March 9, 2023 (10:36 AM)

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Credits to Samahan ng Mga Mag-Aaral ng Pamantasang Ateneo de Davao Facebook Page

Ensuring a quality system of leadership in the student government, the new SAMAHAN constitution was amended upon the ratification of the proposed modifications to the 2020 SAMAHAN constitution.

Through Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) COMELEC Memorandum No. 29, S. 2023, the plebiscite results revealed a total of 97.36% votes from 2,845 out of 2,922 students approved the constitutional changes from the amended 2020 SAMAHAN constitution. 

SAMAHAN Commission on Students’ Rights and Welfare (StRAW) Head Commissioner Mikaela Abrielle Balagot and Assistant Commissioner Seth Tangalin told Atenews that the amendments were to ensure that it is responsive to the changing time, as per the rationale of Resolution No. 021, S. 2022.

“First, if we look at the 2020 SAMAHAN Constitution, it is very specific about the elections, especially the start of term of the SAMAHAN Central Board. This will pose problems due to the possibility of changing the Academic Calendar to August, which was officially confirmed by the University earlier this month.”

According to them, they made sure that no elections would happen in the middle of the school year as retaining such specifications without constitutional amendments would be a diversion to what has been practiced for a very long time—conducting the elections two months before the second semester ends. 

The changes in the new SAMAHAN constitution also included general corrections to the grammar, spelling, and punctuation, expansion of presidential and student assembly powers, clearer mandate and provisions to the Constitutional Commissions and the Council of Class Presidents as well as the removal of the specifications of dates, particularly on elections and the start of the term of office of the Samahan Central Board (SCB) members.

“There is a need to amend the 2020 SAMAHAN Constitution to give specifications to the provisions that are vague even to the intent of the framers and to the principles of our Constitution,” Balagot and Tangalin said.

They also mentioned that the constitutional revisions provide more precise mandates to the officers and offices recognized in the Constitution and add powers to the SAMAHAN departments to ensure there is some form of checks and balances between them.

“A revision may be necessary…the amendments would be working to adapt to the conditions of the SAMAHAN and binding to the studentry.”

Furthermore, there are specified caveats to the Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, new names and titles of the court and magistrates, a limited number of impeachments to be filed, fixed resignation articles, and more transparent ways to revise the Constitution as stated in Article XIX.

“Everyone is encouraged to read the amended Constitution and compare it to the preceding Constitution to understand the changes comprehensively,” Balagot and Tangalin said.

Considering external factors and circumstances, Balagot cited the plebiscite as a major challenge upon the ratification of the proposed amendments.

“The plebiscite was a major challenge since the plebiscite period should have been simultaneous with the SCB elections.”

Out of the 6,979 student population, only a total of 2,956 Ateneans cast their votes, with an overall Voter’s Turnout of 41.86%.

In an interview, AdDU COMELEC Chairperson, Andrea Rose Reyno expressed that she felt alarmed by the students’ participation in the voter turnout.

“I think this should set as a challenge to us as students of our university to participate and be aware of the possible developments to be made.”

By releasing Resolution No. 002-2023, the period of the plebiscite was extended to two weeks to make sure that the student body could participate and deliberate more on whether to approve or reject the proposed amendments. 

The head commissioner also said that mobilizing the voters was also a challenge since the students may still have the election fever and may already be tired of voting again. 

“Fortunately, the proposed amendments were approved as declared by the COMELEC, even though only more or less 40% of the student body participated since the language of Section 4 of the Transitory Provisions was constructed to recognize a minority vote.”

Natural Sciences and Mathematics Representative-elect Carrie Louie Tulipas remarked that he had cast his vote and is expecting that the amendments will make the roles of the officers and departments of the SAMAHAN more specific and streamlined. 

“I think that the constitutional changes of SAMAHAN are necessary to make sure that the provisions still apply to the current status quo. Thus, I would not be surprised that other amendments might be proposed in the future,” he said.



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