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Abstain votes are to be junked, what happens now?



The dropping of the Central Judiciary Board’s resolution in the middle of President Rodrigo Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address last Monday, July 24, infuriated a large number of Thomasians even more than the President’s two-hour rant.

The historic abstentions were hailed by many as the call of Thomasians for better and more competent student leaders — but what happens now that the candidates with the highest number of votes will instead be declared winners of the elections?

Last time, TomasinoWeb reported that special elections will likely be held and Central Student Council (CSC) Secretary Therese Gorospe will act as president until such time.

However, the resolution given by the Board further extinguishes the possibility of special elections, and poses the removal of abstentions from future polls.

The Board asserted that the Central Commission on Elections (COMELEC) violated Section 5, Article X of the UST Student’s Election Code (USEC) of 2011 “by including ‘abstain’ in the ballot as if it is a name of candidate.”

USEC states in Section 5, Article X that the ballot shall contain (a) the printed names of candidates, position and party; (b) a printed box before their names, (c) serial number of the ballot and (d) instructions.

There is no mention of including an ‘abstain’ option in the ballot.

Nonetheless, the Central COMELEC contested in a counter appeal that the ‘abstain’ option “has been present in ballots used for every student council election, whether manual or automated, in the University since time immemorial.”

Such option, they argued, “was never protested against by the candidates, political parties or the student body in the previous student council elections, both central and local.”

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However, if the resolution is to be followed, the Central COMELEC will have to declare Steven Grecia, Gabriela Sepulchre, Daveson Nieto, and Richard Javier — all from Lakas Tomasino Coalition — as president, vice president, treasurer and auditor, respectively, despite losing these posts to abstain votes.

Furthermore, the resolution puts into question not only the results of the CSC polls but also the elections of local student councils.

Along with Grecia, Daniela Frigillana, an independent candidate for the internal vice president post of the Faculty of Arts and Letters Student Council (ABSC) is also one of the petitioners.

The ABSC currently has three vacant positions due to the abstentions: internal vice president, secretary, and auditor.

Applying the resolution to ABSC’s polls, Frigillana, Maria Ann San Andres, and Jan Rafael Lipat will respectively take the aforementioned posts.

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

Whether or not local SCs will follow suit with the resolution, despite the autonomy of their constitutions, is still left to be seen as the AB COMELEC is also set to release their own resolution within the week.

It is still to be determined if and when the Central COMELEC will file another appeal countering the resolution, or if they will amend their constitution this year to make future abstentions clear and unquestionable.

But until such time, it is and will be left with no choice but to follow the board resolution.



Lawmakers condemn law freshman’s death, renew calls to amend anti-hazing law



Thomasians hold a candle lighting and prayer vigil at the Civil Law lobby, Monday, Sept. 18, to mourn the death of law freshman Horacio Castillo III due to fraternity hazing. Photo by Mark Darius Sulit/TomasinoWeb.

Senators and congressmen are once again pushing for the legislation to amend the law against hazing following the death of Faculty of Civil Law freshman Horacio Castillo III due to fraternity hazing.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian renewed calls to pass Senate Bill 199 which seeks to repeal the 22-year-old Republic Act 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law of 1995 and prohibit hazing per se.

“The Anti-Hazing Law must be overhauled to eliminate loop holes and ensure that all persons responsible for these cruel and senseless hazing deaths will be held accountable to the full extent of the law,” Gatchalian said in a statement.

The bill also seeks to introduce stiffer penalties on organizations and individuals who will participate in hazing. It will also require schools to campaign for hazing prevention and awareness.

Section 4 of the current law reserves penalties only for cases where individuals subject to hazing suffer physical injuries, and die as a result.

According to Castillo’s parents, the law freshman never returned after attending the welcoming rites for neophytes of the Aegis Jvris fraternity at UST last Saturday, Sept. 16.

Castillo’s body was found by John Paul Solano — now a person of interest in the case — on a sidewalk in Tondo, Sunday, Sept. 17. and was brought to the Chinese General Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

The law freshman died of heart attack possibly due to the injuries he suffered after the hazing rites. His body was found with marks of cigarette burns, candle wax drips and severe bruises in both upper arms (READ: UST law freshman found dead after frat hazing).

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Sen. Gregorio Honasan II likewise condemned the law freshman’s death and recalled his brother who died 41 years ago due to similar circumstances.

“I remember 41 years ago when my youngest brother Mel died from fraternity hazing. My parents forgave those responsible; hoping and praying that it would help eradicate hazing. It was not to be,” Honasan said in a statement.

