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No ‘abstain’ in upcoming CSC elections; students develop new electronic voting system

In a press conference on Thursday, Central Commission on Elections Medicine Commissioner Ivan Pulanco elaborated that they have removed “abstain” in the new system developed by Computer Science students, but voters could leave their ballots unanswered.

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Photo by JC Alvero/TomasinoWeb.

(UPDATED March 10, 1:10 a.m.) There would be no “abstain” option in the upcoming Central Student Council (CSC) elections as the polls switch back to an electronic voting system developed by the University’s Computer Science students.

In a press conference on Thursday, Central Commission on Elections (Comelec) Medicine Commissioner Ivan Pulanco elaborated that they have removed the option—which won the CSC posts for president, vice president, auditor and treasurer in the last elections—but voters could leave their ballots unanswered.

“Unanswered means unanswered. That is our official stance. We are following the procedures conducted by the local elections in the Philippines for voters are allowed to leave positions blank and we don’t feel that it is proper to compel a student vote for an individual… So it’s not abstain, its unanswered,” Pulanco said.

This move is in accordance with the order of the Central Judiciary Board last year, which stated that including “abstain” in the ballots was a violation of Article X Section 5 of the UST Student’s Election Code of 2011 as ballots should only contain “the printed names of candidates, their positions and their parties , a box before each candidate’s name, serial number and the instructions” with no mention of an “abstain” option.

 

Thomasians develop new voting system

The Computer Science Society (CSS), in partnership with Comelec and the UST e-Service Providers (STEPS), developed the Evosys system, the very first electronic voting system developed by Thomasian students which they said would ensure fast, reliable, accurate and secured canvassing of votes through the use of the University’s local servers provided by STEPS.

“For this upcoming elections,  we will be hosting it with STEPS [with their] local servers…. It’s intranet, [meaning] within the internet of UST, so transferring of data will be fast,” CSS President John Regalado told reporters.

The elections last year became manual after the proclamation of elected officers in the 2016 CSC elections were delayed due to technical glitches with the Blackboard e-Learning Access Program, where the polls were hosted.

Evosys Project Manager Angel Luis Santos said the system would be more reliable than manual voting since “it requires a login to access the system and it automates the canvassing of votes” and that “the counting will be done by the system.”

Comelec Vice Chairman and Evosys Project Head Mely Cherrylyne Cruz said that Comelec, Potato Codes, an organization of Thomasian developers, and the Office for Student Affairs (OSA) decided it would be best that CSS would develop the system.

“There is no other competition… outside UST. [Developers outside the campus] cannot develop the software for UST because that would bring about concerns on outside influence, etc. This is why we chose specifically and only CSS,” Cruz added.

Santos also ensured the election’s security, saying that the system “underwent rigorous testing from developers and some faculty members of the Computer Science department.” She also said the system is secure from hacking since votes can only be accessed within UST’s local servers.

 

Security, technical concerns

Santos demonstrated the new voting process, which involves verification of voters by assigned deputies, the actual voting of students, submission of all votes and upon completion, and the acquisition of reference numbers as proof that a student has finished the entire voting process.

While students would be using their student numbers as theirs username in voting, Comelec Chairman Arvin Bersonda said that the password would be unique in every voting session and that it would come from verifiers.

“Malalaman lang namin yung password nila on the day that they will vote, on the day they were verified as a Thomasian voter kasi we have verifiers, sila yung mag-eencode and ‘dun palang nila makukuha yung access code nila sa elections upon entry sa [computer laboratory],” he added.

Bersonda said that if computer units crash during the voting period, the system would only process finished and submitted ballots so that students could still resume voting.

To accommodate all voters,  there would be an allotted time for every individual to vote, according to Allan Theo Hernandez, OSA’s staff for student activities.

University-wide mock elections held to earlier today to test the system. The filing of the certificates of candidacy would be on March 21; elections are set to be held in April .—B. Laforga

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dates regarding the exact schedule of elections and proclamation of officers were removed due to disputing claims from officers of Comelec.

 

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CSC PRO, VP candidates call for anti-red tagging

“There are many things much worse than student activism,” Mataga said.

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Public relations candidate Jeric Mataga (left) and vice presidential candidate Gerald Mathew Dela Cruz (right) during the Tagisan 2021 live streamed by Tomasian Media Circle and Talents.

After the incident during the Tagisan 2021 last April 30 where the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) ordered Central Student Council (CSC) public relations candidate Jeric Mataga to remove his self-taken protest zoom background, the candidates voiced out their grievances concerning red-tagging.

Mataga, who is also a sophomore from the Institute of Information and Computing Sciences, told TomasinoWeb that “there are many things much worse than student activism.”

“I’m literally going to talk about red-tagging here and they’re going to red-tag me because of my background,” he said. 

“The students deserve fairness and justice, not unwarranted scrutiny and red-tagging,” he added.

According to Mataga, if he wins as the public relations officer (PRO), he would address red-tagging in three ways. 

“Well for one, the constitution of the CSC and the constitution of the Philippines protect political views such as being a leftist. So politically and legally speaking, we’re protected by our policy within UST and the law,” he said.

A student code that empowers students, according to him, can guarantee their safety from red-tagging.

“By pushing for a student’s code that empowers the students thoroughly and comprehensively, we can guarantee their safety from red-tagging even better. A review of the student handbook would be quite beneficial as well,” Mataga said.

