DLSU-D Student Council Elections: Why is there no abstain vote?

Q: Why is there no “abstain” or abstention vote in DLSU-D Student Council Elections?

A: The phrase “abstention votes” is an oxymoron, an abstention being a refusal to vote. To abstain means to refrain from voting, and, as a consequence, there can be no such thing as an “abstention vote.” – Roberts’ Rules of Order

And so in the Student Council elections, if a student wishes to abstain from voting because the current candidates are not to his/her liking, the student simply does not vote.

The idea of putting the option of “abstain” in the ballot to indicate an abstention vote was never considered during the Student Election Code Convention of 2008 because all of us delegates at that time were of the mindset that since to abstain is to simply not vote, there’s no point in putting it as an option in the ballot. It would just be a waste of space on the ballot and unnecessary cost.

Besides, if a student doesn’t want to vote because the candidates to choose from did not suit their preferences or win their support, asking them to put it in writing or expressing it through the ballot would just be an added burden to the student and to those managing the elections.

Not voting on election day is the most powerful way of saying, “I abstain.”

The SCE still has jurisdiction over electronic form of election propaganda

One of the most novel and equally controversial provisions of the Revised Student Election Code of DLSU-D is the provision concerning electronic forms of election propaganda.

Background

Yours truly was part of the body that assembled to revise the old Student Election Code of DLSU-D back in 2008. Considering my background in social media publishing, aka I’m a blogger, and my previous experience in being Chair of the 2007 Students’ Constitutional Convention that drafted the 2008 USC Constitution, the body appointed me to draft the provisions concerning electronic forms of propaganda.

When we say electronic form of election propaganda we mean campaigning done through SMS, the Internet – in particular social media, video, audio and any other means of electronic communication.

As early as the 2007 elections, political parties were already using SMS, aka group messages to campaign for their candidates during elections. Back then, there were no provisions in the old E-Code about this method or other electronic campaign propaganda, however, the SCE still allowed it given that the campaign messages did not contain defamatory/libelous content against any political party and/or candidate.

As time went on, social media like Multiply.com which was still famous back then, were also used as election propaganda. Other political parties started putting up websites of their own. Again, up until the 2008 Revised E-Code, there were no provisions about the electronic election propaganda, yet they were still allowed and that the contents conformed to the relevant provisions of the E-Code. In addition to content, such electronic campaign propaganda were only used, published and utilized during the campaign period. Outside of the campaign period, they were strictly prohibited.

This was the experience and practice that became the norm up until the 2008 Revised E-Code was drafted, ratified and took effect beginning the 2009 USC and CSC elections.

So when we considered the provisions about the electronic form of election propaganda, we realized that it was impractical and impossible for the SCE to fully regulate it in the manner it can regulate non-electronic forms like tarpaulins, fliers, leaflets, posters, pins, shirts, etc. Simply because electronic election propaganda were intangible and resided only the vast expanse of the Internet and electronic gadgets while the non-electronic election propaganda were physically tangible and were only used inside the campus well within the literal jurisdiction of the SCE.

However, the body also understood that we cannot stop the march of progress and the creativity of the political parties – electronic forms of election propaganda is the way to go.

Compromise: Continue from historical experience and practice

So the compromise was that the SCE gave up jurisdiction over electronic forms of election propaganda in terms of the quantity, dimensions and the locations where they can be posted. However, the contents or substance and timeliness of its usage remained under the jurisdiction of the SCE as was the practice back in 2007.

Political parties and candidates were free to use any forms of electronic election propaganda be it SMS, social media, dedicated websites, videos, cover photos, profile photos, infographics etc. as long as the contents conformed to the applicable provisions of the E-code that regulated content:

Section 50. Prohibited Forms of Campaign Paraphernalia/Propaganda. Any
campaign paraphernalia/propaganda shall be unlawful if it:
Xxx xxx xxx
b. Contains the Course of the candidate.
c. Contains defamatory/libellous content against any political
party and/or candidate.
d. Involves the use of logo/name of any outside organization/
individual that has not been a donor of the political party and/
or candidate.

