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MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Loyola Schools of the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) student government suffered a blow on April 13 when the Comission on Elections (Ateneo Comelec) declared the closure of the 2016 General Elections.
A memo released on April 13 said the Ateneo Comelec decided to cancel the elections after all candidates withdrew their candidacies.
The school will also not hold special elections because it “would be futile due to the circumstances” and “would produce the same results as the General Elections”.
“The candidates, presented with every opportunity to run, have voluntarily decided not to field themselves in this General Elections,” they explained.
Special elections would also, “hamper the electoral body’s ability to vote since not all of the student body are required and will enroll for intersession classes”, limiting full participation of the students.
The remaining candidates withdrew at 11:55 pm on Tuesday, April 12.
The memo said the school electoral body had “exhausted all remedies available to it” before making the decision. It was then signed by the following:
- Ma. Patrice G. Gabito, Chief Commissioner and Commissioner for Communications
- Mark Mateo Balmes, Commissioner for Human Resources
- Sherwin Jay Diez, Commissioner for Secretariat
- Wilbert Jan R. Liao, Commissioner for Logistics
- Elaiza Padon Padilla, Commissioner for Finance
Plenty of slots, but few bets
The elections were initially slated for April 13 to 15.
At the time of the announcement on April 11, the Ateneo Comelec’s memo noted that the elections have already been shortened due to the “minimal number of candidates running for the 2016 Sanggunian General Elections and the fewer electorate.”
On April 5, there were only 3 candidates in the official list, and all were for Block Representatives.
Before that, April 4, there were 5, 4 of whom were running for Block Representatives and one for course representative. None ran for the top 44 positions, which included the president, vice-president, secretary-general, and finance officer.
This became the subject of a petition on April 8 to issue an injunction against the elections.
A student, Gian Paulo Alberto Soliman, filed the petition, arguing that the 3 candidates, if they’re elected, would comprise the Sanggunian, resulting in a misrepresentation of the student body.
On April 12, the Student Judicial Court rejected the petition and the misrepresentation argument. They also allowed the elections to push through, saying the lack of candidates should not bar other students from being represented.
All 3 were independent candidates as the two political parties – the Movement for Ignatian and Transformative Empowerment (IgNITE) and Christian Union for Socialist and Democratic Advancement (Crusada) – have announced that they would boycott the General Elections.
IgNITE said on April 5 that they would not field any candidates until a new constitution is ratified.
“The party believes that the challenge ahead is not to win as many seats in the Sanggunian as we can, but to advocate for the ratification of the new constitution of the Loyola Schools’ student government,” said the party.
Crusada also cited the constitutional convention as the reason for boycotting the elections. “Until the constitution is finalized, an election will only be counter-productive,” read their statement.
In a Facebook post, Shiph Belonguel, the head of the Constitutional Convention, said: “Political parties have boycotted this year’s election and independent candidates have dropped out of running because they want to wait for the new Constitution to pass. They believe that the new Constitution will allow for a more competitive elections in Ateneo.”
The Ateneo Comelec, guided by their previous mandate under the 2005 Constitution, proceeded with the elections on the dates it set.
The SJC decision also said “the possibility of the conduct of a plebiscite (on the new constitution’s ratification) should not and must not hold sway on the full implementation of the current Constitution.”
“Although it may be argued that the plebiscite aims to ratify a constitution that shall replace the Constitution, this does not change the fact that the Constitution is still in effect and must be favored over the ratification of a document that is perceived to replace it.”
New constitution, new Sanggunian
The link to the final draft of the new constitution was posted on April 7. It will take effect the school year after its ratification.
In a Facebook message sent to Rappler, the Ateneo Comelec said they, in coordination with the Ateneo Constitutional Convention, will hold a plebiscite on the new Constitution from April 25 to 29, 2016.
“If the aforementioned plebiscite is approved, Special Elections shall then take place on the dates stated in the ratified constitution,” said the Comelec.
“An interpretation of the old Constitution allows old, non-graduating officers (to) retain their positions until the next elections,” explained Belonguel.
“The next elections is expected to occur during the start of the next regular semester,” she added.
Should it fail, however, “Sanggunian shall still exist. A transitory government which shall be composed of old Sanggunian officers shall resume office until Special Elections be held,” said the Ateneo Comelec. – Rappler.com