at mas paigtingin yung paniniktik sa ating mga student activists,” Severino said.
The said bill, which was approved on the same day of the MDA, regulates off-campus educational activities by public and private schools. Severino said that this regulation is a scheme to stop or spy on community immersions and humanitarian missions done by students. [P]
Photos from SAKBAYAN – UPLB