Furthermore, he called for “more teeth” in vigilance and law enforcement.

His own measure, Senate Bill 27, seeks to amend the Anti-Hazing Law by requiring schools to impose sanctions on organizations found guilty of participating in hazing and similar acts.

Both bills are still pending for Senate approval.

Meanwhile, Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy of Bagong Henerasyon Party-list pushed for the passage of House Bill 3467 which seeks to revise the Anti-Hazing Law by criminalizing all forms of hazing and expand the scope of persons liable.

“HB 3467 does not regulate hazing, it makes all hazing illegal. The definition of hazing in the bill is inclusive,” Herrera-Dy said in a statement.

Herrera-Dy also maintained that the bill “will ensure the maximum penalty is applied.”— P. Jamilla


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Gov’t urged to improve public transportation system

A traffic and transport consulting industry director said on Wednesday that the government needs a stronger political will in implementing a more efficient public transportation to avoid traffic congestion, instead of widening roads.



A traffic and transport consulting industry director said on Wednesday that the government needs a stronger political will in implementing a more efficient public transportation to avoid traffic congestion, instead of widening roads.
Director Kelvin Foo Yong Kiang of Total Traffic Solutions Group of Singapore and Vietnam emphasized the importance of efficient public transportation in reducing the number of vehicles on the road in a panel discussion organized by third year Tourism students from the University.
“Trying to change our mindset to use a public transport is not easy. But as a society, to aid traffic congestion, someone must pay the price,” Kiang said.
Singapore is one of the countries in Southeast Asia that implements an efficient program on traffic management, allocating 65 percent of their road for public transportation contrary to Philippines’ road map, which allots 60 percent private vehicles on the road.
“We occupy a lot of space [on the road] but we carry a small number of people,” Traffic Planning Consultant Nabor Gaviola said.
Gaviola added that a single car usually accommodates at most two people.
According to Japan International Cooperation Agency, the Philippines is losing P2.4 million everyday because of traffic. If it is not alleviated by 2030, the country might lose up to P6 billion.
Officer-in-Charge of Metropolitan Development Planning Service Sheila Gail Satura-Quingco assured that the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority is taking the necessary measures to ease traffic problem, which will include road pricing and vehicle quota system.
Quingco also mentioned several programs such as traffic ticketing system, yellow and bus lanes, and number code schemes which are already implemented.
However, no specific plans for public transportation were laid yet, except from the proposal of Department of Tourism Operations Officer Ramon Tiongco Jr. to have a rapid bus transport.
“We need to trust the government. Give our government a chance that the leaders being set are qualified people and they can do their job. If we can trust them and get on the act together, then maybe the effect of change can be seen,” Tiongco said. B. Decena


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Unesco official hits ‘commodification’ of minorities

“Mabilis mag-commodify because it’s so easy to identify peculiarities, to commodify these peculiarities. We tend to forget about other identities.”



An official from the Philippine National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) expressed disappointment over the rampant exploitation of indigenous people.
In a convention organized by Unesco Club-UST on Monday, Oct. 24, Jefferson Chua, program officer for culture, warned about the prevalent commodification of the cultures of minority groups.
He cited Rita Gabiola or “Badjao Girl” as a victim of commodified culture.
“Mabilis mag-commodify because it’s so easy to identify peculiarities, to commodify these peculiarities,” he said. “We tend to forget about other identities.”
Gabiola, a girl from Lucban, Quezon, rose to popularity after a candid photo of her went viral on social media due to her striking features.
“Cultural diversity is the call to go beyond what is known as the holding hands conception,” Chua said. “Cultural diversity is the courage to ask questions.”
In another portion of the event, Joana Rizza Bagano, program officer for social and human sciences and communication, said that indigenous people face different challenges in gaining recognition.
Bagano quoted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) saying, “Indigenous peoples are organizing themselves for political, social and cultural enhancement and to end all forms of discrimination.”
The UNDRIP affirms that indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples, while recognizing the right of all peoples to be different, to consider themselves different, and to be respected as such.
“IPs are organizing themselves to assert their rights to make people realize that they exist and that they are part of development,” Bagano said.
Following the discussions, student advocates held two caucuses to share proposals and concerns about education, social and human sciences, science and technology, culture and communication and information.
All approved proposals will be implemented in all accredited UNESCO clubs in the country.
The convention, held in partnership with the National Association of UNESCO Clubs in the Philippines, aims to address national level issues such as discrimination towards minority groups and create advocacy projects geared towards peace. – Ysabel Nicole Hilado


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