University DLSU pol parties required to be nonpartisan in all elections
University DLSU pol parties required to be nonpartisan in all elections
DLSU pol parties required to be nonpartisan in all elections

Political parties in DLSU will no longer be allowed to identify as political parties in all University Student Government (USG) elections, following a new law approved by the Legislative Assembly (LA) in its latest emergency session today, April 1. 

The new measure is a “step-up” from previous anti-partisanship rules and “reflects the USG’s highest commitment to the value of nonpartisanship,” remarked one of its authors.

Show of support banned

Proponents of the measure said that they were alarmed over how incumbent USG officials showed support for fellow party members, especially during elections. “Elected USG officers shouldn’t identify with any political party. It just doesn’t seem right,” remarked BLESS2022 LA Representative Ann Bayast.

Under the new rule, during election season, members of political parties will no longer be allowed to show any form of support toward their respective political organizations. Prohibitions include wearing clothing associated with any party or having the party’s official colors; carrying any sort of party paraphernalia; and liking, reacting to, commenting on, sharing, retweeting, quote tweeting, or reblogging candidates’ social media posts.

The political parties themselves are also given restrictions. They will not be permitted to use their official colors in any publicity material. While campaigning for their own candidates is allowed, they will also be required to campaign for the opposing party’s bets.

Violating these conditions will earn the offending political party or its offending member a warning from the DLSU Commission on Elections. However, incurring three offenses will be grounds for penalties such as ordering a political party member to transfer to the opposing side and putting a political party under the supervision of the Council of Student Organizations.

Bayast asserted that the previous anti-partisanship guidelines were “just too lax” and thus defeated their very purpose. “Because of this, we had to strengthen our partisanship limitations even more. We tried to do that last year, but it still wasn’t enough. We need true nonpartisanship,” she added.

An ‘independent’ USG

“We admit that we’re still trying to figure out what partisanship is. When you’re incumbent and you show support for your co-party members—that’s probably what it means,” commented PASS2018 LA Representative Maru Nungdaw, who was among the sponsors of the legislation. “We know that we mostly come from political parties ourselves, but well, we just have to pretend that we don’t. Otherwise, it will endanger our representativeness as USG officers,” he went on.

He added that USG officers should never let party ideology affect their “independent” decision-making. While he admitted that there were times when the LA itself was split across the majority and minority floors when voting, he reasoned, “These are okay since voting is technically across floors, not across parties. Never mind that the floors are based on party affiliation.”

USG President Maegan Ragudo, meanwhile, who presided over the LA session in the absence of Chief Legislator Giorgina Escoto when the measure was approved, welcomed the change, saying, “This will finally allow my party—I mean, the USG—to be true to its intended nature of being independent.” She furthered, “An election is the highest exercise of our democracy so we must protect its independence most of all, and what better way to do that than by prohibiting partisanship during the elections.”

Anti-anti-partisanship

The new rule has pushed Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (Tapat) and Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon) to somehow finally agree on something, with both parties expressing strong objections.

In a statement published by Santugon, the party denounced what they deem to be “an infringement to our right to campaign,” further avowing that they will be challenging the new law in the Judiciary with a position paper.

Meanwhile, Tapat members took to social media, expressing discontent at the new rule. Members posted photos of themselves in pink attire, with their hands clasped in front of their waist, seemingly gathered together in what appears to be the same place. The caption read, “This new rule goes against our fight for a just and fair society! USG is cancelledt.”

Nungdaw hits back at the two groups, reminding them of what he said is supposed to be the nature of the student government. “We have to remember that the USG is modeled after the Philippine government. And so, just like the Philippine government where parties don’t actually mean anything but political machinery, we’re also just following that in the USG,” he uttered.

Mixed response

The new rules received mixed reactions from students. Fausto Panganiban (II, AB-POM) called it a unique move. “On one hand, it reduces the risk of candidates taking advantage of USG connections. On the other hand, how would candidates highlight their platforms?” he commented. He, however, found that not much would change in terms of politics since incumbent officers are not officially allowed to identify with their parties in the first place. 

“So what’s the difference?” he stated.

Meanwhile, Rudy Manalang (III, MKT) expressed dismay at the new rule. “Medyo mahirap maalala ‘yung mga candidates ‘pag bawal sila gumamit ng party name eh,” he said. “‘Yun lang pagkakaiba nila eh, ‘yung name ng party nila.”

(It is hard to remember the candidates if they cannot use their political party affiliations. The only differences between them are the names of their parties.)

When asked about the new anti-partisanship rule, Carla Manalo (IV, ECE2), showed surprise and confusion. Looking up from her notes, she asked, “Is it election season again?”