Yesterday, the online voting for the ratification of the revised constitution of the De La Salle Lipa Student Government was concluded with 1,941 yeses, or 59% of the college population ‘agreeing’ on their proposed revisions. According to Executive Pres. Serine Obviar, the said revisions were made to elaborate the bill of student rights, make changes to the structure of the SG and separate the SG from the supervision of the Student Activities Office. However, although declared as successful, I believe that the ratification approach was rather faulty, and even unconstitutional.
Students voted ‘yes’ on a constitution they might have a very limited understanding of, based on the material that was made available to them. Portions of the constitution with revisions were posted online, but the SG said that they ‘forgot’ to post full copies of the document in time, just making them available past 5 pm of May 7, when more than 50% of the student population had already voted ‘yes’–a fact which I believe makes the votes invalid.
“Students voted ‘yes’ on a constitution they might have a very limited understanding of.”
A quick scan of Article XVII of the revised constitution would reveal why. As stated on Section 1 of the Transitory Provisions, “This Constitution and By-Laws shall be presented by the DLSL-SG to the DLSL college student body for ratification in a plebiscite.”
Section 2 also explains the guidelines on how the plebiscite should be conducted, highlighting on Section 2.2 that “The DLSL-SG shall distribute a summary of the important provisions of the Constitution and By-Laws” and on Section 2.3 that the SG shall present this summary to the students through a room-to-room campaign, online databases, or hard print advertising.
Apparently, no such presentation aside from the limited content of the online posting happened.
I believe the online posts do not pass as a “summary of the important provisions of the Constitution and By-Laws” as their content was very limited to the sections with revisions. None of the images even mentioned Articles I to III. As vague as the meaning of “important” is, they should at least contain the title of each section and article.
But the fault here is not just on the fact that they ‘forgot’ to distribute copies of the constitution online, but in their chosen method of presentation as well. Going back to Section 2.3, the methods that may be used in presenting the provisions are “room-to-room campaign, online databases, or hard print advertising.”
Why just settle on uploading posts online when a room-to-room campaign is also an option? When they could have done both, or all? Honestly, I believe this is one reason why the presentation of the constitution and by-laws was forgotten–because it seemed that they belittled the fact that revisions on the constitution should be presented to the students seriously and with maximum effort. Most likely, the SG was so focused on having the revisions passed, without caring on whether the students understood them or not.
“It seemed that they belittled the fact that revisions on the constitution should be presented to the students seriously and with maximum effort.”
The thing is, as efficient as the online platform is for disseminating information and reaching the students, the SG should not solely rely on this. Obviar said that one of the reasons why they chose to disseminate the information online was because they believed that if they organized a physical meeting, it will most likely turn out like how it did in the last SOSGA, where very few students participated.
But still, should this stop the SG from personally reaching out to students? If they think an organized meeting won’t work, then why not try a room-to-room campaign? It seems to me like the SG has lost its trust in the students — that they have gotten tired of trying to reach out.
It would be harsh to solely blame the SG, for even I am a witness to the student’s lack of participation in their activities. But then again, why are the students not supportive of the SG? Such deserves a separate discussion, but it is, I believe a factor why the plebiscite turned out invalid.
There are more factors that make the plebiscite invalid, like how students were forced to vote under the threat of having their clearances put on hold, when in fact, it is also their right to abstain, or not to vote. Both the SG and the student body had faults in passing this new constitution. The SG–in ensuring that the students understood the constitution before conducting the plebiscite, and the student body, in ensuring that they understood fully the context of what they were agreeing to. And that, I believe is the main problem here–the growing culture of passivity among the students, and the SG’s failure in addressing such.
I hope the next administration does not end up the same way.