Olivar, Ac-ac to lead 2023 UPLB USC roster

students demand resols, accountability amid issues

Students demand resols, accountability amid issues

Words by Alex Delis and Saulo Bautista

New set of student leaders had been announced, with Gio Olivar as Chairperson-elect and Carla Ac-Ac as Vice Chairperson-elect, based on the recently concluded 2023 University Student Council (USC) – College Student Council (CSC) elections. 

Both elected leaders came from the lone political university-wide alliance Samahan ng Kabataan para sa Bayan (SAKBAYAN) along with other USC councilors-elect. 

In the result released on May 19, Olivar attained a total of 2,760 votes and 2,234 abstain votes. His vice chair-elect, Ac-Ac, accumulated 3,601 votes and 1,393 abstain votes.

This year’s USC-CSC elections concluded with a 35.45% voter turnout, a total of 4,994 votes out of 14,087 total student population. Last year, voter turnout reached 38.74%, which is 3.29% higher than this year’s elections.

Final voter turnout for 2023 USC-CSC elections.

Also included in the new roster of USC councilors are Maggie Dolar (2,795 votes), Hazel Grace Romero (2,629 votes), Marifel Balbarona (2,506 votes), Kenzo Gavril Publico (2,471 votes), Jethro Rumbaoa (2,359 votes), Azad Demonteverde (2,280 votes), and Neroz Guanzon (2,271 votes). 

Anihin nating lahat bilang isang malaking tagumpay ang nangyaring USC-CSC elections dahil muling nakapaghalal ang UPLB student body ng Konseho nito na handang magsilbi sa [mga] kabataang estudyante sa loob at labas ng pamantasan,” Ac-Ac said. 

(Let us consider this USC-CSC elections as a huge victory because UPLB students had once again elected its council that is ready to serve the studentry inside and outside the University).

Reamplifying calls and campaigns

Students’ general calls loomed further during the election period, poised to be dealt with by the student leaders-elect.

In an interview with UPLB Perspective, Olivar and Ac-Ac shared that calls raised anew by the constituents would make up the Students’ Agenda and List of General Demands (SAGD) to concretize steps in delivering campaigns for the body.

Many calls were raised during the election period. Amid the surge in COVID-19 cases in the University, an alarm of possible suspension of in-person classes urged the students to demand proactive response from the administration.

Albeit campaigns for #LigtasNaBalikEskwela are continuously sustained, Veterinary Medical Students’ Alliance (VMSA) saw the need to revisit the health policies imposed by the University. They emphasized that UPLB Online Health Monitoring System (OHMS) will not reflect the actual health status of the students if stringent University policies remain in place. 

Such calls for safe school reopening have long been lobbied by students in the face of imminent threats of the pandemic.

(RELATED STORY: Pagtulak sa ligtas na balik-eskwela at paglaban sa krisis sa edukasyon, tututukan ng Kabataan Partylist)

Another issue cited is the delay in the release of the Student Learning Assistance System (SLAS). With this, USC leaders-elect call for the decentralization of the UP budget.

“Ang SLAS ay system-wide, dahil dito ay kadalasan nade-delay ang pagbigay ng financial assistance. Kaya sinusulong na i-decentralize ang UP budget lalo na sa SLAS, ay para mabigay ang pangangailangan ng mga CUs,” answered councilor-elect Azad Demonteverde when asked how will the council respond to this issue during their Miting de Avance. 

(SLAS is system-wide, which causes its delay in providing financial assistance. [We] campaign for the decentralization of UP budget, most importantly in SLAS, to provide the needs of CUs). 

Aside from these, calls for #NoStudentLeftBehind were amplified by students. SAKBAYAN pushes for the Magna Carta for Dormers that aims to provide affordable dormitory fees and pro-dormers policies, in collaboration with UPLB Alliance of Dormitory Associations (ADA). 

ADLAW-CEM also recognized that student spaces inside the campus fall short, and assured their presence in forwarding calls for more student spaces. Clamor for additional student spaces has been persistent now that the campus has shifted back to in-person classes. 