Aside from the content, the timeliness of using electronic election propaganda is also regulated by the E-code, that such campaigning is prohibited outside the campaign period.

A perfect sample case or precedent was the case of SENTRO vs SINAG, 2007-2008 elections wherein a campaign manager of SINAG political party was caught campaigning on election day itself using group SMS. SINAG was disqualified not for using SMS, but for campaigning during election days.

Provisions of the E-Code must be interpreted in harmony, not in conflict

Now, there is a serious misconception that since there is Section 47, f. that says:

The SCE shall have no jurisdiction over electronic form of election propaganda

It means that political parties and candidates have absolute freedom with electronic election propaganda. This is wrong. This is the wrong way of interpreting the E-Code because if this was correct, there would be a conflict with Section 50, c. of the E-Code which prohibits campaign propaganda that is defamatory/libelous. In legal practice, the Supreme Court explains why provisions of a law or code must not be taken against the other provisions, instead it should be interpreted and implemented in harmony with other provisions that express the intention of the authors of the law or its spirit.

The rule is that a a code is enacted as a single, comprehensive statute, and is to be considered as such and not as a series of disconnected articles or provisions. (Baking v. Director of Prisons)

Thus Section 47, f and Section 50 can stand side by side and not in opposition to one another. That parties and candidates can use any form of electronic election propaganda and regardless of its quantities as long as the contents do not contain defamatory or libelous content nor the courses of the candidates it bears and that such electronic campaign propaganda be used only during the campaign period.

A parallel case would be SWAFO’s past investigation in the blind-item pages in Facebook where students are sharing/posting their “secret stories” about life as a student in DLSU-D. The student handbook does not prohibit students about creating social media accounts, but if such accounts are being used to post content that are malicious or libelous against any member of the academic community, school administrators are authorized to investigate and if proven, discipline erring students.

It should be now clear to all students, specially the political parties, their candidates and the Student Commission on Elections that the use of electronic election propaganda are still subject to the provisions of the Student Election Code.

How does it work: DLSU-D Student Election System

Today is the first of the two Election Days in which students of DLSU-D will vote for a new set of University and College Student Council officers.

From a total of 97 candidates, 49 came from Samahan ng mga Estudyanteng Naninindigan para sa Tunay na Reporma at Ordinansa (SENTRO) political party, 46 came from SINAG Political Party while two are running as independent candidates.

They are contesting a total of 64 positions in the 7 College Student Councils and the lone University Student Council.

The total number of student-voters in DLSU-D is estimated to number around 12,000. However, year after year, the average voters’ turnout is around 30-45%. It’s a long standing issue which deserves a separate discussion in another post for another time.

Today, I will deal with one of the most pressing questions with regards to the elections: “How are winners of the elections determined?

The answer can be found in Sections 112 and 113, Article XIII of the 2008 Revised Student Election Code of DLSU-D, which reads:

Section 112. USC Officers. Candidates who have obtained the highest total percentage of votes cast in all colleges shall be the winners for the said positions in the USC.

The winning candidates are determined in the following manner: first, each candidate’s collegiate electoral score is determined by obtaining the percentage of votes cast for him/her in each college, second, each candidate’s electoral collegiate score is combined, and third, the candidates with the highest combined collegiate electoral scores shall be the winners of the election for
USC Officers.

Section 113. CSC Officers. Candidates who have obtained the highest total percentage of votes cast in all program courses offered in their respective college shall be the winners for the said positions in the CSC.

The winning candidates are determined in the following manner: first, each candidate’s program electoral score is determined by obtaining the percentage of votes cast for him/her in each program offered in his/her respective college, second, each candidate’s electoral program score is combined, and third, the candidates with the highest combined program electoral scores shall be the winners of the election for CSC Officers.

