It’s the 2021 SUSG Elections and once again, the usual rivalry between the two political parties of CAUSE and SURE is evident; but this time entirely on a different platform – online. Things were different then. I remember myself joining the fray in 2011 as I supported a friend who ran as a High School representative. Instead of publication materials crafted through various digital art applications, we had cartolina posters with cut photos of the candidates printed on bond paper. A photo by a DigiCam is already considered superb and button pins were still campaign paraphernalia must-haves. At first, the SUSG was reluctant in having any election-related activities done online as it was a dimension too hard to monitor and control, it wasn’t until 2016 that the SUSG finally approved online campaigning. This then brought us today, to the first-ever Virtual Halalan of the SUSG. Nevertheless, regardless of online or face-to-face, the election season is a highlight of Silliman University.
The election is one thing unique to Silliman especially to those who are politically involved, be it in the student government or local college councils, and also to those who are ardent supporters of the two main socio-civic organizations in the University. It’s entirely a gambling game of power; a game of thrones between green and blue on which brand of leadership the people choose. It’s a battle of which campaign strategy works the best and touches the soul of every Sillimanian. But there’s more to that. Behind all the campaign videos and exchange of profile pictures, there’s a clash of thoughts and reasoning with the legal department of both parties, a rarely-heard team of thinkers – the special operatives.
The game commences during the filing of the certificate of candidacies from both parties by which requirements are carefully scrutinized and assessed. A lack thereof constitutes a complaint. This brings the first “casualties” of the elections: denied candidates. The compliance of ardent participants to the SUSG Election Code and other laws set the SUSG Elections apart from other institutions. The disregard of rules and regulations is never tolerated and would guarantee the perpetrators to an uphill battle that would subject them to the mercies of the COMELEC or (if the matter is so controversial that it raises an extremely political and legal question) to the honorable justices of the SUSG Judiciary. If ever one managed to hurdle the challenge of one’s candidacy, he/she then has to be extra cautious and vigilant to avoid complaints related to campaigning made by the opposing party. Also on Election Day, you also get to feel tense and nervous by the watchful eyes of your opponents waiting for you to make a mistake, a violation, or something worth a complaint. This is not something new to us. We have been doing this since the SUSG was reinstituted in 1981. Thus, the SUSG is rich not only with programs and resolutions by the Executive and Legislative branches respectively but also with the many rulings and verdicts of the SUSG Judiciary brought about by the complaints and petitions that sprung attentions, especially during election season. Just recently, petitions related to the candidacies of certain individuals were filed in the COMELEC setting off a politico-legal story that culminated at the stroke of the pen of the SUSG Judiciary.
The game is old but the SUSG is young. Sometime in the 2010s, many files of the SUSG were lost, destroyed, or misplaced. Some alleged that an SG officer hauled all the files and threw them into the trash, while others attributed it to the transferring of SUSG from Hibbard Hall to Oriental Hall, a matter of logistical carelessness. Regardless, the blaming of people supposed to be in-charged with the safekeeping of these documents could do nothing to the fact that thirty years of SUSG legacy including the verdicts of the great honorable justices of the SUSG Judiciary just disappeared. It was at that very moment that the SUSG started all over again. The SUSG became once again a blank slate save for the 1991 Constitution and few copies of the House Rules of the Assembly. Representatives began making resolutions blind to the information of whether the issue was already discussed by previous assemblies and the Judiciary also started making decisions that would now compose the SUSG corpus of laws that would be the basis of every dispute and complaint. This may help explain the initial reaction of alumni who seem to recognize the familiarity of some legislations and even cite situations in the past that would have given a precedent to a current issue.
In effect, this gives more power to the contemporary generation of SUSG officers. As the pioneers of a new age of SUSG, they are the ones that can set the precedence. They have the power to introduce legislation or even a ruling that would become the basis for the future of the government. The recent SUSG Judiciary ruling is an evidence of how that power can be wielded. You see, in that ruling, a major political question was answered by the honorable justices. We never know that in the past, that question had been answered already but, because of missing documents, we can only submit to what the SUSG now has. As the popular saying of with great power comes great responsibility, the officers of the SUSG also have the responsibility of making certain that we are moving in the right direction. I would like to quote a portion of SUSG Judiciary Case No. 0001 s.2021 “This Court is confined with what the law presently provides. Courts of justice cannot be burdened to be prophets and apply what the law ought to be – laws which might pass in the future.”
The candidates running for SUSG are not the only ones who can make a difference in our government. The people behind the campaign revelries, the legal teams, and with their sharp wit can also turn the direction of where we are going. As complaints, petitions, and other questions of procedures are raised, answers and decisions are given. This gives us a clearer SUSG; making us one step away from being myopic. As the SUSG continues to face forward the challenges of the current times, it evolves, it develops, and it generates a legacy: a message that future Sillimanians will continue to enjoy, that no event of missing documents or forgotten memories could erase, and a student government that is alive by the students, of the students, and for the students.