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The Top 3 Student Council officers for S.Y. 2015-2016. From L-R: Mike Villanueva, Internal Vice President; Cyndy dela Cruz, President; Kina Lampa, External Vice President. Photos by Ram Cusipag

CEJA proclaims new SC officers; consti amendments fail

The Commission on Elections and Judicial Appointments (CEJA) of the Ateneo Law School has proclaimed the winners of the 2015 Student Council General Elections. Out of 783 student-voters, only 606 or 77.39% of the population casted their votes this year.

The winners are:

President: Cyndy P. DELA CRUZ

IVP: John Michael SP. VILLANUEVA

EVP: Karenina Isabel A. LAMPA

Secretary-General: Maria Crisselda N. TAMONDONG

Treasurer: Edelyn Criselle S. VENTURA

4th Year Batch Representative: Paolo G. FONDEVILLA

3rd Year Batch Representative: Julian Elizer DG. TORCUATOR

2nd Year Batch Representative: Francisco Viceni G. ALBA II

Only Ventura, Fondevilla, and Alba ran opposed. Ventura got 321 votes, while her opponent, Alta Garcia garnered 204 votes. Alba, who ran against Mico Clavano, got 127 and 60 votes, respectively. The hotly contested post of Senior Batch Representative saw a close match, with Fondevilla only having a four-point margin over his rival, Thea Vega, 82-78.

A tension-filled election

This school year’s election finally saw the operation of the CEJA’s express constitutional power “to decide all questions, contests, or protests relating to the conduct of the elections, the qualifications of the candidates and voters.”

On 23 February, the CEJA received an anonymous letter, accompanied by photos, pointing out possible acts of premature campaigning allegedly commited by Vega. The letter alleged that she was “indirectly soliciting [an] individual student’s vote in the guise of soliciting for ‘aid’ and ‘endorsement’” prior to the sanctioned campaign period, which officialy began at 12:00 NN of 21 February, in violation of CEJA Consolidated Rules and to the unfair prejudice of Fondevilla.

Vega, in her Answer, questioned the lack of due process when she was subjected to a “hearing” absent service of summons and that the circumstances did not permit her to properly device a defense against the accusations. She further claimed that only members of her campaign team were involved in such activities.

On 26 February, CEJA Resolution 15-002 declared that Vega’s procedural process was not violated, and that she engaged in election campaign and partisan political activity outside the campaign period. The CEJA Commissioners unanimously ordered her suspension from engaging in any form of “campaign” and “partisan political activity” for 7 hours—from 2 P.M. to to 9 P.M. of the same day. CEJA Chairperson Allen Jeil Gerona inhibited himself from the proceedings and voting.

Vega filed a petition for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the enforcement of CEJA Resolution 15-002 before the Student Judicial Council (SJC). The SJC, in Resolution 001-2015, granted her petition on the ground of lack of due process. In its decision, it held that CEJA proceeded against its own Rules of Procedure, which stated that all cases of election offenses shall be initiated by a written complaint, accompanied by a proof of service to the defendant, within 12 hours after the alleged offense has been committed.

Hence, the SJC held that the anonymous letter was not a valid complaint charging Vega of an election offense. It further stated that assuming there was a valid complaint, it was time barred. The SJC did not rule on the substantive merits of the charge against Vega. The Resolution was rendered by SJC Magistrates Martin Cusi, Norberto Geraldez, Maureen Macaraeg, and Myra Beatriz de Leon. SJC Magistrates Alyssa Nuqui and Henry Oaminal, Jr. took no part in the deliberations.

Accordingly, the CEJA eventually released a statement and withheld the enforcement of Resolution 15-002.

Miting de Avance

Last 27 February, The Palladium organized and sponsored the annual Miting de Avance at Justitia, which started at 9:15 P.M. The candidates delivered their speeches and were asked questions by the a panel, consisting of incumbent ALS SC President Armand Dulay, The Palladium’s Editor-in-Chief Carlo Agdamag, and CEJA Commissioner Kenneth Cajigal. The end of the Miting De Avance marked the culmination of the campaign period for the General Elections.

Top 3 position winners express their gratitude

Dela Cruz, who has been a part of the Student Council for three straight years, expressed her gratitude for the support of the student body. In a statementshe said, “From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much to everyone who has exercised their right to vote today. Thank you for continuously believing in the system. The fight has only just began and I vow to give you all the service you deserve. God bless you Ateneo! Here’s to One Big Fight and to being Men and Women for Others.”

Villanueva, who is the former Sophomore Batch Representative, thanked specific friends in his statement: “Gratitude, how I feel right now when looking back during the campaign can be summed up in that one word. To my lovely assistant/ringside announcer na balbas sarado, Lambert, thank you! To all those who extended their arms by offering help, thank you! To Armand, my friends, my fellow interns in AHRC, my brods, my Ariane, and especially to Diego, thank you!” he said.

Lampa, a newcomer to the Student Council, recalled a story in her statement: “There was a time when I was a little kid and my parents didn’t allow me to wash the dishes because of fear that I might break them. But then one day, they gave me the dishwashing soap and told me, ‘Go ahead.’ It was a moment I felt like I was trusted enough to be given that responsibility. And that was the feeling I got when I found out about the results. But of course, the responsibility now is a lot bigger. To everyone who encouraged me to run, and to everyone who helped me in every step of the way, thank you. And to the student body, for giving me the chance to serve as the school, I am extremely grateful and I will not disappoint. As I’ve said during my campaign, I will give the school the service it deserves. You can count on that.”

Proposed consti amendments fail to pass

Simultaneous to the General Election, a plebiscite calling for the amendment of the Student Constitution was conducted. In its proclamation, the CEJA declared that both proposed amendments failed to meet the required two-thirds (2/3) approval vote of the entire student population needed to approve such amendments. There are 783 qualified voters in the student body, and an amendment requires the affirmative vote of 522 students.

The first proposal creating the positions of Councilors for Academic Development, Student’s Rights and Grievances, and Social Awareness, and the position of the Beadle garnered the assent of 476  voters, or only 60.79%. One hundred thirty (130) rejected the amendments, while the rest failed to cast their votes. The second proposal amending the provisions related to the Council of Organizations of Ateneo Law (COAL) garnered 471 votes, corresponding to only 60. 15%. One hundred thirty-five (135) voted in the negative.

Despite the failure of the proposed amendments, Dulay expressed his optimism over the outcome. “This is the first time that the Student Constitution is being amended and the support was overwhelming. That is already a success for us. We just got held up by the voter turn out this year. But if you study the results closely, almost 80% of the students who voted were actually in favor of the Amendments. If everyone just voted, the 67% threshold in the Constitution could have been easily been passed,” he said.

Dulay still hopes that the amendments will be passed in the future. He states: “Hopefully, a  petition can be initiated anew by the Student Body because we really believe in the impact that these new positions will have in catering to the needs of the students. I think the lesson that we can learn here is that, we all have to do our part if we want to see changes in our immediate surroundings. We cant just sit around and wait for changes to happen on their own. Here is one of the chances that the students can take a direct part in shaping the way public service is done in ALS. But before that can happen, everyone must do their part, take action, and participate in crafting the changes that we want to see in ALS and this is through showing up and actually voting.” P

View the complete CEJA Resolution proclaiming the winners here.

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