This is what has been called as the Collegiate Electoral Score system. The wording of the provisions are clear on how it works, but it’s a lot easier to understand by looking at it’s formula version:

Collegiate Electoral Score formula
Formula for the Collegiate Electoral Score

A candidate’s Collegiate Electoral Score in each of the 7 colleges are then added together for his/her final score. The candidate with the highest final score would be the winner for the position he/she contested.

The same formula is used in the College Student Council elections, but instead of “Votes cast in a college“, it will be “Votes cast in a program” or a course in that college. Then, all the scores are again added together. The candidate with the highest score wins the position he/she contested.

Does this formula conform with the 2008 USC Constitution? Yes it does. The USC Constitution simply requires that USC Officers be elected at large by the bonafide students of DLSU-D. (Sec. 2, Art. V, 2008 USC Constitution)

By “at large” it means all the students in the University. However, within the University, there are seven colleges with differing student populations. Some colleges are twice or even triple the size of another college in terms of student population. An example would be the College of Business Administration which has the largest student population of over 3,000 students. This is more than double the population of the College of Criminal Justice Education whose population is no more than 1,000 students.

So before the Collegiate Electoral Score system was introduced, student elections in DLSU-D have been dominated by political parties with solid support from the largest colleges namely the College of Business Administration and College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology.

The voices of the smaller colleges are drowned by the votes of the biggest colleges. That is not in line with the essence of democracy, that is a ‘virtual dictatorship’ of a few colleges.

In order to remedy this unfair situation, the framers of the 2008 Revised Student Election Code of DLSU-D devised the Collegiate Electoral Score system. It was inspired by the Electoral College system used in the election of US Presidents.

Because like DLSU-D, the United States of America faced essentially the same problems in every election, there are states that are more numerous than other states in terms of population. William C. Kimberling, Deputy Director of the Federal Election Commission Office of Election Administration explained:

Direct election was rejected not because the Framers of the [US] Constitution doubted public intelligence but rather because they feared that without sufficient information about candidates from outside their State, people would naturally vote for a “favorite son” from their own State or region. At worst, no president would emerge with a popular majority sufficient to govern the whole country. At best, the choice of president would always be decided by the largest, most populous States with little regard for the smaller ones.

Paraphrasing Mr Kimberling in the context of DLSU-D elections, USC officers would always be decided by the largest, most populous colleges with little regard for the smaller colleges under the old system. Such candidates may have the highest votes in the election, but it is not the popular majority from all the seven colleges in the University.

So in setting up the Collegiate Electoral Score system for DLSU-D, the framers of the 2008 Revised Election Code adopted the principle that each of the seven colleges be given equal weight during elections. The system will also ensure that the winning USC officers would have the majority support of students from each of the seven colleges, not the majority of just one or two colleges.

The new system creates a more level playing field for political parties their candidates and it even gives a chance for independent candidates to take on veteran players, this ultimately leads to a more dynamic and vibrant student-politics in DLSU-D. Equally important, it gives real meaning to one of the oldest slogans in the USC – “unity amidst diversity.

Disclosure: I was a member of the Student Election Code Revision Convention. I present, I am affiliated with SENTRO Political Party.

Updated Guide to the 2008 USC Constitution

While discussing about the revisions to the Student Handbook of DLSUD with the Dean of Student Services, we cannot help but talk about the 2008 USC Constitution and we always end up with one conclusion: student-leaders need more time to study, understand and implement the provisions of the said constitution.

This is timely because a new set of USC officers have just started their official term and are well in the middle of preparing for their plans and programs for the new school year. They have a clear mandate of implementing the 2008 USC Constitution and so it is essential that they understand its provisions.

To help them and every other student-leader and even ordinary students of DLSU-D in understanding the 2008 USC Constitution, I have decided to update the “layman’s guide” I wrote back in 2008. We used this in promoting for the new USC Constitution in the run-up to the plebiscite for its ratification. Now I publish its updated version to continue the effort of evangelizing the student-leaders and students of DLSUD about the 2008 USC Constitution. (If you don’t have Flash or it is disabled, you can click on the link to read it on Scribd.)