(RELATED STORY: Upon return to campus, students raise concerns on Internet connection, limited spaces for blended learning)

Constituents’ rights and welfare remain a matter of concern for the constituents inside the University. With the rising cases of sexual harassment and gender-based violence, new roster of leaders from different colleges vowed continued coordination with the Student Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) and UPLB Office of Anti-Sexual Harassment (OASH). 

The recent red-tagging incident at the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (BIOTECH) prompted the discussion on the Safe Haven Resolution. USC chair-elect emphasized the importance of student representation to combat these attacks on academic freedom. He also acknowledged this as one of the biggest challenges that the councils will face.

Meanwhile, calls for ‘no to fraternity-related violence’ (NFRV) echoed once more due to the presence of fratmen in this year’s elections. Students demand for accountability towards FRV cases due to Olivar’s affiliation with Upsilon Sigma Phi fraternity that is tied with FRVs in the University. 

(RELATED STORY: Frat-Related Violence and Culture – A Snapshot of a Bigger Problem).

After the release of results, UPLB Babaylan released a statement, saying that they challenge the newly-elected leaders to forward their campaigns in combating FRVs as soon as they start their term in the student council.

“Bagaman maraming alinlangan ang aming linya sa desisyong ito ng partido ngayong eleksyon, naniniwala kami na ang mga adbokasiya at ipinaglalaban ng mga naluklok sa konseho ay katulad sa mga adbokasiya at ipinaglalaban ng UPLB Babaylan, maging iba man ang itsura ng pagtahak nito,” the organization also asserted.

(Albeit we have many hesitations on the decision made by the party [SAKBAYAN] this election, we believe the advocacies held by the elected councils align with UP Babaylan’s advocacies, even in different forms). 

During the USC Miting de Avance last May 12, USC Vice Chairperson-elect Ac-Ac issued a stern warning to his running mate should he get involved in FRVs. “[Kung] si Gio mismo ang involved sa FRV, SAKBAYAN po mismo ang magtutulak sa kanya palabas. That would be our assurance sa student body.”

(If Gio gets involved in FRVs, SAKBAYAN would push him out of the alliance. That would be our assurance to the student body). 

On abstain votes, low voter turnout

This year’s election resulted in a high number of abstain votes and low voter turnout.

Out of the total number of votes, 44.7% (2,234 out of 4,994) accounts for abstain votes in the USC chair position. In the vice chair position, 27.9% (1,393 out of 4,994) of total votes encompasses abstain votes.

The number of abstain votes for both positions are higher compared to elections over the last three years. In 2022, only 10.4% accounts for abstain votes in chairperson position, whereas 12.4% in vice chair. 2021 electoral results, on the other hand, show that abstain votes only reached 14.1% and 16.1% for chair and vice chair, respectively.

(RELATED STORIES: Lone USC slate attains complete win, Severino elected as chair; Celestial, Olivar elected as USC chair, vice chair in 2022 USC-CSC elections). 

When asked about his response regarding the high abstain votes he gained, Olivar said, “Kinikilala natin ang malaking numero ng abstain bilang isang hamon upang mas magpursigi ang bagong halal [na] konseho na mas mairepresenta at mas mahamig ang mga mag-aaral sa mga kampanyang bitbit natin.” 

(We acknowledge the high number of abstain votes as a challenge to the new council to push for a better representation and to be more inclusive among students on the campaigns we forward). 

He also acknowledged that the hesitancy of some students to vote for him may be due to his affiliation to fraternity. 

Voter turnout is also low for 2023 USC-CSC elections. In fact, this year is the lowest turnout of votes since the 2021 elections.  Issue regarding low voter turnout has been recurring over the past elections which is yet to be resolved by student councils and students themselves. 

Tinatanaw natin na sa susunod na eleksyon ay mapapataas pa natin ang voters’ turnout. Maaari natin itong gawin sa mas maigting pang paglapit sa mga kabataang estudyante ng UPLB,” vice chair-elect Ac-Ac said. 

(We are looking forward to an increase in voters’ turnout for the upcoming elections. We can do this by engaging more with the UPLB students). 
Election results aside, technical difficulties during the voting period also arose. Some students experienced errors while accessing the Halalan UPLB portal to cast their vote. [P]

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