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Reinventing Silliman’s Student Government Judiciary

by Earl Guen Quiñones Padayao | October 9, 2022

There will always be legal drama in the corridors of Silliman University’s Student Government – especially during election season. To me, this is quite expected. After all, we have a pool of the best and brightest who occupy the top seats of our student bureaucracy. 

As a former COMELEC (Commission on Elections) Chair for one term and a three-termer in the judiciary, I’ve had my fair share of exposure to the legal controversies by and between the ‘gods of power’ among us students. 

I could say I’ve read and seen enough to notice that our corpus of student laws is premium cut. We have a rich constitutional history – a constitution that received interesting amendments in recent years. We also have a vast collection of student laws promulgated by various generations of Student Assemblies – our own legislature – which leaves us with much to munch on. Even the implementing rules and regulations of our elections are well-thought. 

Yet, one leg of the student government seems underappreciated: the student judiciary.

It seems to me that the judiciary has taken the back seat in many of our student government’s activities. 

Now, I know for a fact that the judiciary is most instrumental during election season’s much-awaited legal disputes between two old and powerful political parties: CAUSE and SURE. Obviously, we’ve always been instrumental in blunting the fangs of the two parties in their yearly electoral deadlocks. 

But I think the judiciary should be more than just the election cases. We are bigger and grander than mere election cases.

If the student government wishes to introduce sound legal reforms, the court should be appointed and composed early in the school year and should be given more funding. I thank SG President Christian Entrata for working on our appointments early this school year. I hope this continues. Early appointments will give the justices time to fine-tune the Rules of Court (ROC).

It is worth noting that in 2020, the student judiciary laid down a landmark decision with the consolidated cases of CAUSE v. COMELEC and SURE v. COMELEC. The student court finally had the chance to recognize the suppletory role of Philippine national laws in our campus jurisdiction insofar as student disputes are concerned. 

In that decision, we also defined ‘who is a candidate’ insofar as student laws are concerned.  We also resolved an issue concerning the weight and status of COMELEC decisions in our jurisdiction after one party blindly relied on the ruling of COMELEC in the case of SURE v. Pajantoy. Incidentally, I was also the ponencia of the Pajantoy election during my time as COMELEC Chair. Weird that a decision I previously penned was later cited in a student court where I am sitting.

Point being: With just one case, we were able to answer key questions and clarify gaps in our student laws. 

Now, imagine a judiciary which functions early in the school year. We could start introducing reforms within our branch and start receiving cases. The body of work we could produce would have a monumental impact.

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About the author: Earl Guen Quiñones Padayao is a senior Juris Doctor student at Silliman University – College of Law, certified as a Law Student Practitioner pursuant to Rule 138-A of the Rules of Court, a sitting member of the University Disciplinary Board (UDB), Prime Justice of the student government, and a regular column contributor to the Weekly Sillimanian. He was a former legal apprentice at the Regional Trial Court (Branch 9) and the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor (Cotabato). He was also a former president of Silliman University’s legal aid center, the Dr. Jovito R. Salonga Center for Law and Development. While in law school, he teaches college-level philosophy classes at Bukidnon State University (Malaybalay City) and Negros Oriental State University (Dumaguete City). 

He finished his bachelor’s degree in philosophy with Latin Honor (cum laude), harboring a 1.25 or 97% Grade Point Average (GPA), and graduated salutatorian during high school. He also studied environmental leadership at Northern Illinois University, U.S.A. as an international exchange student. He is a recipient of multiple local and national recognitions — including the prestigious Mga Bagong Rizal Award of the Philippine Center for Gifted Education, Inc. He is a decorated youth advocate with multiple leadership awards and with multiple parliamentary debate medals during his collegiate years. He competed as an oralist in the global rounds of the 2021 Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition. He occupied various positions in socio-civic and academic organizations in Visayas and Mindanao.

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