Guide to New 2008 USC Constitution

Hopefully, with this new guide publicly available on the web, many more student-leaders and students would be familiar with the 2008 USC Constitution and help each other in implementing its noble provisions, because after all, the document was created for their benefit.

If you have questions or comments about the guide and the 2008 USC Constitution itself, please don’t hesitate in raising them in the comments section below or you can contact me should you feel for a more private conversation.

2008 Revised Student Election Code of DLSU-D

Besides the national elections this coming 2010, Lasallians in DLSUD are also bracing for an election of their own, the kind that will select the next set of student-leaders to run and manage the University Student Council and the various College Student Councils in every college.

Legal experts are saying that Omnibus Election Code and many of our elections laws need to be updated, in order to bring them to speed with kind of politics our society has today. The same could be equally said of the election laws in DLSUD. It may only be used to govern the conduct of elections for a student government with more or less 11,000 students as its constituents, but the idealism and the student-politics in DLSUD is but a microcosm of the real-life politics outside of the campus.

So, the 2004 version of the Election Code has deemed inadequate, out-dated, and full of ambiguities. With respect to the drafters of the 2004 E-Code, the need for its revision is proof that in a span of four years, the student politics of DLSUD has evolved into a whole new level.

Hence, the 2008 E-code we’re implementing and promoting nowadays at school.

The 2008 Revised Student Election Code of de La Salle University-Dasmarinas

Obviously, the 2008 version is much more longer than its 2004 predecessor. In most respects and practical purposes, the new version is an expansion and clarification of the previous one. A result of filtering, sifting and consolidating the past experiences of political parties, student leaders, the University administrators and of course the student-commissioners themselves, from the problems that arose and the unnecessary limitations imposed by the old election code.

Briefly, the 2008 E-code has been expanded to cover the ordinary, non-partisan students, their conduct, behavior and liability with regards to the student elections. Political parties have been granted the freedom to conduct activities all throughout the year as opposed to limiting their “activeness” only during election season. The University Student Commission on Elections has been renamed Student Commission on Election, complete with a new organizational structure for a more flexible and efficient electoral board.

What else? We’ve also laid down a much clearer process of amending and revising the Election Code itself, so that when the time comes, in the distant future, the next set of student-leaders would be guided accordingly to bring the E-code on par with their edge.

I’d be talking about the specific parts of the E-code on the following days, hopefully, me fellow DLSUD students would be educated and motivated to actively participate in campus politics.

DLSUD Students: What should we change in the Student Handbook?

Later today, hopefully, the Student Handbook Revision Committee which is composed of faculty representing the various offices of the Office of Student Services will meet with the representatives of the various student sectors in DLSU-D to begin the process of revising the current Student Handbook.

Termed as the “Bible” for DLSUD students, or for any student for that matter, the Student Handbook is a codification of the school policies and regulations that directly affect the students in almost every facet of their university life.

From the prescribed school uniform to the grading policy, to the list of what is a school offense to its corresponding penalty, almost every thing is included in the Student Handbook.

It’s fortunate but rightfully so that revision of the handbook has been opened to student participation for it is our right because we students are the most important stakeholders in the university simply because we are its clients.

Hopefully though, the faculty and administrators would have an open and objective mindset so that proposals from us students and would be given merit and careful consideration without prejudice and self-serving biases so as to make the whole exercise fruitful, democratic and reflective of the student body’s sentiments, objectives, needs and aspirations.

So, my fellow DLSUD students. What do you want to change in the policies, regulations and processes in the Student Handbook?

I am all ears and the comments field below are very much open for your feedback, questions and recommendations.

I’d continue to blog about this whole process as we go along until a new Student Handbook has been completed.

For now, I’m off to my class!