The students raised their concerns regarding the constitution during the second reading of the 2013 Samahan Constitution Committee Hearings, which took place on September 16, 2013 during activity period at rooms F305, F306, F308 and F311.
Articles 1, 2, 3 and 4, entitled General Provisions, Declaration of Principles and Objectives, Bill of Rights and Responsibilities of Students and Powers and Duties of the SAMAHAN, respectively, were assigned to the first committee. The reading for Articles 1-4 was held at room F305.
No inquiries, objections and recommendations were raised by the students on all articles except on Article 3. An inquiry was made on the limitations of the students’ freedom of expression, on whether or not students have the right to voice out their opinions as long as no individual or party is offended.
It was clarified and restated from Section 2 under Article 3 that, “Public disgust or offense to a particular group shall never be a valid reason in limiting such right.” Thus, students are free to express their thoughts regardless of the effect it may give to others.
It was also asked if this particular section applies to the teachers. The committee said that the constitution only covers the student body. Hence, it is not applicable to the teachers.
In Section 4 of the same article, another issue was raised regarding teachers forcing students, even those who are non-Catholic, to attend masses held inside the school. The committee said it is not within their control but noted the issue and would forward it to the Office of Student Affairs.
A question was raised concerning the practices of the atheists, foreigners, etc. The committee reiterated that every student must enjoy their freedom of religion and spiritual practices and that is applicable to all students including the non-believers.
The students along with the committee also commented that the phrase “shall forever be enshrined” in Section 7 under the same article and found it too religious, flowery and unconstitutional. Rephrasing was needed but no precise suggestions were given by the students during the session.
Another issue related to Section 8 regarding excessive fees was also raised by a foreign student who questioned the unequal fees paid by the regular and foreign students.
The second committee, which had Articles 5, 6 and 7 assigned to it, held the reading at room F306. The articles were entitled Samahan Legislative Department, Samahan Executive Department and Samahan Judicial Department, respectively.
Inquiries regarding the said articles were about the wisdom behind the Council Chairperson retaining his or her voting power, the clauses for permanent vacancy, the need for the Secretary-General to keep all the records of the proceeding of the Legislative body, the possibility of appointment to keep the records and the power to abolish committees delegated to the Legislative body.
More questions that were raised during the reading were as follows: Why settle for pocket veto and not approval? What activities or programs can be forwarded and enacted by other branches such as the Executive (Art. 6, Sec. 4, par. 2)? Why allow them to run for re-election (Ar.t 6, Sec. 3, par. 2)? Does the Sec-Gen and Treasurer have the same “level” with the committee heads? Are governors still part of the SCB? Can governors still attend meetings? Do they still have the control to receive budget?
Why does the Council Chairperson replace President in case of vacancy? What does the BOA (Board of Adjudicators) try? How can we assure that there will be no more biases in the BOA if the adjudicators have a history of being a member of a political party? Are the three readings necessary? Is there a provision for urgency of the bill (Art. 5, Sec. 5, par. 3)? How are the bills revived?
Repealing and the electoral process were also explained further. Additionally, matters concerning the abolishment of the GACP (Genereal Assembly of Club Presidents), the need to elect class presidents, OSA’s involvement in the BOA, the replacement of the Secretary-General by the President in case of permanent vacancy (Art. 6, Sec. 5, par. 5) and the person/s responsible to check the executive orders of the President and other appointments were also brought up.
Throughout the session, the students were able to give some recommendations. These included giving the President the power to abolish committees, adding a paragraph mandating to justify the creation and/or abolition of the committees and having a Vice President with the nature of legislation. Furthermore, it was suggested that the duties of the Vice-president would be to follow the status quo of the local legislature, to act as a spare tire and to take part in electing the “big four” along with the nine representatives.
Provision for an urgency of the bill, impeachment and recall, modification of BOA’s name, addition of grave abuse of discretion in the Judicial Department were also recommended.