He also wanted to aid students that are charged with disciplinary actions for political views.

“For students who have received disciplinary action due to political views and/or actions, as long as they are justified and legal according to law, the UST0CSC will do everything in its power to defend them, especially during their hearings,” he said.

“No student should have their hearings without a proper defence. I’ve heard students that have been to hearings where they were either alone or only had one person on their side, and the rest of the people there were their prosecutors,” he added.

Challenge vs. censorship, free speech

Gerald Mathew Dela Cruz, the lone vice presidential candidate, was asked during the question-and-answer portion about his reasons for running “despite being red-tagged in the past.”

According to Dela Cruz, who is also the incumbent vice president-internal of the Artlets Student Council, red-tagging gravely affects not only the safety but also the mental capacity of the person who is experiencing it.

“Ang hamon sa ating mga tumatakbo sa Central Student Council, sa bawat Local Student Council […] at sa mismong UST administration ay maglatag at magpasa ng komprehensibong polisiya patungkol sa kaligtasan ng buong Thomasian Community hinggil sa red-tagging, pag-censor sa ating karapatan sa malayang pamamahayag, at iba pang mga importanteng isyu na dala nating mga estudyante,” he said on a statement yesterday.

Red-tagging, according to Dela Cruz, is rooted from a worsened political situation in the country.

“Ang issue ng red-tagging ay mula sa sobrang lalang political situation ng ating bansa, marami nang mga progresibong kabataan at organisasyon ang napahamak dahil sa lantarang red-tagging ng iba’t-ibang mga indibidwal at ng mismong gobyerno natin na hindi kinikilala ang malawak na implikasyon nito sa mga Pilipino,” he said. 

Mataga is pushing for the passage of a student code that will protect Thomasians’ rights as students of the University. 

He urged the Thomasian student-leaders to use their platforms to speak for the truth and to inform fellow Filipinos. 

“Tayo ay dapat magpatuloy na tumindig para sa mga kapwa natin estudyante, buong komunidad ng UST, mga kapwa natin kabataan, at para sa bayan,” he said.

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CSC candidates call for addressing sociopolitical problems in PH

The new Central Student Council (CSC) executive board candidates promoted agendas educating Thomasians on discourses of suffrage and national issues on Friday, April 30. 

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The Tagisan Mandatory Debate yesterday, April 30, livestreamed by the Tomasian Media Circle and Talents on Facebook.

The new Central Student Council (CSC) executive board candidates promoted agendas educating Thomasians on discourses of suffrage and national issues on Friday, April 30. 

Candidates Krizia Bricio, Gerald dela Cruz, Anne Arnet Paguirigan, Jerome Espinas, Gabriele de Lara, and Carl Mataga shared the same advocacy in addressing country matters and issues in Tagisan 2021. 

Public relations candidates Mataga and Espinas aim to focus on educating Thomasians on national issues concerning education, poverty, unemployment, mental health, and lack of government support, while de Lara said that he will focus on “proactive communication and information dissemination.”

“Gagamitin natin ang CSC bilang plataporma para bigyang kaalaman ang mga Tomasino sa kinakaharap natin ngayon na isyu at makisali sa diskusyon […] tungkol sa ating unibersidad [at sa] lipunan,” Espinas said.

Independent candidates Paguirigan and dela Cruz, who are running for secretary and vice presidential position, echoed each other on pushing for the involvement of youth in widening the scope of voter education in the country.  

“Sa pamamagitan ng malawakang voter education, dalangin nating bumaba sa mga komunidad at magkaroon ng malayang diskusyon sa kanilang kasalukuyang sitwasyon, at kung paano dapat tayong pumili ng mga kandidato sa ating lugar,” dela Cruz said.

Independent presidential candidate Bricio urged Thomasians to be vigilant in voting, whether on smaller or larger scales.

“[M]abutihin po natin na kilatisin at suriin ang ating mga kandidato sa organisasyon man natin ito, local student council, central student council at mas lalo na sa national elections,” she said.

UST Tagisan 2021 was organized by TOMCAT-UST and UST Central Commission Elections in partnership with The Varsitarian, Thomasian Debaters Council, and UST Becarios De Santo Tomas.

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2 Thomasians among top 10 in April 2021 pharma boards

Among the 1,168 takers, Anna Teresa Galian and John Miguel Nicolas of the Faculty of Pharmacy were among the top 10.

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Thomasian pharmacists Anna Teresa Galian (second place) and John Miguel Nicolas (seventh place) among the top 10 in April 2021 pharmacy licensure exams.

Two newly-licensed Thomasian pharmacists made it among the April 2021 top 10 passers of the pharmacy licensure exams.

Among the 1,168 takers, Anna Teresa Galian (89.95%) and John Miguel Nicolas (88.45%) of the Faculty of Pharmacy were among the top examinees, placing second and seventh, respectively.

According to the results released by the Professional Regulation Commission on Friday, April 30, the University is also the fifth top-performing school in the Philippines after posting an 83.33% passing rate.

In 2019, UST emerged as the top-performing school with a 94.81% passing rate.

Last year’s scheduled pharmacy board exams were deferred due to the Covid-19 pandemic health restrictions and lockdown.

The examinations took place from April 25-26 in areas under the classification of Modified General Community Quarantine. 

The cities where the exams were conducted include Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Iloilo, Legaspi, Pagadian, Rosales, Pangasinan, and Zamboanga.

The results came out four working days after the day of the examination. 

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