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Central Judiciary Board ruling likely to apply to local polls—Central Comelec chair

Photo by KATHLEEN MAE I. GUERRERO
photo by KATHLEEN MAE I. GUERRERO

THE DECISION of the Central Judiciary Board to disregard abstentions and proclaim as winners the candidates with the highest number of votes in the recent Central Student Council election may also apply to local polls, the chairperson of the UST Central Commission on Elections (Comelec) said.

Central Comelec Chairperson Arvin Carlo Bersonda said unless abstentions are discussed in the constitution of the local unit concerned, “abstain” may also be set aside in the concluded local polls, including the Arts and Letters Student Council (ABSC) elections.

“The chamber of chairpersons still has to discuss this matter pero since hindi lang naman si [Steven] Grecia ‘yung nag-appeal at isa sa [mga] nag-appeal si [Daniela Angela] Frigillana, most probably applicable din siya sa local units unless may naka-state sa [constitution] nila regarding abstentions,” Bersonda said in a text message to the Flame.

Frigillana, who ran for the position of vice president-internal during the ABSC polls but lost to “abstain,” filed a petition before the judiciary board, arguing that “abstain” is not a vote and questioning the Central Comelec’s interpretation of abstentions as rejection of candidates by Thomasians.

The current ABSC has three vacant positions—vice president for internal affairs, secretary, and auditor.

Considering the application of the judicial board’s decision to local elections, independent candidates Frigillana, Maria Ann San Andres, and Jan Rafael Lipat are the new ABSC vice president-internal, secretary, and auditor, respectively.

Article XI Section 8 of the ABSC Constitution, however, states that “all permanent vacancies in the Executive Board shall be filled by special elections.”

“It was really hard for us to accept the decision of the [Central Judiciary Board]. The legal division of Comelec still needs to discuss the matter kung ano man ang next step,” Bersonda said.

“We have [to] make sure na magiging tama and maayos ‘yung susunod na hakbang just in case ‘yun na ‘yung last bullet namin,” he added.

The Flame tried to reach Frigillana but to no avail as of press time.

The AB Comelec will release its resolution on the decision of the Central Judiciary Board within the week, the poll body’s chairperson Ayla-Rhey Salapare said in an online exchange.


‘Set aside’ abstentions

In a resolution dated June 28, the Central Judiciary Board directed the Central Comelec to proclaim the candidates with the highest number of votes in the recent CSC elections as winners, after Grecia and Frigillana both questioned Comelec’s interpretation of abstentions as rejection of candidates by the student body.

“It (Comelec) cannot speculate on the voter’s intention and cannot rightfully assume the role of mind readers,” the resolution read.

The resolution also claimed that the Comelec violated Article X Section 5 of the UST Students’ Election Code (USEC) of 2011 for including “abstain” in the ballot.

Article X Section 5 of the USEC states that ballots should only contain “the printed names of the candidates, under the position to which they aspire, followed by party affiliation; a printed box appearing before the candidate’s name; a serial number; and printed instructions on how to accomplish the ballot.”

“The said act of the Central Comelec, even if previously done, cannot develop into a custom or established practice in contemplation of Article 11 of the Civil Code because it is contrary to the said law,” the resolution added.

Article 11 of the Civil Code states that “customs which are contrary to the law, public order or policy shall not be countenanced.”

The judiciary board is composed of Office for Student Affairs Director Arlene Calara, Legal Counsel Alfonso Verzosa, Legal Coordinator Elgin Michael Perez, Canon Law Student Council President Glen Mar Gamboa, and outgoing CSC President Janela Love Nartates. VANN MARLO M. VILLEGAS with reports from ALI IAN MARCELINO V. BIONG

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