THE UST Central Commission on Elections (Comelec) has dismissed the appeal of the Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UST (STAND-UST) on Faculty of Arts and Letters (AB) Comelec’s decision to disqualify the political party’s lone bet for this year’s Arts and Letters Student Council elections because there was no “patently gross error” on the part of the local Comelec unit.
In a letter to the appellants from STAND-UST dated April 3, Central Comelec legal head Joy Gabrielle Bedana said the commission cannot interfere with the decision of the local Comelec to disqualify STAND-UST’s presidential bet Rochel Ellen Bernido unless “there is a clear showing of a grave abuse of discretion.”
“In the present case, however, the Commission cannot see any patently gross error on the part of AB Comelec so as to warrant our intervention,” the letter read.
Article VI, Section 8b of the UST Students’ Election Code (USEC) of 2011 states that findings of fact by the local Comelec shall be respected unless there is a display of arbitrariness or “whimsical error” on the part of the local poll body.
AB Comelec disqualified Bernido after she failed to submit a “valid” resignation letter as the director for creative writing of the Thomasian Film Society (TFS)—an additional requirement for candidacy asked by the local poll body.
Bernido submitted a resignation letter signed solely by her because TFS president Russel Briones was then unavailable to sign it due to conflict of schedule.
In a letter of appeal to the Central Comelec, STAND-UST argued that “[t]here was no prescribed form of the resignation letter in any of the official Comelec documents—i.e. the signature of the organization’s board of officers, which is the bone of Briones’ contention.”
However, Bedana wrote that the AB Comelec emphasized that the format of resignation letter was not in question but it was the lack of acknowledgement on the part of Briones that raised doubts regarding the legitimacy of the document.
“Bernido’s filing of COC before the AB Comelec cannot be clipped by such an inconvenience of which she can be held neither at fault nor negligent. If anyone was amiss in their duties, it was Briones,” STAND-UST’s letter of appeal read.
Briones and the AB Comelec also did not comply with the procedure for contesting the eligibility of candidates stated in the USEC, given that the TFS president expressed his concern on Bernido’s resignation in the society to AB Comelec Chairperson Maria Margarita Villarica only through Facebook, STAND-UST claimed.
Article VI, Section 8.1 of the USEC states that “all oaths in relation with filing a complaint must be sworn before a member of the legal division of the Central Comelec or a legal officer of the Comelec concerned, otherwise, it should not be given due course except in case where interest of justice so requires.”
No person other than any member of the legal division or an authorized Comelec officer—or in their absence, the designated personnel from the Office for Student Affairs—may receive any qualification contest except in cases of unreasonable delay on the part of the Comelec, Article VI Section 8.2 of the USEC, furthermore, states.
“It should have been the legal officer of the Comelec concerned who should have received the complaint, if any, not the chairperson, and certainly not online,” STAND-UST’s letter read.
The political party also argued that the AB Comelec “retroactively” applied its requirement of submitting a resignation letter in filing a certificate of candidacy (COC) to the prejudice of Bernido, and that its candidate has complied with all the requirements stated in the USEC.
“When the AB Comelec accepted Bernido’s COC and the pending requirements, it is a clear indication that Bernido has complied with all the requirements, including the resignation letter. Comelec did not have any qualms about the said letter being unsigned,” the appeal read.
The AB Comelec, on the other hand, recognizes the right of STAND-UST to file an appeal to the Central Comelec, the local poll body’s legal head Samantha Mendoza said.
“This (filing of appeal) is a manifestation of their right to contest decisions made by the local Comelec units and it also gives the Comelec a chance to clarify on provisions in the USEC or rules pertaining to the overall campaign and election process in the University in general,” Mendoza said.
For Bernido, the decision of the Central Comelec was not surprising.
“Nauuwi sa pagkaduling sa teknikalidad, pero iniiwas ang mata sa nilalaman ng inilalaban. Nakakapanghihinayang, sa kabilang banda, na hindi man lang naituntong ang laban sa mas mataas na diskurso at hindi nakapagkampanya hinggil sa mga importanteng isyung nakakubli sa palda ng isang kleriko-pasistang paaralan,” she said.
“[N]asa konseho man o wala, tanggalan man kami ng karapatan tumakbo at i-disqualify sa laban, hinding-hindi masusupil ang tinig ng kabataang lumalaban para sa karapatan ng estudyante’t mamamayan.”
Despite not having any representative for the upcoming ABSC elections, STAND-UST Chairperson Elizabeth Anthony said that the political party would remain vigilant on local and national issues.
“STAND-UST may have suffered a setback in failing to field candidates but our campaigns (in University and national) against neoliberal attacks on education, tuition and other fees increase, mandatory ROTC, extrajudicial killings, issue on peace talks continue on,” Anthony said. F VANN MARLO M. VILLEGAS