Friday, June 14, 2024

To delay is to deny

the Weekly Sillimanian | October 4, 2023

“The Judiciary, Independent Committees, and other appointive positions of the SUSG (Silliman University Student Government) shall be filled before the conduct of the Founders’ Week Celebration of the University,” reads Article XII, Section 7 of the 2021 SUSG Constitution

Since this special provision was introduced and ratified in the 2020 Constitution, its stipulation specifically regarding the judicial branch of the SUSG has never been actualized.

The first year the provision took effect, judiciary appointments were in April. In SY 2021-2022, the year the 2021 Constitution took effect and kept the same provision, justices were appointed in February. Last school year, the judiciary was appointed in January.

This year’s executive standard bearers, through their appointive power, have bared plans to endorse justices before the Student Assembly’s 5th Regular Session on Oct. 15. That is more than a month after the stipulated deadline. All of this while executive committees have “be[en] filled” and practically operating in full capacity since Hibalag, even with appointments only just starting to move along. 

Four administrations already failed to uphold a part of what should be the highest law that governs the student body. Arguably, for reasonable causes. 

The requirements for judicial appointees are stringent, requiring careful consideration of experience, credibility, and commitment. Paperwork for such is subject to bureaucratic red tape external to the SUSG, such as the procurement of recommendation letters and academic records. Furthermore, this specific provision may have failed to consider the school calendar change that pushed the Founders’ deadline too close to the start of the school year.

Is that enough to justify ignoring the clear-cut words of the SUSG Constitution? No. That would undermine the most fundamental rules by which the SUSG operates and is legitimized by.

Does that mean the Constitution should be amended to extend the deadline for filling appointive positions? The matter should be further deliberated, particularly on what “filled” in the provision should mean, but one thing is certain: The judiciary cannot be absent for half—or even a quarter—of an entire school year.

These delays in appointments have and will continue to hamper the students’ ability to question the constitutionality of resolutions approved by the Student Assembly and actions of the executive branch until such appointments are actualized. They have led to the SUSG President making up for an incomplete or practically non-existent judiciary during University Disciplinary Board cases when—quite frankly—such a compromise can never compare to what a fully operational judicial branch can offer in service to the student body. This situation becomes all the more problematic when a student falls victim to another’s wrongdoing. 


As such, wouldn’t delaying appointments delay the justice the students deserve? Would it not allow time to sweep injustices under the rug?

These cases cast doubt on the SUSG’s entire system of checks and balances—patterned after the Philippine government’s carefully calibrated and crafted structure—because it is missing a third of its most basic components for more than half of the SUSG’s entire term. 

The current administration’s efforts to have appointments earlier is commendable coming from a wider perspective of the usual appointment timeline—but it is still beyond what the Constitution stipulates. There will be a million reasons why the appointments are difficult, but what is on paper cannot be denied. No excuses. 

Moving forward, however, the Student Assembly can—if they truly see the need to—either amend the deadline, amend the processes that drag these appointments along, or establish the difference between official appointments and “fill[ing]” these positions as required.

But the situation cannot be allowed to remain as is.

For now, however, the irony remains: While questions on the constitutionality of the timing of the judiciary’s operations have been raised, there still is no judiciary to decide whether these interpretations of a long-ignored provision are right or wrong.

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