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The candidates took turns in answering questions about them and their platforms. Photo by Chalotte Billy Sabanal.

Debate probes presidential bets thru school, nat’l issues

With their supporters waving their respective political party banners and posters, the presidential candidates for the 2018 SAMAHAN Central Board Elections (SCB) engaged in a debate to present their take on different issues along with their own course of actions on dealing with various matters concerning students.

Together with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) of Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU), Ateneo Debate Varsity (ADV) organized the presidential debate last Jan. 17, 2018 at the Arrupe Hall. Gilson Po, a former ADV president, facilitated the entire debate.

“I would like to make this debate as conversational as possible. Just to make sure you’d bring out your true self because we don’t want here a candidate who’s only good during debates, but during the work they are just someone who slack off,” Po said before proceeding to the opening speech of each candidate.

 

Opening speech

This year’s SCB elections has filled three presidential candidates who come from each political party in the university: Beatriz Matuco (Bahaghari), Arnold Lavisores (Buklurang Atenista), and Jerry Huerbana (Pinag-isang Lakas ng Samahan ng mga Progresibng Atenista).

Matuco, a third-year industrial engineering student, comes to the stage with her platform “POWER”—creating a SAMAHAN that aims to have a “better communication system with the administration for easy lobbying of student concerns.”

With his plaform “LAVI”—Lavisores, a third-year education student, campaigns for a SAMAHAN that will fight for the rights of the students, especially the right to accessible and quality education.

Huerbuana, a third-year mass communication student, holds a platform focusing on student representation, advocacy engagement, networks and opportunities, transparency, among others.

Following the opening speech, the candidates were challenged to answer general questions provided by AdDU students through a Google Form. The questions received were then assessed by the Comelec and ADV.

Each candidate was given one minute to respond to each question. After each question, the facilitator would ask a follow up question. Moreover, the candidates were also encouraged to challenge his or her co-candidates.

 

SCB assessment

For the first question, Po asked the candidates pointblank regarding their holistic assessment of where SAMAHAN Central Board is currently right now.

Matuco answered by making it clear that the question should not be answered by ‘Who was wrong?’ or ‘Who committed a few mistakes? Instead, the question should be answered by ‘What went wrong?’

“We should develop first our relationship with the leaders there so that we can serve the Ateneo community as a united SAMAHAN,” Matuco said, saying that the students in the SCB must set their different political interests.

Matuco explained in a follow-up question that there are wounds that students need to heal every after elections, and having a focus group discussion during post-election period while separating different political interests is necessary to “actually serve the student community.”

Lavisores, on the other hand, criticized the student government pointblank, saying that the SAMAHAN has several flaws including the failure of representating the students against the annual tuition and other fees increase (TOFI) and the current SCB does not embody the rights of the student.

“Ito’y malaking concern ng students dahil hindi naman lahat maka-afford na always na lang 5%-10% ang increase every year tapos walang genuine consultation,” Lavisores pointed out, adding that Viewfinder organized by the SCB and the university administration was among the bogus consultations observed.

Meanwhile, Huerbana, currently a Humanities & Letters Cluster representative, believes that the SCB did its best in pushing its advocacies and implementing its activities for the student body.

“However, wala’y perfect na student council. Naa’y points for improvements na kailangan mahatagan og pagtagad sa SAMAHAN Central Board,” he answered.

 

Genuine consultation on TOFI

Po brought up the apparent issue of the lack of genuine consultation on yearly TOFI and asked them what their respective plans will be.

Lavisores voiced out his conviction against the TOFI and the SBC must see to it that the annual TOFI must be put on hold in behalf to those struggling with financial matters and must demand transparency from the university administration.

Huerbana acknowledged that geuine consultation with the students is necessary. He said that genuine consultation is not a mere student representation, but “it’s a matter that involves the whole student body.” His #StayWoke is one of his social media project that raises awareness on different issues to student.

On the other hand, Matuco recognized the virtue behind the increase of tuition and other fees because of economic reasons. She, however, said that students must be critical on the increases and how it is being used. For her, the genuine consultation is not only a talk between the SCB and admin, but it also includes the entire student community as well.

 

More issues

TOFI and SCB assessment were only two of several questions asked during the presidential debate. The debate probed the candidates’ takes on different issues concerning both inside and outside the campus.

Issues such as mental health among students, the ratification of the SAMAHAN constitution, the efficiency and effectiveness of the Viewfinder, the lack of financial support of the school to the college athletes, among others.

The campaign period 2018 SCB Elections started from Jan 10. And will end on Jan. 27. The Miting de Avance will be on Jan. 26, Friday, and the Election Day will be on Jan. 29-31, Monday-Wednesday.

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