‘Begin Again’, a coalition composed of independent candidates, did not violate guidelines in the election rules, according to the AdDU Commission on Elections (COMELEC) in an interview Monday.
“There are no specific provisions in our guidelines that prohibit independent candidates from forming a coalition,” said Andrea Nicolas, COMELEC chair, via Facebook chat.
“With that, they can run under one campaign team provided that they do not campaign under the banner of a political party,” she added.
All but one of the independent candidates are members of the currently unaccredited Pinag-isang Lakas ng Samahan ng mga Progresibong Atenista (Piglasapat).
Ateneo Debate Varsity (ADV) President Brian Unabia disclosed to Atenews that he sent an email to the COMELEC, questioning its basis.
“This is because of the possible issue that might arise later on questioning the validity of such act and because there was also the initial concern from us that it might be counterintuitive,” he said.
“Counterintuitive,” he said, “because it might seem like the independent candidates are independent in form but not in substance.”
But Unabia admitted it is hard to question the coalition’s validity as there were no rules prohibiting it in the election guidelines.
The ADV president called it “perhaps a legal loophole”, adding it is valid technically but not in principle.
“[T]his needs to be addressed by the COMELEC for future elections. I personally believe the focus now should be on how it can close off those loopholes,” he said.
Piglasapat was barred from endorsing candidates this year due to a “technical issue” with its COMELEC accreditation, according to Piglasapat President Patricia Calanza—she did not elaborate.
When asked if Piglasapat has any influence on ‘Begin Again’, Calanza said she thinks most of the people assisting the coalition are from Piglasapat, since they “have become friends”.
They assist them with the usual things, she added, such as people and emotional support.
“Emotional help since we value our friendship and relationship as members of the same organization,” she said.
The Piglasapat President clarified they are not requiring their members to support ‘Begin Again’.
“[T]hey are not required but they are encouraged to support their fellow org-mates/friends inside the org however we respect their decision to support any candidate,” she said.
According to ‘Begin Again’ Campaign Manager Aldriena Angas, a similar case also happened in 2016, where independent candidates formed the coalition ‘Bagong Samahan’, also composed of members of Piglasapat, which also lacked COMELEC accreditation that time.
“However, this year is a different story. Most of the candidates are part of similar organizations and are actually good friends in real life. It was easy for them to band together because they had the same ideals and the same visions for where they wanted to lead the SAMAHAN in the coming year. And it made it much easier to consolidate campaign efforts since they all ran together,” Angas said.
Samahan 2021 candidates
11 of 18 Samahan candidates are running as independent.
Social Sciences (SS) Representative Karlo Torreon is running for Samahan president, Rholien Verallo for Vice President, Euneece Olbes for Secretary-General, and Marion Tarnate for Treasurer.
Cluster representative aspirants are Ma. Caesarina Berdin for Accountancy, Beatrice Doctor for Business and Management (B&M), Dianna Tagalog for School of Education, Kenneth Lamadora for Natural Science and Mathematics, Emanuele Galvez for SS, Mariah Ng for School of Engineering and Architecture (SEA), Trishia Tajora for Humanities and Letters (Humlet).
The seven remaining candidates are running under the political parties Ateneans for Governance, Innovation, Leadership, and Service (Agilas) and Bahaghari.
Agilas’ Rose Quimod is running for Samahan President, and Joshua Tiagan for Treasurer, with the cluster rep aspirants Patricia Bitana for SS and Praise Varian for Humlet.
Bahaghari’s Harris Tuyongan is running for Vice President, Jose Salvador for SEA rep, and Harriette Haw for CS.
To be declared as winner, the greatest number of votes must be secured by a candidate against his/her opponent. For a lone candidate, he/she must garner 50% of the total votes plus one student, at the time designated by COMELEC as closing of the election.
The elections will be conducted online from Feb. 15 to 17.